Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the San Francisco 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
Frank Gore is the longest-tenured non-special-teams player that the San Francisco 49ers will field in 2013. Drafted in 2005, Gore played his first snaps at the age of 22. Here, eight years later, Gore will be 30 and still going strong.
Football Outsiders ranked him 4th in their efficiency stat, DVOA, and Pro Football Focus had him 8th in their Player Ratings. For all backs in NFL history with at least 8,000 yards, Gore ranks 7th in yards per carry (YPC). The six in front of him are -- or one day will be -- Hall of Famers.
Those of us who love Frank Gore as a premier 49er, as one of the faces of this franchise, want to see him with a bust one day. He might need a ring to get there, but he will also need a strong finish to his career.
Gore has 8,839 regular-season rushing yards in his career. Barring injury, and assuming another strong season, he could very well surpass the 10,000 threshold this year and join an elite list of 27 men.
We're all pulling for him. Let's see what he might do.
Why Gore Could Improve in 2013
Believe it or not, age is not yet a completely haunting concern for Gore according to historical age curves.
Chase Stuart of Football Perspective did a piece last summer, showing that, for active RBs, age 30 represented no so-called "cliff" -- that, in fact, if the cliff hits at all, it comes at age 32.
On top of that, Gore's career path does not mirror your standard RB in that he has not steadily improved until his "peak" and then steadily declined thereafter. Gore has more-or-less hovered since his break-out 2006 campaign at the same numbers he garnered last year: somewhere between 4.1 and 4.9 yards per attempt, somewhere between 16 and 18 attempts per game, and at least 1,000 yards in every full season.
This speaks well to Gore's consistency. We are not looking at unrepeatable numbers for Gore, even at age 29. If the "cliff" for RBs is truly not 'till 32, then Gore has quite a bit left in the tank, and his reliability gives us reason for hopefulness.
Going against Gore is that he has certainly lost a step. But this has been a problem, in my eyes, since 2011; and it matters less when you play behind the absolute best run-blocking line in the NFL.
Gore will benefit from great play-calling, a great system, a dual-threat quarterback, and a mauling line: that is a recipe for any back to have success, let alone one of Gore's pedigree.
At the very least, people have been telling us for a number of years now that Gore is finished. Those people are always left back-tracking come January. What's one more year upon foundations?
Why Gore Could Regress in 2013
Gore is one of only 14 men in NFL history to rush at least 200 times in a season at age 29 with a yards per carry average over 4.5. Out of that list, which comprises a mere 11 players, only Tiki Barber managed to reproduce those stats at age 30.
Making it more difficult is the availability of other weapons for San Francisco. At any moment, Gore could be spelled by both LaMichael James or Kendall Hunter. On top of that, if the 49ers offense will indeed see increased snaps in the pistol, then Colin Kaepernick will get a fair share of rushes.
The 49ers had 492 rush attempts last year, which includes QB scrambles. If the 49ers regress at all in time spent leading, that number could go down. Combine that with the increased role of Kaepernick as a dual threat, and of James and Hunter, and Gore could be looking at less attempts: both as a function of team percentage and team totals.
Therefore, even if Gore manages to maintain a YPC over 4.5, there is a chance he sees less rushes. If injury or decreased efficiency does not plague Gore, a reduced role just might.
My prediction is that Gore, who has 9,321 yards when his post-season is included, will cross the 10,000 yard mark by the end of week 13. I do believe Hunter, James, and The Kid will take some snaps away from Frank; but I do still think he will get his 200 attempts, and being spelled by the committee more might just give his YPC a boost.
Yes, you heard right. Consider me optimistic, NN. Frank has a lot left in the tank.
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