After 16-years in the NFL, Frank Gore calls it a career just 2,355 yards shy of Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record. Gore will sign a one-day contract with the San Francisco 49ers to retire with the team that drafted him way back in 2005.
Gore ends his career as the third-leading rusher in league history, more than 1,000 yards ahead of the next active player on the list, Adrian Peterson. After Peterson, the next two active players are Mark Ingram and Ezekiel Elliot. Neither player has reached 8,000 yards to date. So, it’s safe to say Gore will be ranked third all-time for quite a few years.
But what about Gore’s legacy? There aren’t many teams left in the NFL that rely on one running back to carry the ball 25 plus times per game, smashing it down opponents’ throats. Before stepping away, Gore was one of the last run-it between the tackles, every-down backs left in the league. That style was part of Gore’s claim to fame during his prime playing days with the Niners.
While Gore ends his career with the third-most rushing yards of any back to ever tote an NFL rock, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the third greatest back the league has ever seen. It means Gore was outstanding and super consistent for a very long time. Gore rushed for over 1,000 yards in nine out of 11 seasons from 2006 to 2016. When you think of hard-nosed, tough players, Gore is one of the first that should come to mind.
It likely would have taken Gore another three seasons or longer to reach Smith’s record of 18, 355 rushing yards. Over Gore’s final three years (2018-2020), he averaged 658 yards rushing per season. And he didn’t play in 2021, so who knows where he would be physically if he’d returned in 2022. Gore ends his career in the top 20 (19th) for all-time rushing TDs with 81.
Unfortunately for Gore, he came along during the same time as guys like Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Marshawn Lynch. No matter where you rank them, they got more publicity nationally than Gore for most of their careers. And Frank was one of the more durable running backs we’ve seen over the last 20 years. In 16 years, Gore only had one where he played in fewer than 14 games, and that season (2010), he suited up for 11.
I think Gore will be remembered as somewhat of an ironman, having not missed many games during his time as an NFL player. He was a five-time pro bowl selection and was selected to the 2010s All-Decade team. I rank Gore somewhere in the top 15-20 of all-time NFL backs. One thing that hurts Gore, when compared to some of the other great running backs, is that he was never considered the best back in the league, having never been selected All-Pro. And he never led the league in rushing either. I know it’s nitpicking, but that must be factored in.
What Gore didn’t accomplish doesn’t matter much because he achieved more than enough to be considered one of the best of his era. He’s a clear-cut Hall of Famer, whether it’s the first or fifth ballot. Eventually, Gore will be joining the other all-time greats with a bust in Canton one day. Now Gore is free to focus on his boxing career and getting his rematch with former NBA All-Star Deron Williams.