I was talking to a friend a couple days ago about Frank Gore, and the Hall of Fame came up. As in, is Gore worthy? Frank Gore is quietly amassing some pretty solid numbers as a running back. In these days of 16-game seasons though, the 10,000 yard mark isn’t what it used to be. Back in the days of 12 and 14 game seasons, even getting close to 10,000 got you in. Like the case of Joe the Jet and Jim Taylor of the Packers. Nowadays, there are a lot of rushers near 10,000 and over who are mainly known for hanging around long enough to get to 10,000. Guys like Corey Dillon and Warrick Dunn. Rickey Watters has 10,000 for God’s sake, and so does Thomas Jones.
Who? In a 12-year career with 5 teams, Jones made the Pro Bowl once, and reached 1,000 yards 5 times. Good? Sure. HOF numbers? Well, beyond the fact that I, as a somewhat knowledgeable football fan, have no inkling of his career with the Cards, Bucs, Bears, Jets, or Chiefs, you’d be hard-pressed to include a guy who really didn’t leave much of a mark on the league, other than hanging around long enough to pile up yards. Hugh McElhenny only had 5,281 yards in a 13 year career, but he was, in his prime, one of the greatest runners out there. Like Barry Sanders and Jim Brown, a guy you game-planned for at the cost of all else. Like Gayle Sayers and his injury-shortened 4,956 yards rushing, you KNEW who was getting the ball, and you had to try to stop him. The great runners all share this trait to greater or lesser degrees. Emmitt Smith was on a team with a lot of talent, but he was asked many times to shoulder the load and carry the ball 30+ times a game.
Which leads us to Frank Gore. He’s currently 3rd on the active rushers list with 8,839 yards (34th highest on the all-time list). 10 yards behind AP, and ~1,250 behind Steven Jackson (who also is in a similar situation as Gore). Given his usual production of around 1,100 to 1,200 yards, he’ll be in the 10,000 yard club by the end of the season. One more year (injury-free of course would likely put him near or over 11,000 yards. Right around the O.J. Simpson area of 18th on the all-time list. Although AP and Jackson would likely bump him down to 20th.
Is that enough for the Hall of Fame? Well, Niner fan that I am, and being a bit biased, I’d say yes. Mainly because his career WASN’T non-descript, like Thomas Jones’. For most of Gore’s career, his coaches would say Gore is our offense. Stop him and you stop the team. More often than not, Gore did his part of the job. The team wasn’t winning, but not because of Gore’s efforts. He’s a 4-time pro bowler, and even when he had his greatest year statistically (2006 with 312 carries for 1,695 yards), the team pretty much sucked on offense. 2nd year starter Alex Smith had a non-descript year of 16 TDs, 16 ints, and 2,800 yards, and the offense in general (Norv’s Digital offense) was fairly bland and lifeless except for Frank. They still couldn’t control the clock (TOP was still awful even with all those yards from Gore) although they were the 6th leading rushing team in the NFL. From 2005 to 2010, every team knew Gore would get the ball around 25 times, through the air or rushing. And he always did the job.
He came into the league as a 3rd round flier from Miami due to the multiple knee surgeries he had already endured through his college career. He never was a breakaway runner, but he has great vision, power, and the ability to make the first couple guys miss and get into the secondary for big gains. He, by far, has the biggest heart on the team, and is still distraught over the Super Bowl, and his last touch of the game, where he said he should have dipped inside to try and get more yards.
I don’t think he even needs to get over 10,000 to merit consideration, but that would likely be the key factor. And I’m certainly very happy Gore has had the opportunity to reach, and succeed, in the playoffs. His first 6 years were marked by him being the target of every defense they Niners faced, and he weathered the pounding with little complaint and fairly good health. In his 7 years as a starter, he’s missed 10 games due to injury. So, sure, Frank belongs in the Hall of Fame. Inducted in 2019 . . . Or 2018 if Gore retires as a Super Bowl champ.