clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Could the 49ers have kept Frank Gore?

New, comments

Keep this as objective as you can.

Joe Staley’s latest extension will put him with the San Francisco 49ers through 2021 and some have suggested it may be his final contract in the NFL. Now, a lot can happen in three years and Staley can decide to lengthen his playing career further if he decides. Assuming this is his final contract, it’s awesome he got to play his whole career in San Francisco.

It makes me remember another 49er that could have done his whole career in one spot: Frank Gore.

“Could” and “should” are two different things. There’s no mistaking that the 49ers fan base was saddened at the departure of Frank Gore. It wasn’t that Gore was signing with a different team, but the circumstances of why. The 49ers drafted Carlos Hyde and were prepared to have him be the bellcow back with no competition. This was something that rubbed Gore the wrong way. Hyde was a Trent Baalke pick, which may have had something to do with it. Gore certainly had some comments a few years back about Baalke messing the team up and the Hyde debacle may have prompted them.

In any case, Gore left during the great exodus/offseason from hell in 2014. Fans would chatter before each new team Gore went to about the 49ers bringing him back, but there was nothing official or unofficial about interest from either party in each of these free agency periods.

Had the 49ers kept Gore when they did, he very well could have beaten Hyde out of the starting job on Jim Tomsula’s 49ers. He might have done the same with Chip Kelly’s version a year later. The 49ers may have still grabbed Matt Breida in this alternative scenario of things and the running back depth chart wouldn’t have had Jerick McKinnon, unless Gore departed the same year McKinnon came to the 49ers (so he still leaves, just a couple years later).

Right now, Gore is inking himself into the record books with his all-time rushing yards. He’s at No. 4 with 14,748 yards and a bit over 500 yards back from Barry Sanders’ record. eclipsing that is doable. He managed 722 rushing yards in 2018, playing in 14 games. At this point, I don’t think he’d be in the mix as the bellcow of the 49ers, but he’d be a huge hand in the three-headed beast model that Kyle Shanahan is implementing. Given his age, he’d have to play for less money as well.

And maybe Gore wouldn’t have preferred that. On one hand, he’s a competitor, he’d want to compete for the carries no matter who was in front of him. On the other, the coaching staff could tell him their plan for offense won’t have a bellcow and he may want to go in a different direction then. Or that he lost the job to Breida or someone else. No one knows Frank Gore but Frank Gore, so it’s hard to gauge hypothetical conversations about this or his reactions. But from a production standpoint, could he have a role in Shanahan’s offense that he would accept and be comfortable with and a role that benefitted the 49ers both on the field and in the salary cap?

I guess, that considered, should the 49ers have fought to keep Gore this entire time? Could they have?

It’s very heartwarming to see Staley to start and finish his career with the same team. Another player everyone would have loved to see play their entire career in red and gold is Gore. The problem is if he could have provided value to the running backs in Shanahan’s offense, and if he would have been fine with the possibility of playing second fiddle on a team he’d been the focal point of for so long, even after he competed and lost the starting job in training camp. And take pay cuts.

All that said, do you think the 49ers could have held onto Frank Gore so he could play his entire career in San Francisco? Or do you think they would have had to let him walk at some point, even if it was later than his original departure? Could Frank Gore winding down in San Francisco even been possible?

It’s a tough question. The fan in me would have loved and desired it, and I still do. I just don’t know if things could align perfectly to where the 49ers could have worked out keeping a 36 year old running back, no matter how durable he is, in the interests of him finishing out his career.

But at this point, Frank Gore’s career may just outlive me. What do I know? I certainly don’t know more than the three teams that thought he was done.