(Roger Craig photos courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers)
(Steve Atwater photo courtesy of Eric Bakke/Denver Broncos)
Talk of Fame Network
Steve Atwater and Roger Craig have been semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame a combined 12 times with just one appearance in the finals to show for their candidacies.
That came for Craig in 2010.
With the reduction vote coming up this month from 25 semifinalists to the 15 finalists for the Class of 2016, both former Super Bowl champions visited with The Talk of Fame Network on this weekend’s show to discuss their candidacies. It’s a special show because it was the first time the Talk of Fame Network has hit the road, broadcasting from the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Hosts Clark Judge and Rick Gosselin were joined by former New York Giants and Super Bowl head coach Jim Fassel, who talked about officiating, NFL quarterbacking and guaranteeing playoff berths, which he did in 2000. The Giants were 7-4 at the time Fassel made his bold statement. New York promptly won its final five games of the regular season and two more in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl.
Fassel discussed his coaching strategy, how he would divide up the season into quarters for his team. Fassel tried to coax the Giants into going 3-1 in each of the four quarters. If they follow that script and get to 9-3 by December, adrenalin takes over.
“It’s something I learned from (former NBA coach) Frank Layden,” Fassel said. “The NBA season is so long. So I’d break the season down for them (Giants) into four-game segments. By the time we get to the last quarter, we’d better have ourselves in position. If you’re in position, that’s like smelling salts to them. It’s, `Hey, we’re almost home, boys. Let’s get it.’ I laid it out for them.”
This is Atwater’s fifth trip to the semifinals and he needs a nudge to get that elusive finals’ berth. Clark asked the eight-time Pro Bowl safety of the Denver Broncos if given the chance, what would he tell the selection committee to sell himself as a worthy finalist.
“I would try to stress the fact I played during an era with a lot of really big backs, especially in the AFC West,” Atwater said. “You had some big guys (safeties) who weren’t afraid to go up there, stick their nose in and get dirty once they started trying to pound the ball. I think I did that pretty well and helped our team be successful. I was a team player… In terms of my reliability and durability, I did pretty well.”
This is Craig’s seventh trip to the semifinals and he believes he was ahead of his time as a player. He began his career with the 49ers at fullback, where he spent more time blocking and catching than running, before evolving into a feature back. And he became an elite pass catcher, becoming the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving in 1985.
“Being an all-purpose running back, I kind of revolutionized the position as far as coming out of the backfield, catching the ball and running it,” Craig said. “It so relevant today. Every team needs a guy like me with my style of play. Think of the Tom Bradys, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning… they need a guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield and run their system.
“That’s why I think I belong (in Canton). I set the trend, more like a trailblazer. There were some guys before me who were all-purpose guys like Chuck Foreman, Franco Harris and Lenny Moore. But as far as the West Coast system, teams really, really need running backs who can catch the ball.”
Clark and Rick also continued the rivalry series, revisiting the Cowboys-49ers of the 1990s with some drop-in comments from Dwight Clark and Darren Woodson. And Dwight Clark was a bit salty with his words and his feeling for the Cowboys. There also was interaction with guests from the Luxor, and the show concluded with the always entertaining two-minute drill.
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