Going into this season there was some major concern about Frank Gore's recovery from the hip injury that caused him to miss the last five games of 2010. He reported to camp saying he felt like he was 21 again, but his running hasn't backed that up. There has been criticism directed at the 49er offensive line, but I believe that Frank Gore has actually not fully recovered from his hip injury and may never recover.
I give you five reasons why I think Frank Gore is done as a starting running back. I'll examine each of them in more detail after the jump.
5.) He's 28.
4.) This is not his first serious injury.
3.) He just got paid on a new contract (albeit a small one).
2.) We drafted a running back in the 4th round
1.) The contract he got from the front office shows a lack of trust in his ability
Frank Gore is 28 years old. He's fast approaching the age when running back performance drops dramatically due to the pounding they've taken. This is true of healthy running backs. As they get older they lose a step, they can't make the corner as fast, or knock over the defender as easily. He also has over 1400 carries, which is an awful lot for a running back.
Frank Gore strained his ankle in 2009, which knocked him out of a game after one play and caused him to miss the next three full weeks. He broke his hip in 2011 which caused him to miss five weeks. In fact Frank Gore hasn't played a full season since 2006, when he rushed for 1695 yards. There's no reason to think that he won't get injured again this season, and if he does he needs to worry about his job.
The last time Frank Gore got a new contract his performance dipped dramatically. This seems to be true of many players. Play hard, get that new deal, then take it easy. Heck, look at Chris Johnson this year and his performance compared to last year (the man is killing my fantasy team). I have no reason to think he'll do a great job this season.
Kendall Hunter was drafted in the 4th round. If all we wanted was a backup to Gore we could've kept Dixon around and picked up an UDFA as a camp body for some competition. The fourth round is about where you want to pick a running back that you plan to work into the starting lineup. That gives you room to still find talent without paying him to sit on your bench.
Front Office Trust
If the front office had really been confident in Frank Gore his new contract would not have been a "phony" contract. The press reports indicate a 3 year deal worth about $7 million per year, with $13 million guaranteed. Sounds like a great deal for Gore and it sounds like the 49er organization has confidence in him. However, actually looking at the details of the contract paints a less rosy picture. That $13 million includes his salary from this year, which moves to fully guaranteed. 2012 is $2 million guaranteed plus another $4 million in bonus money. 2013 and 2014 is $3.3 million in roster bonus, the rest based on performance.
In other words, the team can cut Gore without any real problems as soon as this off-season if they felt like it. They would only take a few million dollars in cap hit. It's a pretty smart deal for the team.
In another post I'll look at specific things showing that he's not the back he used to be. Things like his ypc being half what they were last year, or that he's not breaking the tackles or getting to the corner like he used to.
Tre will have posts up later this week rebutting my ridiculous notions of Gore's decline.