Last season, former Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore passed LaDanian Tomlinson to be the fifth all-time leader in rushing yards in NFL history. This feat alone will likely earn him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Out of the top 11 leaders in career rushing yards, all but Gore, who obviously isn’t eligible yet, have been inducted into the Hall. But despite this, the rest of his resume isn’t as impressive.
In my opinion, to qualify for the Hall of Fame, you need to have significant statistical success (such as career rushing yards), consistent recognition as one of the best players in the NFL at your position (All-Pros nominations and awards such as MVP or Offensive/Defensive Player of the Year), you need to stack up among your peers and, to lesser extents, have a lengthy career with significant prime (there are exceptions to this) and overall team success (Super Bowl wins). I do not consider the beloved “eye test” that people tend to use for arguments because the term is vague within itself.
Gore, who will play his 14th NFL season as a member of the Dolphins, appears to check off the first box, but a deeper look hurts his case a bit. Gore’s 14,026 career rushing yards average out to 1,078 yards per season, an average eclipsed by all but three of the running backs in the top 11 – Jerome Bettis, Tony Dorsett and Marshall Faulk. When receiving yards are factored in as well, only Bettis and Dorsett averaged less total yards in their career.
But total yardage isn’t everything. Gore is 22nd all-time in rushing touchdowns, tied with Dorsett and behind everyone else in the top 11. He has averaged less than six rushing touchdowns per season in his career and has only hit the double-digit mark once.
While it appears that since Gore has eclipsed Dorsett’s numbers, he should be in the Hall, it needs to be pointed out that Dorsett retired 30 years ago and at the time of his retirement, he was second behind Walter Payton in all-time rushing yards and sixth all-time in rushing touchdowns.
When it comes to recognition as one of the best in the league at his position, Gore comes up short. In his career, Gore has only made one second-team All-Pro. He has never been named league MVP or won Offensive Player of the Year. Since Gore entered the NFL in 2005, 14 different running backs have made multiple All-Pro teams. In his 13-year career, Gore has finished in the top 10 in rushing yards six times, but he has only finished in the top five once.
Among his peers, Gore easily sits behind LaDanian Tomlinson, who is already in the Hall of Fame, and Adrian Peterson, which means he will have to wait a bit before his induction is he isn’t able to get in before Peterson is eligible.
In terms of team success, Gore was the leading rusher of the Jim Harbaugh-led 49ers teams that went to three straight NFC Conference Championship Games and a Super Bowl, but he was never able to win the big one, though he also was stuck in a bad situation for much of his career between beginning his career with a 49ers squad that was the worst team in football and playing just one season with a healthy Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.
Gore has spent his entire career being a good running back who has consistently produced, even at his current age, but an overall look at his career just doesn’t scream Hall of Famer to me.