NEW ORLEANS -- It's conceivable that former 49ers boss Eddie DeBartolo is the best owner, from a player and fan standpoint, in NFL history.
It's widely accepted that Tim Brown is the greatest Raider of the past quarter century.
And it's a fact that former 49ers defensive end Charles Haley has earned more Super Bowl rings than any other player.
All three of these local legends made the latest climb toward the peak of pro football and none reached it.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 was announced Saturday, and DeBartolo, Brown and Haley were among those eliminated as the 46-member selection committee trimmed the list of 15 modern-era finalists to the five who will be enshrined
The Bay Area will be represented by two players who spent their final seasons in this region, 11-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Larry Allen with the 49ers and seven-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Warren Sapp with the Raiders.
Allen and Sapp will be joined by wide receiver Cris Carter, left tackle Jonathan Ogden and coach Bill Parcells, who also has worked as a general manager. Also inducted will be two senior nominees, defensive tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson.
No matter how the debate is waged, it would be easier to argue against the modern-era nominees who did not make it than to deny those who did.
DeBartolo was a wonderful owner for 24 seasons, from 1977 through 2000, building an
Furthermore, DeBartolo was a pioneer among owners as he thought it was a good idea to listen to his players and respond to their wishes, especially regarding working conditions. Many of today's NFL owners have tried to copy that blueprint.
But Eddie D, among the first five to be bounced, was forced to leave the Niners and
Brown, also among the first five out, was drafted by the Raiders in 1988, immediately becoming a fabulous receiver as well as a superb kick returner. His statistics compare to just about anyone south of all-time leader Jerry Rice, and he is the team's all-time leading receiver and punt returner.
But the Raiders, incredibly successful from the late 1960s into the mid-1980s, struggled during most of Brown's 17-year career -- which was hurt by a roll call of ordinary coaches and dreadful quarterbacks. He reached the playoffs only three times in his first 11 seasons,
Then, too, Tim did himself no favors with the recent assertion that one of his former coaches, Bill Callahan, essentially threw the Super Bowl back in 2003.
Haley's continuing exclusion is the most puzzling of all, in terms of pure football impact. A four-time finalist, he has impressive sack numbers and was a key component for the two elite franchises, the 49ers and the Cowboys, that spanned his career. He won Super Bowls with both.
One member of the committee conceded that Haley, among the second and final round of cuts, presents a unique challenge because his position -- he was Bill Walsh's classic "elephant" pass rusher -- was a hybrid, part defensive end and part linebacker.
Inasmuch as many teams have sought to find their own Haley, wouldn't that make him something of a revolutionary figure?
DeBartolo, Brown and Haley all could be finalists again next year. All three likely will get in someday. All three deserve it, strictly on individual impact and merit.
Yet it's also likely Brown could be squeezed out next year by Buffalo wideout Andre Reed, a finalist who has similar numbers and played on more distinguished teams and on Saturday survived the first trim.
It might be even more likely that Haley could get bumped by Michael Strahan, a first-time nominee and finalist almost certain to return in 2014.
With one contributor generally being inducted, DeBartolo was squeezed out by Parcells, who has the advantage of being a coach, someone who more directly influences what happens on the field.
So, the local celebration is confined to Allen, the East Bay resident who spent his final two seasons with the 49ers, and Sapp, who spent his final four with the Raiders.
Bay Area fans and franchises didn't get what they wanted most. But both of their teams will be represented this summer in Canton, which speaks to the quality of football in our midst.