The San Francisco 49ers have been in the news frequently over the first six weeks of the 2014 NFL season, and most of it has revolved around Jim Harbaugh's relationship with the locker room and the front office. Monday afternoon, we got a different spin on why there might be disgruntled 49ers. Ian Rapoport reported before Monday Night Football that a member of the 49ers front office approached running back Frank Gore to tell him his roster spot was in jeopardy.
Members of 49ers front office approached Frank Gore in offseason to tell him his roster spot was in jeopardy, per @RapSheet on Total Access.— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) October 13, 2014
More from @RapSheet: Gore had to earn his roster spot after the drafting of Carlos Hyde -- and did so.— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) October 13, 2014
Before the game kicked off, Cam Inman got a comment from Trent Baalke about the report. The 49ers GM told Cam Inman there was no truth to the NFL Network report.
I certainly would not expect Trent Baalke to say, "Yea, we told Frank he would lose his job if Hyde outperformed him." However, my guess is that anything that was said would be more subtle. The 49ers have drafted a running back in the second or fourth round each of the last four years. If anybody thought the 49ers were not looking for their running back(s) of the future, they were not paying attention. Add in Gore being due $6.45 million in salary and bonuses this season, and of course his job was on the line.
That latter tweet talks about Gore having to "earn" his roster spot. That never really says what exactly was needed of him to earn the job, or what it would have taken from Hyde for Gore to lose the job. That's the joy of anonymous sources. We cannot really tell just how specific any of these comments were when they were conveyed to Rapoport. There is usually some measure of truth to these reports, but we can never know what is 100 percent spot on, and what is a bit of an exaggeration by the source. We don't know how the conversation went down, so we're left with speculation.
Last season, Frank Gore put together a strong September, rushing for 295 yards on 61 carries (4.8 ypc). In October and November he averaged 3.8 yards per carry, rushing for 484 yards on 127 carries. In December, averaged 4.0 yards per carry, on 349 rushing yards. In the playoffs, he rushed 48 times for 164 yards (3.4 ypc) in three games. Of course the 49ers were going to be concerned about his performance heading into 2014. He turned 31 in the offseason, and it's not like backs over over 30 are dominating the league.
The 49ers are looking at Carlos Hyde as a potential back of the future. On Monday, he rushed 11 ties for 14 yards, while Gore rushed 16 times for 38 yards. Neither back looked particularly good, but the Rams also seemed pretty intent on stopping the run. I was hoping for more, but I was not exactly shocked that the Rams sold out to stop the run. And the 49ers responded by lighting them up in the passing game.
That being said, it was interesting to see the 49ers go with Carlos Hyde on some late short yardage situations. He's built to handle that kind of work, but you know Gore wanted to be in there on that 4th and goal at the 2. Gore was later stuffed on a 4th and 1 of his own, but this picture still says 1,000 words.
"Say what?!?!?!?" - Frank Gore pic.twitter.com/DwBOsqfT75— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 14, 2014
It will be interesting to see how the 49ers run game develops as the season wears on. Gore has shown he still has something left in the tank, putting together strong 100+ yard performances in Weeks 4 and 5. And this week, the running game will likely be critical to the 49ers potential success against the Broncos. While the 49ers have the weapons in the passing game to potentially win a shootout, I have to think the 49ers will want to slow things down and keep the Broncos offense on the sideline. We'll see plenty of passing, but this could be a showcase game for Gore and Hyde. If they can control the clock and grind out the game, the 49ers can spring what would be a nice little upset of Denver.