RB by Committee for More than Frank Gore; the Case for another Running Back

Joseph BurkeyAnalyst IApril 1, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 14:  Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers stands on the field prior to their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park on December 14, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Frank Gore's opinion on San Francisco moving to a three-back system has been expressed.

He's not a fan.

Gore would like to do all he can to help the team, and the best way to do this is give him the damn ball—again and again.

This makes sense. Gore is the best running back the 49ers have had in recent history, and possibly ever. Their record when he gets the right amount of touches shows this. There will, however, be times when Gore should not get the ball.

Mop-up duty is one instance.

Example: The 49ers are beating the Rams badly 33-6 early in the fourth, and Gore is already over 150 yards and two TDs. His hamstring is bothering him slightly, so Coffee comes in to run the clock down some.

Now suppose Glenn Coffee is met by a concussion-packed wallop from James Laurinaitis and though he's not severely KO'd, he's shaken up for a series or so. This is not the time to put Gore back in; he's simply too valuable. San Francisco will need another option.

Okay, worst case scenario: Gore tears a tendon in Week Four (seriously, knock on wood) and is out for the season. Coffee won't be able to handle the full running back duty by himself. Although I like his toughness and believe he's improving, Coffee's up-right running style isn't going to punish linebackers and defensive backs the way Brandon Jacobs' does. He's going to need some help.

Brit Miller and Moran Norris are punishing options, but not long term or reliable, and Michael Robinson is a gimmick.

Now, I'm not saying Gore's not the man. Gore IS the man. Make no mistake, I want him to get the ball as many times as nescessary—in a row if need be—to get into rhythm and break off a big one (or two, or 10.)

I'm also not particularly advocating that a first-round running back is the answer, but C.J. Spiller and Jahvid Best would address the need at return man as well. There figures to be options in later rounds as well, like Toby Gerhart, Dexter McCluster, and even LeGarrette Blount, all of whom have NFL potential and plenty of youth on their side.

So would I call another runningback a priority? No. A need? Nah. I believe the term to use here is affordable luxury. And the slightly older generation San Francisco fans remember luxury.