The League

Gene Wang
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Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

Don't Forget Davis and Craig

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The preliminary nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009 includes two running backs who without debate should be enshrined in Canton but who probably will be passed over in favor of more recognized names.

Roger Craig and Terrell Davis were virtually indispensable cogs in their respective offenses, and both deserve the sport's most prestigious individual honor. Not only did they compile impressive career statistics but, more importantly, each distinguished himself in the playoffs and helped their franchises win multiple Super Bowls.

Craig played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1983 to 1990 and won three Super Bowls. In those Super Bowls, Craig amassed 413 yards from scrimmage and scored four touchdowns, including three in Super Bowl XIX in a 38-16 victory over Miami.

In 1985, Craig ran for 1,050 yards and led the league with 92 receptions for 1,016 yards. He became the first running back to gain 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. He twice had more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and four times scored at least 10 touchdowns.

What also stands about about Craig was that he played fullback at the start of his career. He was a fierce blocker who was invaluable in blitz pickup. Just ask Joe Montana why so often he had ample time to throw despite aggressive pressure from an oncoming safety.

Like Craig, Davis was an every-down back who rarely came out of the game. The knock on Davis was that his career was not long enough, playing seven years and 78 regular season games.

There isn't a lot of validity to that criticism considering Gale Sayers played in just 68 games, and no one says he doesn't belong in Canton. Davis's body of work during his injury-shortened career rivaled that of Sayers, and when the games mattered most, Davis surpassed him.

In 1997, Davis ran for 1,750 yards and a league-high 15 touchdowns in leading Denver to Super Bowl XXXII. Davis rushed for 157 yards and a Super Bowl-record three touchdowns in that game as Denver beat Green Bay, 31-24.

The following season, Davis ran for 2,008 yards and a league-high 21 touchdowns. Denver repeated as Super Bowl champions, and Davis had his seventh-straight game of at least 100 yards in the playoffs.

Davis may have been the best playoff runner in the Super Bowl era. In eight playoff games, he missed 100 yards just once, and even in that 30-27 loss to Jacksonville, Davis gained 91 yards on 14 carries.

But perhaps the most convincing argument for Davis's induction is that John Elway never won a Super Bowl without him.

By Gene Wang  |  October 30, 2008; 12:03 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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And here, I thought the biggest knock on Terrell Davis was that he was a "system back." Just like the system QBs coming out of Hawaii and TX Tech these days, everyone knows that any Joe off the street could rush for 1,000 yards in the Denver offense. The Broncos have proven that practically year after year since Davis retired. I thought the guy was terrific when he played, and the Broncos never would have won a Super Bowl without him. But he'll probably never win enough votes to be enshrined in the HoF simply because he played for Denver. Lousy, isn't it?

Posted by: Jonathan | October 30, 2008 1:06 PM

That is lousy if TD does not get in. Even in a system as RB friendly and successful as Denver he is the only successful RB with two SB's to his credit along with the successful stats and yes Elway would have not won a SB without TD.

Craig should get in. No argument. There are lesser successful backs from teams no more successful than those 49ers teams that are in the SB. If I am not mistaken Rocky Blier whom I like is in.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 31, 2008 12:10 PM

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