The weekend induction of Jerry Rice into the Pro Football Hall of Fame punctuated a peerless career. At the same time, it quite possibly provided the epilogue for achievements during the golden era of pro football in the Bay Area.
For more than 30 years, we witnessed the 49ers and Raiders as dominant NFL franchises, consistently among the elite. They combined for 30 division titles (17 for the Niners, 13 for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders) and eight Super Bowl wins from 1970 trough 2002.
Rice is the last of the certain Hall of Famers usually identified with either team. From Jim Otto to John Madden of the Raiders, to Bill Walsh and Rice of the 49ers, every inductee whose career spanned this time frame deserves the honor.
Though several other figures from each franchise are highly acclaimed -- and some surely worthy -- it is conceivable Rice will be the last to receive the ultimate individual honor. We consider others, especially after Rice's impassioned plea on behalf of one of them. Eddie DeBartolo was the most generous NFL owner of his time and no less passionate. Taking over the 49ers in 1977 after his father bought the team, DeBartolo was to football what New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was to baseball. Eddie was the first owner who routinely awarded his players first-class air travel, five-star hotels and lavish contracts. The 49ers responded with an NFL-record 16 consecutive 10-win seasons. Later association with casinos and gambling leave him with a 25 percent chance. Ray Guy is the most famous punter in NFL history, so good he was accused of cheating by some opposing coaches. A case can be made for his entry; I've made the case myself. Fact is, former Niners punter Tommy Davis had better numbers. A semifinalist the past two years, Guy's chance is 35 percent. Roger Craig was a four-time Pro Bowler and among the greatest runner/receiver threats in league history. The former 49er (and Raider) was the prototype for the likes of future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk. But Tiki Barber had a more productive career. Craig should and will receive consideration. His chance: 25 percent. Cliff Branch continues, as he should, to get support for the Hall. But not enough. The former Raiders wideout was among the best deep threats ever, with four Pro Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl rings. He's a two-time semifinalist, including this year. His chance: 20 percent. Charles Haley's five Super Bowl rings are No. 1 among players in that category. His 100.5 career sacks are 22nd. The former 49er was a five-time Pro Bowler who clashed with teammates as well as reporters. He was a finalist in '10. His chance: 70 percent. Lester Hayes went to five Pro Bowls and in 1980 had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history with 13 interceptions. The Raiders cornerback was a finalist in 2004 but since has not gotten past the semifinals. His chance: 35 percent. Steve Wisniewski's eight Pro Bowls rank second in Raiders history. He was a great guard who rarely missed a game but came along as the team's status faded from the elite. On better teams, he'd have a greater chance. His chance: 25 percent. Bryant Young retired after the 2007 season as the last of the 49ers to play on a Super Bowl winner. He was a terrific defensive lineman, and not unlike Hall of Famer John Randle, B.Y. was as good against the run as rushing the passer. Moreover, he was a consummate pro. His chance: 65 percent. Tim Brown was a productive receiver and at one time, a dangerous punt returner. His nine Pro Bowls are a Raiders record. He's held back because 1) his numbers came during a pass-happy era and 2) his teams had more losing seasons than winning seasons. His chance: 60 percent.
Among the Raiders with less than a 20 percent chance are former coach Tom Flores and quarterback Jim Plunkett. Flores is overshadowed by owner Al Davis despite coaching two Super Bowl winners and being one of two men -- Mike Ditka is the other -- to have won a Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach and head coach. Plunkett won two Super Bowls (one in Los Angeles) but never played in a Pro Bowl.
Among the 49ers with less than a 20 percent chance are George Seifert and Ricky Watters. Seifert won two Super Bowls after succeeding legend Bill Walsh but has no bust in Canton. Watters was a five-time Pro Bowler with better career numbers than Craig.
Among the former 49ers and Raiders who will get Hall consideration but were omitted here because their best work came with other teams: Deion Sanders, Terrell Owens and Charles Woodson.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.