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Would things be different if Frank Gore were still a 49er?

The 49ers let the franchise leading rusher leave for another team in free agency and they lost more than just his play on the field.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

I know it's been a while since Frank Gore walked away from 4949 Marie P. DeBartolo Way, but it's important to take a look at what he brought to the table off of the field with the current state of the San Francisco 49ers offense. I'm not crying over spilled milk but we need someone to fill the shoes that Gore left behind, even more than the cleats.

Gore was the rock of the offense, the core, the big brother. He was the one constant for his 10 years on the 49ers offense. As coaches and players passed through the building, he remained sure and steady.

Gore's tenure included four head coaches:

  • Mike Nolan
  • Mike Singletary
  • Jim Tomsula (one game)
  • Jim Harbaugh

Seven different offensive coordinators:

  • Mike McCarthy
  • Norv Turner
  • Jim Hostler
  • Mike Martz
  • Jimmy Raye
  • Mike Johnson
  • Greg Roman

And ten different starting quarterbacks:

  • Alex Smith
  • Tim Rattay
  • Ken Dorsey
  • Cody Pickett
  • Trent Dilfer
  • Shaun Hill
  • Chris Weinke
  • J.T. O'Sullivan
  • Troy Smith
  • Colin Kaepernick

Gore holds the 49ers franchise records for career rushing yards at 11,073, single season rushing at 1,695, and the single game rushing record at 212. His play on the field garnered the respect of every player on the team, offense and defense, and the respect carried over to the locker room as well. As the season records would go up and down, yes, he would get frustrated but he kept things simple, saying "just play football." He's a grinder that never quit on the game or his teammates.

After the debacle at Arizona, the defense bounced back, holding the Packers to 17 points after Aaron Rodgers threw for five touchdown passes the Monday before. If not for a few questionable calls, the score might have even been less. How did the defense rebound instead of going into a downward spiral? The solid leadership of NaVorro Bowman and Antoine Bethea who lead by example and have the respect of the entire team. These are guys who the rest of the team would lay down their lives for, men they trust and respect.

Who is that person on the offense? Who is a solid producer who has been there through thick and thin and knows what it's like to battle out of a 1-3 start to the season? Who is the calm voice of reason and maturity? It used to be Frank Gore.

Anquan Boldin has been very emotional during games, maybe a little too emotional. He refused to speak to the media after the game, which everyone understands after a few losses, but that's not a mark of a leader. Reggie Bush is another veteran, but he has been out with an injury the last two weeks and he is new to the team. Joe Staley, is another well respected vet that everyone likes, but is his personality strong enough to rally everyone together to fight back through adversity? Vernon Davis has been hurt and doesn't seem like the type of player to get everyone else motivated. Torrey Smith is the best candidate, level headed and a professional who at least addressed his negative body language after the Packer game.

Normally the leader on the offense is the quarterback, but Colin Kaepernick has been struggling. He needs a wing man and that position was previously been held by Gore. Several times Gore and Kaepernick would take the press conference podium together, taking turns answering questions. Gore was the one for whom everyone would take a bullet. Who will take a bullet for Kaepernick?

Without getting too TMZ on here, Aldon Smith's ex-girlfriend Nessa was in attendance for Sunday's game vs. the Packers, reportedly in support of Kaepernick. She got a bit defensive regarding the posting of a picture of her at the game on her Instagram account which you can see here. You can say that that is an off the field issue that shouldn't affect the play during the game, but there's no telling how this has affected players on the team. Who is telling them to ignore the distractions and "just play football" when Gore is no longer in the building?

With the blame game running strong towards the front office these days, this is one you can actually pin on them. Gore was recently interviewed for the Indy Star and revealed that he was told that if he stayed, he would be taking a back seat to second year Carlos Hyde. He had a sit down with Tomsula but wanted to hear it from Trent Baalke himself. He never did. All he wanted to do was compete for the position, because that's the type of player and person he is.

I was there 10 years and I played every down the same whether we were winning or not.