Saturday night we'll finally find out: Is this the year that Eddie DeBartolo gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
It's not hard to find his supporters at radio row during the week leading up to Super Bowl 50.
It is hard to think of a more opportune time to get "Mr. D." his gold jacket. With football's biggest stage returning to the Bay Area, where DeBartolo will have won five of the league's 50 Super Bowls by the end of the weekend, now is the time.
That's what former San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci said about the franchise's prolific owner.
"I'm hoping and I'm praying," Mariucci said during a media availability for a cast of NFL Network analysts. "This is the year. This is in San Francisco, and what a perfect induction that would be. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed."
Mariucci, who spent six seasons leading the 49ers, was able to see first-hand how DeBartolo set the bar for NFL owners.
"You have to have some sort of significant contribution to the game and to the league," Mariucci said. "He certainly has had that. He's been deserving for a long time. I think other owners looked at him and saw how to build an organization from top to bottom."
Steve Young took Mariucci's comments a step further, referencing the players' strike in 1987. Young spoke about the discord between owners and players at the time, and how it was DeBartolo who dared to do things differently.
"During the strike, (an owner) said, 'Sooner or later these players are going to realize that we're the owners and they're the cattle,'" Young explained. "Eddie completely ripped up that narrative. He and his players were family. To this day, if you need something from Eddie, anyone from the team could call him. He would find a way to help you.
"You can't begin to write the history of the NFL without talking about what he did for the game. And that's away from the five Super Bowls and all the other stuff."
The Hall of Fame quarterback said DeBartolo changed the relationship between the two sides forever and helped the players become lasting partners with the owners. That relationship is exhibited through the work of the NFL Players Association and is highlighted during negotiations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"That partnership was forged by Eddie breaking down the barriers between players and owners," Young said. "Look at any thriving owner today. They may not say that Eddie influenced them, but Eddie broke the ice for owners to have that type of relationship with their players."
Eric Davis was one more voice of support for DeBartolo. The 49ers selected Davis in the second round of the 1990 NFL Draft and played in the Bay Area for six seasons. The cornerback famously had a pick-six against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1994 NFC Championship game and recorded another interception in Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers.
"I don't have a vote, but if I did, he'd be in," Davis said. "I don't have anything other than love for the man. There's no way you can talk about the history of the NFL without talking about Eddie DeBartolo. You simply can't."
Davis echoed Young's sentiments about the family environment created by DeBartolo within the 49ers organization.
"He built a system from the ground up in which everyone was treated with mutual respect," Davis said. "The groundskeeper was treated like the starting quarterback. When he said he'd do anything for you, he meant it. When he said you were family, you were. You ate at his table."