The San Francisco 49ers struggled through an 8-8 season, which was filled with injuries, management turmoil and unfulfilled expectations.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh, along with coordinators Vic Fangio, Greg Roman and Brad Seely are all gone. The 49ers have a new head coach, Jim Tomsula, and are still filling out their coaching staff.
With an organization looking like it is rapidly disintegrating, a key for the franchise and the players is to show some stability. Frank Gore is one of those individuals whom you want in your organization. He provides that stability and much more.
Gore is the heart and soul of the 49ers offense and one of the most respected leaders on the team. There is nobody who works harder than Gore and displays the professionalism that he consistently shows.
In addition to the intangibles just mentioned, Gore can definitely still play. He was, arguably, the 49ers' best offensive player in the 2014 season.
Gore once again rushed for over 1,000 yards, his fourth consecutive time achieving this level. He has accomplished this in eight of the past nine seasons.
Although Gore will turn 32 years of age in May, he proved he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. In 255 carries, Gore rushed for 1,106 yards and four touchdowns. His average of 4.3 yards per carry was also very solid. Gore played and started every game and has not missed a game since the 2011 season.
In addition to his running ability, Gore is also an outstanding blocker in pass protection. He does a tremendous job in blitz pickup, far better than any of the other San Francisco running backs.
Backup running back Carlos Hyde, a second-round draft pick in 2014, showed some excellent flashes. In 83 carries, he rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns. His 4.0 yards-per-carry average was also lower than Gore's.
Hyde has a much higher running style than Gore, which subjects him to more big hits, especially around the legs. He played 14 games in 2014, which is good for a running back, but there is a question about his long-term durability.
It will be up to Trent Baalke to massage the salary cap in order to find the money to keep Gore. While he's at it, Baalke should also do everything he can to retain Chris Culliver, who was the 49ers' best cornerback in 2014.
If this means that veteran tight end Vernon Davis must be jettisoned to save roughly $5 million in cap space, so be it. Even that one move will not be enough to enable the 49ers to keep Gore and Culliver, and other moves must be made.
Other key free agents such as Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati are almost certainly gone, as the 49ers simply will not have the money to retain them.
It will be a sad day if Gore is allowed to leave. Much like seeing Willie Mays in a New York Mets uniform or Jerry Rice in silver and black, it just wouldn't be right.
Gore is everything you want in a football player and team leader. On a team that is treading on very thin ice at this point, it is imperative that the 49ers keep him.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.