Collecting All the Running Backs

May 29, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) smiles during organized team activities at the San Francisco 49ers training facility. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

A lot of people are writing a lot of smart things about Frank Gore's future with the 49ers. His time is limited here more due to age than contract. We have him for a few more years, but at 29, Gore's most productive years are likely behind him.

This isn't to say that he is no longer an elite running back in the NFL. He quite clearly is. Last year was an incredibly productive season for the man, even if his playing time wore down as the season came to a close. I think we can expect something similar this upcoming season.

But it's nice that we can expect it but not need it. There is a plethora of RBs in the Niners' stable. All sorts of backs everywhere. As a consequence, writers are wondering about Gore's role with the team next season.

For the most part, the debate has shaped up into how much play time Gore should get, with Matt Maiocco and Matt Barrows suggesting that it's likely Gore's carries will diminish, while Chris Burke urges the 49ers to continue to let Gore trounce opponents. This is obviously an important concern of the 49ers for this upcoming season, though something of a red herring to me.

In my mind, the question of RB usage will not be answered by evaluating how many carries Gore should get (though this will obviously play a part), but rather by how versatile the offense can become.

The addition of Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James to the Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon, and Gore trio really brings all sorts of new talent into the mix. What the 49ers should really focus upon is getting these players to be as well-rounded as possible so that anyone can play at any time. Opposing defenses would have a mess on their hands since each player poses different problems.

That said, this obviously entails a reduction of Gore's role in the offense next year, not because he has greatly diminished in skill or because the coaches will be obsessed with his play time, but because there are other weapons on this team.

In light of this, I just wanted to the latter half of this article to be a sort of homage to Frank Gore, the every down back. Or, even, Frank Gore, the 49ers' offense from 2006 to 2010. In a lot of ways, Frank Gore might be my favorite 49er of all time. Such a bold statement, I know, and I want to hedge it a bit. But, I can say that Frank Gore is my favorite 49er on the team right now.

There are a lot of great guys on the team, including Vernon Davis, P-52, Alex Smith, new fan favorite Carlos Rogers, and Andy Lee to name a few. Great guys for different reasons. But Frank Gore is a monolith of awesome in my mind and will continue to be so until the day he retires.

Newsflash: for a long time the 49ers sucked. Pretty much everything about them sucked. Then, quite quietly, a young RB with knee problems decided that he wanted to single-handedly win games for the team.

He was (and is) a class act with a passion for football and a passion for winning. These are admirable qualities in the face of some players who take plays of and seem to not have a zeal for the game. But even amongst those who clearly do love football, Frank is even better because he so clearly loves the 49ers.

Gore does not only have a love for his sport - a sport we likewise love as fans. But, he has treated this team well, both on the field and financially. It is clear that he has an intense loyalty to San Francisco and to his team. I'm not going to blame a guy for going to the team that will pay him the most money. This is a job and that is totally cool. I think it's a bit childish to expect players to have team loyalties as Free Agents. That said, Frank is just so much cooler for this very reason. We are pretty spoiled to have him, and to be honest, he might even be worth sucking for so long.

What a great player and a great man.

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