To some, the words Gore, Coffee, and Sheets may conjure up memories of a crime scene, or worse yet, a bad 1970’s police detective sitcom.
Beyond the mustache sporting crime fighters of the 70's, these words may assume a whole new meaning in the city of San Francisco.
To 49er fans, it will soon represent the united elements that form the awesome force known as the San Francisco 49er rushing attack.
Beyond ending the New England Patriots' perfect season and providing a nationally televised pass rushing clinic, the New York Giants made a league-wide offensive statement during their 2007-2008 Super Bowl run. That statement was: “Running backs, gotta collect them all!”.
In a battle of quantity versus quality and diversity versus uniformity, New York running backs found their strength in numbers and skill-set diversity.
It was this collective and dissimilar force that formed the three headed New York monster famously dubbed “Earth, Wind, and Fire”.
For earth, the Giants had bell-cow Brandon Jacobs, whose large frame and tree-trunk resembling thighs provided a punishing short yardage offensive onslaught.
In addition to providing power running ability, Jacobs was the featured back and widely relied upon to wear down opposing defenses.
Providing the force of wind was Derrick Ward. Although neither big nor fast, Ward possessed a north-south style of running that capitalized on the battered state of a tired and Jacobs-tested defense.
Playing the role of fire was the elusive Ahmad Bradshaw. He was a player whose blend of speed and quickness lead to an outbreak of broken ankles among NFL defensive players.
In providing a deceptive change-of-pace speed, Bradshaw was a threat to score from anywhere on the field. This speed was a useful asset against winded defenders in the open field.
In combining complimentary skill sets, the 2007 New York Giants' running back core was as multifaceted as schizophrenia.
Entering the 2009 NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers’ stable of running backs will look eerily similar to the elements that swept New York City like a natural disaster. Adjusting for regional accuracy, I hereby coin the San Francisco-based trio “Earthquake (Earth), Coastal Wind (Wind), and Wildfire (Fire)".
There are three major uncertainties in the world today: the future of the US economy, the whereabouts of Dave Chapelle, and the 49ers’ running back depth chart.
Although stockpiled with bodies and talent, the 49ers rushing attack, with the exception of Frank Gore, remains entirely untested.
Like the populated yet unproven 2007 New York rushing stable, the current 49er roster contains the likes of five running backs, only one of which has established himself as capable NFL ball carrier.
These running backs include last years’ holdovers Frank Gore, Michael Robinson, and Thomas Clayton, as well as new off-season additions Glenn Coffee and Kory Sheets.
The following is a player-by-player breakdown of current 49er running backs. It includes an in-depth analysis of each player’s skill-set and likely role in the 2009 San Francisco offense.