First-year head coach Jimmy Johnson engineered the blockbuster Herschel Walker Trade, sending the star running back to the Minnesota Vikings in return for a slew of draft picks. Among the players drafted by the Cowboys were Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson. Three years after making the trade, the Cowboys won the Super Bowl, and went on to become the team of the 1990s.
The 49ers should seriously consider trading Frank Gore in return for draft picks. If the 49ers were to consider trading Gore, he would have very high trade value, and could command several draft picks.
In fact, I think the 49ers should consider almost everyone on the roster as potential trade bait. The only player I would not trade under any circumstances is Patrick Willis, who I think could become a Hall of Fame linebacker if he stays healthy.
Championship teams are complete teams, and do not rely on one player to win. The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl by having a very good defense, a dependable offense, a tough quarterback, and good position players. They sent five players to the Pro Bowl, and only two starters—not a high number of players, because they are a complete team.
The average career in the NFL for a running back is 2.6 years. Frank Gore had knee surgery in college, and after playing for four seasons in the NFL, is statistically playing on borrowed time. A trade would free up nearly $6.5 million in 2009 and $7 million in both 2010 and 2011. This is money that could be used to sign draft picks or selected free agents.
The 49ers could use the picks to get strength and depth on both sides of the line. Champions control the line of scrimmage, both on offense and defense. A solid offensive line is crucial for any quarterback to be successful.
Look how well Matt Cassel played with New England this year. Think he could have done that with most teams in the NFL? Of course not.
Good offensive lines allow average quarterbacks to succeed, and great quarterbacks to become stars. Without a solid line, we would not see Peyton Manning on one of every four television commercials.
On the defensive side of the ball, a good line can put pressure on the quarterback and cause havoc for great offenses. Remember the Giants defensive line against the Patriots? They were responsible for winning Super Bowl XLII for New York.
Wishful thinking to the contrary, the 49ers are not next year's Arizona Cardinals waiting to happen, with only a few pieces of the puzzle left to fill. The 49ers have several glaring holes in their roster.
With the picks from a Gore trade and their existing draft picks, the 49ers could move to fill some of these holes. An improved defensive line would compliment Willis and the talent that exists in the secondary, and the defense would feed off of itself.
Watch the Baltimore defense—whose staff Mike Singletary used to be on—as an example of a defense feeding off each other and making plays happen. The Ravens defense, coupled with an adequate offense, got them to the AFC Championship Game.
On the offensive line, it is possible to have a great system in place that "produces" great running backs. How many running backs did Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos produce throughout the years? Quite a few, because of the system they had in place.
With a few additions to the line and by using the draft to get good running backs, the 49ers could have a system like this.
Building teams with strong offensive and defensive lines may not be glamorous, but it wins championships. Bill Belichick, Shanahan, and Tom Coughlin in New York have all demonstrated the importance of controlling the line of scrimmage, winning a combined six Super Bowls in the last 10 years in the process.
While it would probably be impossible to replicate the Herschel Walker Trade, dealing Frank Gore now would provide the 49ers an infusion of talent on both sides of the ball. Coach Singletary could then mold this young talent to play his brand of football over the years to come, an exciting prospect for any 49er fan.
Then, perhaps, we will be able to think of ourselves not as the next Arizona Cardinals, but the new Pittsburgh Steelers, which is what the San Francisco 49ers should be.