Moving on from veteran running back Frank Gore couldn't have been an easy decision for the San Francisco 49ers, even when you factor in the fact that the NFL is a business above all else. He's a player who meant a lot to the fanbase and the organization on multiple levels, but he's also a player who always gave the 49ers a credible threat when the offense took the field.
When J.T. O'Sullivan started at quarterback, Gore made defenses scared. When Shaun Hill and Alex Smith slugged it out for the starting job, Gore was the only constant -- the inconvenient truth, if you will. He changed opposing defenses when he saw the field.
His replacement, Carlos Hyde, may not be able to do that. After two seasons with the 49ers, Hyde has 198 carries for 803 yards and seven touchdowns, a per-carry average of 4.1 yards. He has looked great running the ball in my personal estimation, and I'm excited to see what he can do with a full season at the helm provided he can stay healthy.
But he has a long way to go until he changes defenses. He has a long way to go until the 49ers will even be identified as a strong running team, which is something that caught me off guard recently and is the reason I'm writing this post. While reading another article about strong running teams next season, I was surprised to find the 49ers not on it.
Because it's easy for me to see that Hyde is a good replacement for Gore, and it's easy to see for me that the 49ers have good run blockers along the offensive line. While nothing is guaranteed, I've viewed these things as givens and expected Chip Kelly to use Hyde effectively and properly.
That said, this did get me wondering ... do other 49ers fans feel this way? Obviously much of the offseason has focused on the quarterback position, the upcoming battle between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick and plenty of other stories.
I feel good about the 49ers' running game going forward, though that feeling is based on Hyde and nothing else. I don't feel great about Shaun Draughn or DuJuan Harris and I'm all but ready to write off Mike Davis after an abysmal showing as a rookie. But I think Hyde has what it takes to be a franchise running back.
What do the rest of you think?