Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
Frank Gore is entering his tenth season as a member of the San Francisco 49ers and what a pleasure it has been to watch him play over the past decade. Despite suffering through a number of terrible teams early in his career, Gore has been a model of consistency. Frank the Tank has topped 1,000 yards in seven of the eight seasons since taking over as the 49ers' primary ballcarrier while posting an impressive 4.6 yards per carry over his career. I do my best to avoid using terrible sports clichés, but Frank Gore has been the heart and soul of the 49ers' offense for nearly the duration of his career. At times, he was the only reason worth tuning in on Sundays.
Sadly, his time in red and gold may be coming to a close. Gore is scheduled to earn $6.45 million this season in what will be the final year of his contract. Given the number of younger options at the position currently on the roster, it's easy to envision this season being Gore's swan song with the 49ers. If the organization does opt to bring Gore back after this season, it will almost certainly be in a reduced role. I ran through a few scenario's on what Gore's future might look like in-depth a few weeks back, but let's run through a condensed version here.
Why he might improve:
At 31 years old, Gore's best seasons are in the rear-view mirror. If we were to outline a scenario in which Gore saw his production improve in 2014, it would likely come as a result of at least a small change in offensive philosophy. Largely due to San Francisco's abnormal use of offensive sets that include two or fewer wide receivers, no running back in the league faced more heavy defensive personnel groupings than Gore did in 2013. If Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman show more of a willingness to use three-receiver sets with an improved wide receiver corps, that could open things up in the box and provide Gore with more room to work, potentially increasing his efficiency and therefore, his overall yardage.
Why he might regress:
At 31 years old, Gore's best seasons... err, oops, already used that one. Making a case for a Gore decline in 2014 doesn't require a lot of effort. The track record for running backs on the wrong side of 30 isn't pretty and the list of backs who have managed to be productive after turning 31 is a short one. Gore's yards per carry fell to a career low last season. He struggled to break tackles at the same rate that he has throughout his career and his yards after contact also hit rock bottom. It's a cruel world out there for aging NFL running backs. We just have to hope that his fall doesn't resemble that of one Felix Baumgartner.
Odds of making the roster:
Not much to see here. It's easier to have your head removed in Westeros than it would be to remove Frank Gore from this roster in 2014. At least to begin the season, Gore will again be the bell-cow on which the 49ers will rely when turning to the running game.