Today Frank Gore is another year more. At 38 (by NFL standards), he’s at the age he’s surviving quarterbacks, which just isn’t something running backs can do.
After two ACL tears at the University of Miami before the iPhone was invented (yes, really), Gore played 241 of 256 possible NFL games in a 16-year career. Whether or not he returns this year for his 17th season remains to be seen, but on his birthday, let’s talk about his greatness and why this living legend is a foolproof Hall of Fame.
Debates rage over whether or not Gore belongs to Canton. The dominant arguments against him are that he has never led the league in any statistical category in any season, and that he has never won a Super Bowl, despite being the point guard of the 49ers in their season. Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. He did his part in this contest, rushing for 110 yards and a touchdown. But those two arguments against Gore, in my opinion, don’t come close to painting the full picture of his candidacy.
First off, you don’t need to look any further than the all-time rushing yardage list, where Gore is currently third. Gore has rushed for – exactly – 16,000 yards during his career, third all-time behind Emmitt Smith (18,355) and Walter Payton (16,726). Gore is joined on that list by still active contemporary Adrian Peterson, who is currently fifth with 14,820 rushing yards. Every running back other than Gore and Peterson in the all-time top 16 rushing yards has been named to the Hall of Fame.
Although – okay – Gore never led the league in any category, I would strongly argue that longevity, durability and sustained production are its own greatness. Gore has had 12 straight seasons with more than 1,200 yards of scrimmage and is fourth all-time in the category at 19,985. He has the most games played by a runner in NFL history at 241. He has 7,161 rushing yards since the age of 30; Emmitt Smith had 5,789. Is it more impressive to lead the league for a few years, or to produce continuously for over a decade? I would support the latter.
The league is rapidly moving towards one of super short lifespans in the running back position. Whether it’s injuries or a lack of production, sustainable excellence is a thing of the past. Let’s look at the 2016 season, for example. Only five years ago.
Here are the 12 best rushers of this season:
Oh look, there’s Frank Gore. Among the rest of that list, Ezekiel Elliott is the only running back yet to produce at a high level, and 2016 was his rookie season. Howard, Bell, McCoy, and Miller are backups. Freeman, Blount and Ajayi are out of the league. Johnson and Ingram now share an AARP-sponsored fullfield in Houston.
Running backs do not do what Gore did.
Doing what Gore has done for 12 years of consistently high production, while still being on the pitch and available for 94% of his career games, is a staggering accomplishment. This is not an argument of the statistics compiler. It’s not a, “But Jon, it’s not the Hall of pretty good. “
Frank Gore is greatness personified and epitomizes everything the Hall of Fame stands for. He is expected to enter Canton and have a bronze bust alongside the greatest players in NFL history. He deserves it.