San Francisco 49ers: Why Frank Gore Must Watch His Back

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 14:  Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers in action against the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park on December 14, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In a league that has become known for egotistical diva's that try and squeeze the life out of not only their agents, but every dollar they earn, Frank Gore has fast become one of the more respectable "old school" type players left in the NFL.

For as long as I can remember, Frank Gore has been a terrific running back.  His uncanny ability to throw his weight around, yet still burst through holes in an Adrian Peterson type fashion is always a joy to watch, and for a 217-pound running back to be so dominant, it certainly sets the bar high for anyone stepping in as a future San Francisco runner.

But as long as we are talking about Frank Gore's dominance over the years, we may as well talk about his new teammate Brian Westbrook, who was recently signed by San Francisco earlier this week.

When the news first broke that Brian Westbrook was now a 49er, I was a little surprised. To begin with, San Francisco already had a rather stocky running back, and secondly, why would such a young offense run by Mike Singletary choose to take on an older runner, who went down with a near season ending injury last year?

Well, that was of course my first opinion. However, when I went on to ponder a little, I instantly came to the same conclusion I reached when the Buffalo Bills drafted C.J Spiller earlier in April. 

Yes, San Francisco has pulled the old motivational push trick. They've decided to draft a runner that will poke Frank Gore in the right direction, and keep him on the straight and narrow.  More importantly, they have also stabilized their offense in case Gore goes down with an injury this season, and leaves the 49ers in a similar position that faced the Atlanta Falcons in 2009.

What stands out to me, and most likely all of you, is why Gore needs a push in the first place?

Last season we saw Gore continue to post great numbers, and once again he reached the 10 touchdown mark on his way to a 1,120 yard season.

The only logical explanation for all of this is that the 49ers coaching staff wants to keep Frank Gore moving at a steady pace.  Gore hasn't been the type of rusher that has slipped off pace at all, but perhaps now that the 49ers have the best offense they have seen in years, the thinking may be, "it's better to be safe than sorry."

Still, Brian Westbrook?  The injured Philadelphia Eagles star that seemed to be a sure pick for retirement, or worse, a career left in the free agency list.

I know it does seem quite out of the blue, but the old timer may still have some talent in him.

For those that don't appreciate Brian Westbrook, you do have to applaud him for his efforts.  He's come back from quite a bad looking injury, and although he is no Wes Welker, he has shown signs that he still wants to be in this league.

As for Frank Gore though, well this may not all be good news.  Given that his stats have been consistent, stable and well balanced over the years, if the 49ers choose to take on a New Orleans Saints two headed running style of old, there may be a race for whose best unfolding before our very eyes.

When it's all said and done it is important to remember that Brian Westbrook was a darn good running back for the Eagles.  And heck, if Brett Favre can perform at his ripe old age, surely Brian Westbrook can too, right?

It would be hopeful to think so.

The most important thing to realize in this situation, is that by no means should the running back position take focus away from Alex Smith. Now that Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are part of the team, protection will be the key, and it's a definite certainty that both of these running backs can also provide that for Smith this season.

Aside from that, it is also vital that an all out war doesn't erupt between the two.  The 49ers have walked the fine line between winning and losing, and right now they haven't proven anything in the NFL. A small off field issue such as this could disturb the balance, and place the 49ers in a tough position.

Like I said, when the news first broke, it was questionable, but now it all makes sense.  Frank Gore is such a trustworthy running back that it has become almost unimaginable to think of San Francisco with out him.

At the same time though, don't count out Brian Westbrook.  He may look like a joke to some fans, but he has the ability to become underrated, and then perform exceptionally well.

The biggest positive to come out of this situation is that Gore has embraced having Brian Westbrook on board.  Some running backs would question this signing, but like the nice guy he is, Frank Gore has taken it lightly.

"I know that we needed another back and he was the best one out there, and we feel that he can help our team," said Gore. "I watched him a whole lot, especially when he was in Philly because he was a guy I had to compete against for yards and receiving yards. He watched me in practice, and I asked him to help me with the things he sees that I can carry over on the field."

For the most part this is a very solid relationship.  The two haven't given each other cute nicknames like Batman and Robin, but there is still time left.

Realistically Brian Westbrook is still behind Anthony Dixon on the depth chart.  I, like many, question this move, as Anthony Dixon is only a rookie.  However, perhaps the 49ers want to ease Westbrook into the team.

Fortunately for the 49ers, they have acquired a running back that has immense knowledge and experience.  This not only does wonders for a team that is looking bound for the playoffs, it is also nice to realize that Frank Gore could actually learn a thing or two, even though it would seem he already knows everything there is.

This duo is by far not the most exciting in the league, but that isn't to say it shouldn't be fun to watch.  Many people loved Brian Westbrook back in his hay day, and there is no reason to stop sharing the admiration.

Hopefully we get to see him play, and if not, at least he has found a team. 

As for Frank Gore, he does have some competition, but at least it is friendly.  Going forward this duo should work nicely, and if it doesn't, Gore should always be the favored starter. There is no need to worry.


Ryan Cook is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also an NFL columnist for Real Sports Net and a Green Bay Packers writer for Fan Huddle and PackerChatters. Ryan is also a contributing writer for Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Generation Y Sports.  Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.