Is Frank Gore worthy of Canton?


The San Francisco 49ers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers held at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA. October 9, 2011. Photo © Terrell Lloyd /49ers. The 49ers defeated the Buccaneers 48-3.

(Gore photos courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts & San Francisco 49ers)

By Rick Gosselin

Talk of Fame Network

Frank Gore is strolling down a very exclusive road.

But is that road leading to Canton?

When you start ticking off the names of the great running backs in NFL history, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, O.J. Simpson and Emmitt Smith immediately come to mind. Marshall Faulk, Thurman Thomas, Curtis Martin, Marcus Allen, Tony Dorsett and LaDainian Tomlinson come to mind a second or two later.

gorefrankcoltsSo when does Frank Gore enter into the picture?

Statistically, he’s already there. Very quietly, Gore has made tracks on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. With his 79 yards Monday night against the New York Jets, he moved past Dorsett into the No. 8 spot. He needs 471 more yards to pass Dickerson at No. 7 and has four games left this season to get there.

When Gore looks over his shoulder, he can see Hall-of-Famers Brown, Faulk, Allen, Franco Harris, Thomas, Simpson, Campbell and John Riggins behind him on that rushing list. When he looks up he can see Hall-of-Famers Smith, Payton, Sanders, Martin and Jerome Bettis in addition to Dickerson still ahead of him on that list.

Which begs the question – can statistics alone make a player a Hall of Famer?

Almost 69 percent of all Hall-of-Fame enshrinees have a championship ring. Brown, Faulk, Allen, Harris, Riggins, Smith, Payton and Bettis were all integral parts of championship teams. Gore never played on a championship team. Dickerson, Sanders and Simpson didn’t win championships, either. But all three rushed for 2,000 yards in a single season. Gore never got within 300 yards of a 2,000-yard season. Neither did Martin. But he won an NFL rushing title. Gore never did.

Thurman Thomas did not win a Super Bowl or a rushing title. But he was the NFL MVP one season. Gore was never voted the NFL’s best player in a single season. Larry Brown was an NFL MVP for the Washington Redskins in 1971. He’s been a Hall-of-Fame candidate now for 36 years but has never once been a finalist.

Priest Holmes won a rushing title. He’s been eligible now for five years and has never been a semifinalist, much less a finalist. Edgerrin James won two rushing titles and Terrell Davis was an NFL MVP with a 2,000-yard rushing season. Both have been finalists for the Hall, and both have been passed over.

Gore went to five Pro Bowls. So did Chuck Foreman and Ricky Watters. Neither can get into the room to be discussed. Foreman has been waiting 31 years now and Watters 10.

John David Crow was an NFL all-decade pick in the 1960s. He’s been waiting 43 years to get into the room to be discussed as a finalist. Gore was never an all-decade selection. Roger Craig was an all-decade selection who won three Super Bowls with the 49ers and went to four Pro Bowls. He’s been a finalist but also has been passed over.

Yes, Gore has the statistics. Quantity does matter. But so does quality. Gore has never won a championship or a rushing title and has never been a first-team All-Pro. He has played 12 seasons now with the  San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts, averaging 72.6 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry with 74 touchdowns. Is that Hall-of-Fame worthy?

Yes, Frank Gore deserves to be in the discussion. But so do John David Crow, Larry Brown, Chuck Foreman, Roger Craig, Ricky Watters, Priest Holmes, Edgerrin James and Terrell Davis. Not all are going to get in. Not all will even be discussed.

(Frank Gore photo courtesy of Indianapolis Colts)
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14 Comments

  1. Scott Dochterman
    December 8, 2016
    Reply

    There’s something to be said for consistent durability, of which Gore certainly has, especially at a position that absorbs constant pounding. I think that’s impressive, especially after the injuries he sustained in college. While statistics aren’t everything, when you compare Gore’s body of work alongside Floyd Little or Leroy Kelly, he certainly stands the test of time. Gore has eight 1,000-yard seasons, nearly a ninth last year and has a shot at another one this year. Only one running back on the list above him has rushed for more yards per carry and that’s Barry Sanders.

    He was probably the third-best running back of the most recent decade (not counting LT) behind Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. That shouldn’t make him automatic, but Gore probably fits in Bettis territory. Another 1,000-yard season or two should cement his candidacy.

    • Rick Gosselin
      December 8, 2016
      Reply

      Little and Kelly won rushing titles. Brown, Sanders, Sayers and Simpson all averaged 4.7 yards per carry or better. Gore’s at 4.4. Smith, Allen, Payton, Brown, Riggins and Faulk all had 100+ touchdowns. Gore is at 74. There must be some quality with the quantity. But I would agree that Gore’s body of work certainly deserves discussion. And that’s the problem with the current system. Not enough players are discussed.

  2. December 8, 2016
    Reply

    Gore’s durability and accomplishments are admirable, but I believe they pale in comparison to O.J. Anderson, who is the only player in NFL history to win Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, two Super Titles and SB MVP. That said, I believe OJ should get in and Gore supplants him as the best running back to not get in.

    • Rick Gosselin
      December 8, 2016
      Reply

      Lots & lots of quality running backs currently on the outside looking in.

  3. December 8, 2016
    Reply

    Question: the National Wrestling Hall of Fame immediately eradicated former House Speaker Dennis Hastert when it was discovered he was a child molester. Why hasn’t the PFHOF taken steps to eradicate wife beater turned double murderer, O.J. Simpson from the Hall? Wouldn’t that open up one spot for someone that hasn’t shamed the game? How this isn’t a big time national scandal is beyond me!

  4. bachslunch
    December 8, 2016
    Reply

    Gore is currently 8th all time in rushing yards and will likely move higher. There’s also precedent for electing compiling RBs if they get over 12,00 yards (see Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin). Also when Ladainan Tomlinson and Edgerrin James get in, the only two RBs with much of a case for some time will be Adrian Peterson and Gore — in other words, not much competition. I’m fine with Gore being elected, actually.

  5. Anonymous
    December 9, 2016
    Reply

    The thing that comes up most when discussing Frank Gore is: durability. Other than that, he’s a decent, not outstanding running back. It would not bother me if he was elected to the HOF. It would not bother me if he was not elected to the HOF.

  6. Anonymous
    December 9, 2016
    Reply

    Frank Gore was the only bright spot in SF for years before Harbaugh arrived. Even with an awful supporting cast Gore still shined. When the team finally was good Gore was it’s center piece. Even now in Indy he is still getting yardage behind a line that is suspect at best.. Great player that was on less than great teams for most of his career.

  7. JEP
    December 9, 2016
    Reply

    I would vote for Gore to be elected. He’s in the Top 10 of all time rushers, and the way the game is being played these days (in which era, by the way, Gore played), he is likely to be there quite a while. As the previous person said, while the 49ers did not win a championship when he was there, he was the heart of the 49ers team when they made it to 3 straight NFC Championships. When they did make the Super Bowl, they came within about 5 years of winning it, and people tend to forget that the 49ers had been moving down the field pretty easily running the ball. Then, when they got inside the 10, they started throwing those miserable fade routes to Crabtree that never seemed to work. If they had kept running with Gore, there might well have been a different result – kinda like their rival in Seattle found out when they threw from inside the 5 to try to win the Super Bowl against NE….

  8. bachslunch
    December 10, 2016
    Reply

    Sorry, meant 12,000 yards above.

  9. Jay
    December 10, 2016
    Reply

    Gore deserves a long look but I don’t see him getting the Canton call. No modern-era RB has ever made the HOF without making a first-team All-Pro team (even Sr. nominee Floyd Little made a first-team all-pro team).

    Bettis (2x 1st-team All-Pro)
    Martin (1x 1st-team All-Pro)
    Faulk (3x 1st-team All-Pro)
    Little (Sr. Nominee; 1x 1st-team All-Pro)
    Smith (4x 1st-team All-Pro)
    Thomas (2x 1st-team All-Pro)
    Sanders (6x 1st-team All-Pro)
    Allen (2x 1st-team All-Pro)
    Dickerson (5x 1st-team All-Pro)

  10. bachslunch
    December 10, 2016
    Reply

    John Henry Johnson was never named a 1st team all pro by any organization and he qualifies as a Modern Era HoFer.

    • Jay
      December 10, 2016
      Reply

      yeah, that’s going back quite a ways. not what i was referring to by “modern era” but you’re right that the pfhof does consider jhj a “modern-era” RB.

  11. bachslunch
    December 10, 2016
    Reply

    I’d consider both Jim Brown (retired in 1965) and Lenny Moore (retired in 1967) to be modern era RBs. JHJ retired in the year between the two, in 1966.

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