While sorting through 49er articles on Bleacher Report today, I came across one discussing Frank Gore. After reading it, I started thinking about what a great running back Gore has been.
It’s no mystery why he is my eight-year-old son's favorite player.
With Frank Gore and my son on my mind, a natural progression was to start thinking about my favorite player when I was my son's age. Who was my Frank Gore?
The answer: Roger Craig.
I thought it would be interesting to compare the two. Which great 49er running back was the greatest, mine or my son's?
I decided I would use five categories to determine who was in fact the best running back. Those categories are yards per carry, total yards rushing, rushing TDs, receiving yards and receiving TDs.
Of course, Frank has only played six seasons with the Niners so far, and Craig played eight. In order to make it fair, I used Craig's stats from the first six years of his career and compared them to Gore's first six.
You may be surprised by the results.
Roger Craig: 3,768 receiving yards
Frank Gore: 2,283 receiving yards
+1 for Craig.
Roger Craig: 5,571 rushing yards
Frank Gore: 6,414 rushing yards
+1 for Gore.
Roger Craig: 43 rushing touchdowns
Frank Gore: 35 rushing touchdowns
+1 for Craig.
Roger Craig: 4.3 yards per carry
Frank Gore: 4.7 yards per carry
+1 for Gore.
Roger Craig: 15 receiving touchdowns
Frank Gore: Nine receiving touchdowns
+1 for Craig.
So what did I learn?
I learned that Frank Gore and Roger Craig are two of the best running backs to ever play the game. Also, it is hard to compare two of your heroes and try to determine a favorite.
Here is my attempt.
Although Frank Gore seems to be a better runner (based on yards per carry and total yards), it appears that Roger Craig was actually a better all-around RB and football player at this point in his career.
Craig had eight more rushing TDs than Gore at this point in his career and six more receiving TDs. That’s a total of 14 more TDs than Gore. He also had about 1,500 more receiving yards.
Many people will say that Roger Craig had a far better quarterback, offensive line and coach. Let’s be honest—he did. But what do we do, look at the numbers and facts or speculate?
Let's do both.
The numbers and facts thus far point to Roger Craig as the all-around best, but I wanted to dig deeper.
I wanted to see what Gore would have to do to pass Craig on the list of all-time great 49er RBs.
For Gore to be the more effective player, he would need to rush for 650 more yards, accumulate 15 more rushing TDs, stack up 2,159 more receiving yards and catch five more receiving TDs. He would need to do so in the next two years.
Aside from the receiving yards, it all seems realistic for Gore (that's assuming he returns to his pre-hip injury self and stays healthy moving forward).
As Gore moves into his seventh season, it is important to note that Roger Craig had a great seventh year but followed it in his eighth year (and final year with the 49ers) with what was, by his standards, a very poor season.
So at first glance, it appeared that Craig was the winner. After further investigation, it appears that the only record Craig will probably have over Gore is the receiving yards. Everything else looks achievable for Gore. I also hate comparing receiving yards when Craig had Montana and Bill Walsh, the greatest QB and coach of all time, and Gore has had Alex Smith.
After further research, I realized that Frank Gore is actually positioned to pass Roger Craig and even the late, great Joe “The Jet” Perry (RIP) in rushing yards this year, but only time will tell if he can pull it all off.
My final conclusion:
If Frank Gore retired today, he would be the third-best running back in the history of the 49ers, behind the great Joe Perry (first) and then Roger Craig (second).
However, if he can pull off at least two more solid Frank Gore years, he will surpass them both (respectably) as the greatest running back in the history of the 49er franchise.
Thanks for reading!
Please follow me on Twitter @ryanthebroker
As usual, anything that has to do with my sons is better than me. This article is dedicated to them. I can't wait for the day when they see the 49ers win a Super Bowl.