All sides of the T.O. to Hall of Fame discussion

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All sides of the T.O. to Hall of Fame discussion

The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee met for nearly eight hours in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Saturday to vote on the Class of 2018.

The last two players discussed took up the longest portion of the debate: Randy Moss (34 minutes, 45 seconds) and Terrell Owens (45:15).

In the end, Moss and Owens were elected, along with Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Brian Dawkins, seniors nominees Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer, and contributor Bobby Beathard.

The process, especially as it relates to Owens, is the subject of this week’s 49ers Insider Podcast.

“In my almost three decades of being in the room, this may have been the best meeting I sat through, and not just based upon the results of the vote,” said Joe Horrigan, the executive director of the Hall of Fame.

“The process by which this class was determined was, to me, the most level-headed, prepared group of men and women that came in with precise and accurate information.

“It was, ‘Here are the facts; let’s talk about them; let’s be civil; and let’s be correct, and let’s consider from beyond our own perspectives.’ This was something that was informative to me, where some perspectives from people of a younger age, in one instance, to people who’ve had similar life experiences so we can get a better insight into some of the issues that come up.”

Terez Paylor, 34, of the Kansas City Star is one voter who expressed a unique perspective on the podcast.

“For me, and for some of the other guys of my generation, no matter what you say about Terrell Owens and Randy Moss and what came with them off the field, as far as baggage, I can tell you for an entire generation, you can’t write the history of the game without those guys,” Paylor said. “Those guys were electric and they brought so many eyeballs to the sport. . . . They made football fans out of a lot of people, including me.

“What matters is that this is a performance league. And they were both great. They were great football players, and you can’t say they weren’t. By every measure, they were great professional football players.”

Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network expressed a different opinion of Owens. Judge covered the 49ers for the San Jose Mercury News at the beginning of Owens' career. He brought up the following criteria for selection from the Hall of Fame’s bylaws:

“The only criteria for election into the Hall of Fame are a nominee’s achievements and contributions (positive or negative) as a player, a coach or a contributor. . .

Judge acknowledged Owens’ productivity, but added, “There’s more to the story than that.”

Judge cited former NFL general managers Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, the first individuals to be selected to the Hall of Fame in the contributors category, as saying they did not believe Owens should be in the Hall of Fame because of his negative intangible impacts on the teams for which he played.

The 49ers traded Owens at the peak of his career; the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys released him in turbulent times. Owens concluded his NFL career with one-year stints in Buffalo and Cincinnati.

“If you got fired from five different positions at work, would we put you in the Hall of Fame?” Judge asked.

Terrell Owens, the latest example of a flawed Hall of Fame voting process

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Terrell Owens, the latest example of a flawed Hall of Fame voting process

For the record and up front, I have never had an opinion on Terrell Owens’ Hall of Fame credentials, and I have none now. I was fine when he wasn’t in, and I am fine with the news that that he is now.
 
In other words, this is neither a triumph nor an outrage. It is, however, a curiosity that will always surround Hall of Fame selection committees – how did the same guy get so much better a year after being not nearly good enough?
 
Part of it, of course, is that every class of candidates is different, and some years those classes are better than others. Thus, Owens’ inclusion is not exactly an anomaly.
 
But what is an oddity is the solid opposition to him in 2017 that seemed to melt in much colder temperatures in 2018. Whatever the arguments against him (hard on coaches and teammates, disrupting his own teams more than his opposition, etc.), they stood up one year and faded the next.
 
Which is what makes the Pro Football Hall of Fame such a dichotomy between concept and execution – if it takes 12 votes to keep a guy out one year, the question of what caused a voter or voters to flip is worth asking.
 
And it would be knowable if the Hall of Fame selectors were asked to show their work, which they are not. In fact, they are expressly told not to do so, this rendering the entire enterprise just the slightest bit hinky.
 
Again, this isn’t about Owens. His inclusion damages the Hall no more than his exclusion elevated it, or vice versa. But it does remind us all that whim and persuasion weighs too heavily in the process. All Hall of Fame voting processes are hated by those who aren’t voters, but the one thing that makes baseball’s process best is that voters vote in their own homes or offices, and do not gather in one place to make themselves available for possible lobbying over pastries and coffee.
 
The best part for Owens, of course, is that once candidates become inductees, nobody sweats the process. He can enjoy the day with the same pleasure that he would have in 2017, or 2016, and the outrage train can move on to its next pet projects.
 
But it would be at least slightly more sensible for all involved if the process didn’t seem so . . . well, so very like it is every year. Terrell Owens, Hall of Famer, is merely the latest example.

49ers great Roger Craig shrugs off Hall of Fame snub

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49ers great Roger Craig shrugs off Hall of Fame snub

Former 49ers running back Roger Craig did not make the list of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his final year of eligibility as a modern-era candidate.

In fact, Craig was a finalist just once (2010), and he never again gained enough votes to crack the top 15.

"I thought I'd go in a long time ago," Craig said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. "It's kind of funny all these other guys went in before me when I kind of changed the game for the millennials today.

“For me, being the first to do the thousand-thousand and being an all-purpose kind of running back, I see a lot of those guys today, and I'm like, 'Wow, man, that's what I used to do.'"

In 1985, Craig became the first player in NFL history to enter the 1,000-1,000 club. He rushed for 1,050 yards and caught 92 passes for 1,016 yards in the season after he became the first player to score three touchdowns in a Super Bowl.

Fourteen years later, Marshall Faulk became the only other person to accomplish the feat, rushing for 1,381 yards and catching 87 passes for 1,048 yards for the St. Louis Rams. He was inducted as a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Craig played on three Super Bowl-winning teams with the 49ers, and his teams made the playoffs in each of his 11 NFL seasons. He finished his career with 8,198 yards rushing and 4,911 yards receiving.

But, now, if he makes the Hall of Fame, he will have to be nominated as a seniors candidate. Craig noted he is in the 49ers Hall of Fame, Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame and he has been enshrined in his home state of Iowa.

"It's not for me to judge," Craig said. "If people want to hold me out, that's OK. I'm doing other things to make the world a better place. I have so many different platforms and I'm having fun. I'm not going to sit around and worry about, 'Aw, I'm not in the Hall of Fame, yet.'

"By me justifying I'm not in the NFL Hall of Fame, it's so political. I don't get into that anymore. I quit worrying about it really. I don't let it drain me."

On the podcast, Craig also talked about the current 49ers and how he would like to see Carlos Hyde re-sign with the 49ers and improve in an area in which he excelled.

"I think Carlos Hyde is an ideal running back for the team," Craig said. "He can make it happen. He just needs to catch the ball more because I know they're going to be throwing the ball a lot. Jimmy (Garoppolo) is going to be throwing the ball a lot, so you've got to be more of a receiver now.

"You got to be able to catch the ball and run routes and do the things that I kind of did in the ‘80s."