Ex-49er Frank Gore’s Hall of Fame candidacy: Durability shouldn’t be held against him

The third-most prolific rusher in NFL history, Gore had eight 1,000-yard seasons with the 49ers

ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 26: Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers runs for a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 26, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Let’s play a game of call and response. I say, “Hall of Fame worthiness,” you say …

Hey, come back. It’ll be different this time. This time the discussion will be led by the estimable and relentlessly level-headed Peter King.

Typically Hall of Fame debates are irresolvable gum-bumping exercises that leave everyone dissatisfied.

But after the long holiday football weekend, King pleaded the Hall of Fame case for former 49ers running back Frank Gore, currently in his 15th NFL season, and who recently became the NFL’s third all-time rusher, surpassing Barry Sanders (a dead lock cinch for the Hall long before he was voted in).

The only two backs in front of Gore: Emmitt Smith (dead lock cinch) and Walter Payton (dead lock cinch).

We here in the Bay Area are likely more amenable to the notion of Gore in a mustard-colored blazer, having seen the magic with our own eyes. In fact, this would be a fine time for a refresher:

The “anti” argument would be that Gore wasn’t sensational enough, that he never was voted All-Pro first team, that he was more a worker bee than a featured one-name-only superstar.

To that I say, “Bouillabaisse.”

More to the point, here is what King says:

“Gore’s a bit of a conundrum,” King wrote in his Football Morning in America column. “He’s an absolute outlier in NFL history, a guy who, as (some) say, was never considered the best or second-best back but had a valiant and incredibly productive career after both knees and both shoulders had been reconstructed. By the way, he was considered elite in 2006, when he was third in rushing with 1,695 yards and a league-best (for rushers with at least 200 carries) 5.4 yards per rush. The Hall of Fame doesn’t have specific qualifications at any position. But I do think there is a place in the Hall for a player who, from 2006-16, his 11 prime seasons, averaged:

1,132 rushing yards per season.4.4 yards per rush.15.1 games per year.”

Just as you don’t discount running backs whose career was cut short by injury (Gale Sayers, BTW, is the 145th-ranked back in NFL annals), or the sensible decision to walk away while they could still walk away (if “The Dirty Dozen” hadn’t come along, Jim Brown might have set the all-time record where no one could reach it), you don’t discount a guy because he was durable. Given that the average NFL running back’s career is two beats of a jackrabbit’s heart, it should be a point in Gore’s favor. Granted, in his 15th year, he’s not vintage Gore. But I bet if you surveyed the locker room of the surprising Buffalo Bills I bet you’d find a bunch of guys who would sing his praises, and not only for what he has done on the field (146 carries, 552, two touchdowns).

More King:

“That doesn’t count the 110-yard rushing game he had against the Ravens in the Super Bowl. Last point: After Gore at three, the next nine backs on the all-time rushing list are either in the Hall of Fame or, in the case of number six Adrian Peterson, a lock to make it. I think Gore has done enough, but it’ll be up to the 48 voters in 2026 or so to decide if they think he has.”

A suggestion to those voters: Don’t be stupid.


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