Over the weekend, the NFL’s third all-time leading rusher Frank Gore announced his retirement after 16 seasons. From just that sentence alone, you’d probably think Gore is a surefire Hall of Famer. It shouldn’t matter that Gore only averaged more than five yards per carry once in his career (2006). It shouldn’t matter that Gore only averaged a tick over five touchdowns per season he played. He is third all-time in rushing yards and that should be enough.
Some people don’t see it like that though:
There seem to be numerous people with the mindset that longevity plus accumulation does not equal greatness. In order to be great, you have to be an elite player at your position for several years. Seeing as how Gore was never named a first-team All-Pro, only named a second-team All-Pro once, and never once led the league in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, or total yards from scrimmage, I understand how people can come to the conclusion that Gore was never elite. However, Gore was very good, nearly elite in fact, for over a decade. That’s longer than most “elite” running backs’ full careers, and that deserves the utmost respect as well as a bust in the Hall of Fame.
Think about all the running backs we, as a collective NFL fandom, have considered “elite” over the last five years. Todd Gurley? He fell off the table entirely after just six years in the league. He didn’t play a single snap in 2021. He’s 27 years old. Christian McCaffrey? He can’t stay healthy to save his life. Now, there are hundreds of Panthers fans clamoring for their team to trade him away before it’s too late. He’s 25. Let’s go a little further back to Gore’s contemporaries, shall we? DeMarco Murray? He didn’t make it to 30. Steven Jackson? Had just 1300 rushing yards after turning 30. LeSean McCoy? Just over 1000 after turning 30. LaDainian Tomlinson? He had just one season with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage after turning 30 (2010; 1282 yards), and zero seasons with 1,000 rushing yards.
After Frank Gore turned 30, he still had three seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards left in him. From age 30 to 34, Gore recorded over 1200 yards from scrimmage every year. That’s five seasons with over 1200 yards from scrimmage, all of them done while at 30-plus years old. Since 2000, no other halfback has more than two at that age.
Tiki Barber? Two.
Fred Jackson? Two.
Curtis Martin? Two.
Thomas Jones? Two.
Fredy Taylor? Two.
Adrian Peterson? Two.
Garrison Hearst? Two.
Priest Holmes? One.
Frank Gore? Five.
He had more than double anyone else past the age of 30. That’s a true ageless wonder. Not to mention that Gore was a model of consistency. He almost never missed time due to injury. The most games he ever missed in a season was five (2010), and that was a huge shock considering the injury concerns he faced coming out of college.
We live in a day and age where halfbacks fall off a cliff in productivity before the end of their rookie contracts. The narrative has shifted to the idea that a great young running back is actually bad for a team now, because eventually you’ll have to pay them big money just for them to disappear entirely by age 27. Gore destroyed that trend. He was someone you could count on for the tough yards every single time you gave him the ball. He was worth every penny of every contract he ever signed because he was always going to be on the field and rack up yardage on the ground. He is the only player with at least 12 seasons of 1200-plus yards from scrimmage, and he did it every year from 2006 to 2017. There are only 40 other players in NFL history with even half as many seasons in their careers.
Gore is a Hall of Famer, because being a Hall of Famer isn’t about being the absolute best for a short sprint. It’s about having your name all over the record books and hearing people gasp in astonishment at what you were able to accomplish during your career. Gore accomplished both of those feats and much more. Who cares if he never led the league in rushing?