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