Sports Out West

Is Frank Gore a Hall of Famer?

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Frank Gore had another solid performance for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 8.

Gore, the franchise’s all time leading rusher, gained 71 yards on 19 carries and found the end zone twice in the Niner’s 42-10 dismantling of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 71 yards on the ground gave Gore 9,457 for his career which allowed him to pass Earl Campbell and Shaun Alexander for the 30th all time on the NFL’s rushing list. There is no question that Gore is one of the best, if not the best, running back in 49ers’ history, but is he a Hall of Famer?

The general thought is that the magic number for running backs is 10,000 plus yards rushing. While only 27 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 nine backs who fall between 10,000-10,999 yards rushing for their careers. None of them are in, or most likely will be in, the Hall. Those nine players are Warrick Dunn, Ricky Watters, Jamal Lewis, Thomas Jones, Tiki Barber, Eddie George, Ottis Anderson, Steven Jackson (still active), and Ricky Williams.

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 eventually. They stand at 5th and 6th all time with over 13,600 yards a piece. The other three are Corey Dillon (11,241 yards), Fred Taylor (11,695) and Edgerrin James (12,246 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 pace for over 1,200 yards this season. For his career, he currently has 2057 carries which is 150 less than the next closest out of those 10,000 yard backs (Barber, 2217). Overall, NFL players who have rushed for over 10,000 yards have averaged 2788 carries for their career. If Gore were to accumulate at least this average, that would mean he would get another 731 carries in his career. If he were to maintain his 4.6 yards per carry average, that would give Gore about 3,362 more yards which would have him retiring with around 12,819. That total would put him 8th all time.

Another factor to look at is touchdowns. Gore has 68 total touchdowns and averages about seven 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 does play another few seasons, he’s unlikely to get to 100. Gore has also never won a rushing title but that may not carry as much weight as you’d think. Five of the 13 did not win a rushing title during their careers (Thomas, Riggins, Harris, Faulk, or Dorsett).

Gore played on some very bad teams prior to 2011. The 49ers record in Gore’s first six seasons from 2005-2010 was 37-59 with no playoff appearances. They are 30-9-1 from 2011-through Week 8 of 2013 and have appeared in two NFC title games and the Super Bowl. Through five playoff games, Gore has 91 carries for 482 yards and four touchdowns. He was outstanding in the Super Bowl, gaining 119 yards with a score indicating 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 rises again to that occasion.

The bottom line is that the final chapter of Frank 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 whether he will fall short of the Hall of Fame. Either way, Gore has solidified himself as one of the most complete and consistent running backs of the modern era. 

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

 

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a staff writer for 49erswebzone.com and 49ersgab.com. He is also a contributor to Yahoo! Voices and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders.
  • jdp916

    Frank Gore at 9, 618 career rushing yards is exactly 2,662 rushing yards away from an assured seat in the Hall of Fame. That would put him at 12,280 unsurping Marshall Faulk as the tenth leading rusher in NFL history. If you turn your attention to the “Career Rushing Yards” list, you will notice that everyone above that mark is either in the Hall of Fame or a shoe in.