Yes, 49ers legend Frank Gore is going to be a Hall of Famer

Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) /

There’s still a debate questioning whether or not the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher, Frank Gore, should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perhaps this article shouldn’t be addressed to San Francisco 49ers fans. They already know the franchise’s all-time rusher, running back Frank Gore, is going to be enshrined in Canton one day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Nevertheless, and despite Gore’s long list of accomplishments, there’s still a small-but-vocal element debating whether or not Gore deserves to be included as a Hall of Fame player.

Football Outsiders’ Mike Tanier recently explored both sides of the argument, specifically looking at why Gore shouldn’t be enshrined:

"The problem with including Gore among a group of all-time greats, as pointed out by skeptics whenever his candidacy is brought up either on Twitter or our comment threads, is that he was never truly great.Not only has Gore never led the NFL in any major rushing statistic, but he only cracked the top five in rushing yards once, finishing third with 1,695 yards in 2006. That was the only year he ever finished in the top five in scrimmage yards too. He never reached the top five in rushing touchdowns or offensive touchdowns."

This does make some sense, but only to a degree. Gore was never the best at his position, nor was he regularly considered a top-five offensive player during his heyday years.

But let’s take into account a few things here to quickly quiet the naysayers.

For starters, between his rookie year in 2005 and 2010, Gore rushed for 6,414 yards, an average of 1,069 yards per season, which has to be made a bit more special considering he played only one full 16-game season (2006).

On top of that, as many a Niners fan would painfully recall, those offenses were awfully bad.

This could cut both ways, yes. Gore was, almost by default, the lone reliable weapon, which ultimately led to more touches. But it also equated to him being the primary focus of opposing defenses, too. And Gore still managed two of his five Pro Bowl nods during those forgettable years as well, further bolstering his candidacy.

Is longevity good enough for 49ers legend Frank Gore’s Hall of Fame candidacy?

Those same naysayers would argue that Gore would get in solely because he played for so long, 16 years entering 2021 and capping out at exactly 16,000 yards — No. 3 on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

Gore, who remains a free agent but promised to retire with San Francisco when that time comes, has that element only a handful of players, let alone running backs, are able to boast: playing almost to the age of 40 years old.

True, the last six years have netted Gore over 5,000 rush yards, and some could argue this was merely to boost his claim on the all-time rushing lists. If so, that fully discounts the fact few players, let alone running backs, are able to maintain their bodies to the point where a rigorous 16-game season would be too much to compete against.

Gore finding ways to contribute since leaving the 49ers remains admirable, if not Hall of Fame-worthy in itself.

Tanier explained this aspect, too:

"That story, plus 16,000 rushing yards, should carry a lot of weight. It also undercuts any claim that Gore is just a good running back who hung around forever, because history tells us that it’s nearly impossible for a running back to “hang around” in the NFL. (They aren’t slugging first basemen who can DH for six years)."

Of the top 20 leading rushers in NFL history, only Gore (No. 3), Fred Taylor (No. 17), Steven Jackson (No. 18) and Corey Dillon (No. 20) aren’t Hall of Famers, and there are legitimate reasons why the other three should be donning gold jackets. Perhaps those other names achieved their accolades in a shorter period of time.

But the fact Gore was already being viewed as a borderline Hall of Famer at the close of his Niners tenure back in 2014 suggests everything since was simply an emphasis point to leave no room for the doubters to question his candidacy.

Yet if you want the simple answer, regardless of longevity or time spent in the league, Gore being No. 3 on the all-time leading rusher list should be all that matters. Nothing more, nothing less.

Next. Ranking 49ers' 30 best players of all time. dark