If you haven’t heard the news, NFL Films will bring back their popular “A Football Life” documentary series this fall and on October 24, they’re doing a feature on former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.
This is a great thing as 49ers fans like myself have always been appreciative of Eddie D’s contribution to the team and his desire to win. The five Super Bowl titles under his watch is unmatched by any other owner in history.
But as I was reading the press release, it occurred to me that this might be the final opportunity for Eddie D’s name to hit the national spotlight for his chance to get into the Hall of Fame.
In years past, former 49ers players that have been inducted to the Hall of Fame have asked DeBartolo to present them. I was there in 2010 when Jerry Rice went in and even the greatest receiver of all time advocated for DeBartolo’s place in the Hall of Fame.
This past year, Eddie D just missed out in getting into the Hall of Fame. And as the years will continue to roll on, the window to get into the Hall will get smaller.
Other retired players that have been trying to get into the Hall for years (Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Roger Craig) will logjam the voting the process. Recently retired players like Larry Allen, Morten Andersen, Priest Holmes, Steve McNair, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Michael Strahan and Bryant Young are all eligible next year. Where will Eddie D fit in?
The unfortunate situation for Eddie D is that he is only a legend among the 49ers fans. Outside of the Bay Area, he doesn’t mean much to the football world. That’s why when the Hall of Famers asked DeBartolo to present them, it was their way of showcasing DeBartolo to the nation.
And it may have worked. Missing the final cut this year was the furthest he had ever advanced in the voting process. But next year’s class may prove too difficult for him to make that next step.
When NFL Network airs “A Football Life” on October 24, this might be the last chance we will get to see DeBartolo in the national spotlight. This might the last opportunity for voters to get a chance to refresh their memories of his impact to the game.
After that, we might never get another 49ers player going into the Hall of Fame for some time. (I know Bryant Young is eligible, but it’s hard for me to think he’d get in on first ballot. And Roger Craig has been waiting for some time.) And as the years continue to go by, it seems less and less likely that DeBartolo’s name will come up during the voting process.
So when I watch the feature on October 24th, I’m going to savor the episode because this might be the last opportunity the beloved Eddie D will get to showcase his credentials nationally for the Hall of Fame.
He deserves to get in and I hope this airing will help the voters think that way too.