49ers All-Time Running Back

The re-vote on the #2 wide receiver has resulted in an even bigger percentage lead for John Taylor.  The ballot will remain open, but I think we've reached a point where we can call it for JT.  Today we move on to another offensive position, running back.  Last go-around Roger Craig ran away with the race, even over a Hall of Famer like Hugh McElhenny.  Given the apparent age of many of our readers, it's not too surprising that even Frank Gore finished with more votes than McElhenny.

When we had the first vote on running back I made a point to mention a couple of things: First, Joe Perry is in the fullback balloting, even though he is currently the franchise leader in career rushing yards.  The offense ran a bit differently back in those days, but for simplicity's sake, I went with him at fullback.  Second, Frank Gore is still a youngster, but I felt he has done enough in is brief career to merit recognition on the ballot.  I have to admit, I was heartbroken though that I held off Kevan Barlow.  I don't know if I'll ever forgive myself.

Roger Craig (1983-1990): Not a whole lot needs to be said about the man who is #2 in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, #3 in receptions and #9 in receiving yards.  Before Marshall Faulk, there was Roger Craig.  In 1985, Craig became the first running back to finished with 1,000 rushing AND receiving yards.  The previous season he became the first player ever to score three touchdowns in a Super Bowl.  Roger Craig went to 4 Pro Bowls and was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1988 as he finished with 2,036 total yards.  Craig still stands as the only running back to ever lead the NFL in receptions in a season.  He finished his career with 13,143 total yards and 73 total touchdowns.

Hugh McElhenny (1952-1960): McElhenny was the 49ers first round pick in 1952 and was immediately a hit on the field.  He won Rookie of the Year, along with back to back Pro Bowl and 1st Team All Pro appearances his first two seasons.  Over the course of his career, McElhenny went to six Pro Bowls and finished his 49ers career with 4,288 rushing yards, 2,666 receiving yards and 50 total touchdowns.

Garrison Hearst (1997-2003): I don't know of anybody who doesn't like Garrison Hearst.  One big reason is this short little run.  Hearst finished his time with the 49ers with 5,535 rushing yards.  That number would have likely been quite a bit higher if not for the nasty broken ankle he suffered against Atlanta on the first play from scrimmage in the Divisional playoffs.  He developed the necrosis condition that led to Bo Jackson's retirement and seemed finished, although the 49ers kept him on the roster.  Two years later, Hearst came back and rushed for 1,206 yards, winning his second Comeback Player of the Year award.  The next two years saw him slowly phased out of the offense, replaced by the immortal Kevan Barlow.

Frank Gore (2005-present): Gore has only been a 49er for four years, a starting running back for three of them.  In that time he has set the 49ers single season rushing record and twice led the team in receptions.  His most impressive stat might be the fact that he became the first 49ers running back with three straight 1,000 yard seasons.  Gore currently stands #5 in the 49ers all-time rushing list.  Considering he's 4,248 yards out of first place, Frank the tank is definitely getting within striking distance of the #1 spot.  A decent season by Gore will move him past Garrison Hearst, while a 1,500 yard season would move him into third place all time.  I'm guessing he won't reach Roger Craig's receptions by a running back number, but considering how active he has been in the passing game, Gore could easily finish his career challenging Roger Craig as the best running back in team history.

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