Frank Gore had another banner season for the San Francisco 49ers in 2013.
Gore, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, gained 1,128 yards and found the end zone nine times during his team’s 12-4 campaign. He now has 9,967 career rushing yards which puts him 29th on the NFL‘s all-time list. There is no doubt that Gore is one of the best, if not the best, running back in 49ers’ history, but is he a future Hall of Famer?
The general thought is that the magic number a for running back is 10,000 plus yards rushing. While only 28 players in the history of the NFL have accomplished this feat, 10,000 alone does not carry a lot of weight in terms of the Hall of Fame. There are currently ten backs who fall between 10,000-10,999 yards rushing for their careers. Those ten players are Warrick Dunn, Steven Jackson (still active), Ricky Watters, Jamal Lewis, Thomas Jones, Tiki Barber, Eddie George, Ottis Anderson, Adrian Peterson (still active) and Ricky Williams. Of this group, none of them are currently in the Hall of Fame and only Peterson is likely to get there.
Of the remaining 18 who have 11,000 yards or more, 13 of them (Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Marcus Allen, Franco Harris, Thurman Thomas, John Riggins and O.J. Simpson) are in the Hall of Fame. Of the remaining five, LaDainian Tomlinson is a sure bet to get in when eligible and Jerome Bettis should get there at some point. They stand at fifth and sixth all time with over 13,600 yards a piece. The other three are Edgerrin James (12,246 yards), Fred Taylor (11,695) and Corey Dillon (11,241 yards), all of whom have less of a chance. So taking yardage into consideration, where does that leave Gore?
Barring injury, Gore is likely to reach 10,000 yards and exceed it by a considerable margin. At age 30, he has shown no signs of slowing down and is on track to be the 49ers’ lead back again in 2014. He would need 33 yards rushing to reach 10,000 and 1,033 to reach that all important 11,000 mark. To do the latter, Gore would have to average 64.5 yards a game over a 16 game season.
Another factor to look at is touchdowns. Gore has 70 total touchdowns and averages just under eight per season. Of the 13 11,000 plus yard backs in the Hall, only four of them have less than 100 total touchdowns in their careers (Dickerson, Dorsett, Thomas and Simpson). Even if Gore manages to play another two or three seasons, he’s unlikely to get to 100. Gore has also never won a rushing title, but that is not as significant as one might think. Thomas, Riggins, Harris, Faulk and Dorsett all failed to win one during their careers.
It should be noted that Gore played on some very bad teams prior to 2011. The 49ers’ record in Gore’s first six seasons (2005-2010) was 37-59 with no playoff appearances. From 2011-2013, the team improved to 36-11-1 and has appeared in three straight NFC title games as well as a Super Bowl. Through eight playoff games, Gore has 139 carries for 646 yards and five touchdowns. He was outstanding in the Super Bowl, gaining 119 yards with a score. The performance proved that when given the chance, Gore shines on the big stage.
If Gore’s career were to end right now, you’d have to say, based on the statistics mentioned, that he falls short of the Hall of Fame. Where Gore can make his case is in the twilight of his career. If he can stay healthy and play another two or three seasons, he should have the numbers to warrant legitimate consideration. It would also help his case should he get additional opportunities to excel in the playoffs and again rises to that occasion.
As it currently stands, the final chapter of Gore’s career is yet to be written. That chapter will most likely determine whether or not his legacy will take him into Canton or if he will fall short of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Regardless of the outcome, Gore has solidified himself as one of the most complete and consistent running backs of the modern era.