Certain players on the 49ers have historically earned free passes. These passes entitle them to be free of criticism for a certain time. Perhaps this person is a fan favorite, or maybe just a young stud in their prime - either way the player seems to be immune from criticism.
Right now Frank Gore has a firm grip on the free pass.
Let's face it - Gore is just a likeable guy. He embodies that hard work-overcoming obstacles-values family-not too flashy-actually could start on a playoff team thing that many fans adore.
The free pass, though, prevents them from seeing that Gore seems to be playing uninspired football lately.
This is not to say that he is a bad running back. Nor am I contending that we should cut him, start Michael Robinson and promote Thomas Clayton from the practice squad. Gore just seems to have lost that pep in his step.
First, Gore has been missing some obvious cutback lanes in recent weeks. Gore is by no means a cut-back runner but he always seemed to cut back at opportune times behind the line and get down the field. Two weeks ago, however, Gore missed many of those cut back lanes. Matt Maiocco has good breakdown of them here
Beyond vision, though, Gore just seems to be hitting the holes and going through the motions. Sure Buffalo did some things schematically to stop Gore and the offensive line isn't exactly going to knock people off the ball. The 49ers goal line offense can attest to that.
This is the same line, though, that blocked for Gore when he had successful rushing days. And he was facing a Bills team that currently ranks below the 49ers even AFTER Marshawn Lynch tore up the 49ers for 134 yards.
Finally, of course, the fumbles. Gore is like a roller coaster when it comes to fumbles. He has spats where he seems to be a fumble risk every time he touches the ball. Then he will go 8 weeks without putting a ball on the ground. Against the Bills he fumbled the ball twice, losing one at a critical moment when the 49ers were driving and getting the momentum back. Luckily it didn't cost the 49ers the game.
Maybe this is all interrelated. Perhaps Gore is getting a little down on himself and the result is a general lack of confidence. He isn't hitting the holes like he should, he's missing cutback lanes and he's not securing the ball as he should. Whatever the case may be, he needs to snap out of it for the 49ers to have a chance this weekend against the Jets. The Jets have a formidable run defense and a re strong up the middle. The 49ers don't want to get into a shoot-out with Brett Favre. Not even Steve Young could pull those out.
Gore is still a good running back, even with the issues above. He will still break 1,000 yards, is one of the top players on the 49ers and should be in contention for the Pro Bowl. However, in his current state he is not the elite running back we are used to seeing. The 49ers need Gore at 100% to succeed and right now something seems to be holding Gore back. (Before we go blaming Mike Martz here, realize that on average Gore is getting one less touch per game than he did under Norv Turner. The difference is what Gore did when he got those touches.)
Ultimately, if Gore isn't performing he should be held to the same standards fans hold the rest of the team to. At some point his free pass should expire and we should evaluate him with the same critical eye instead of assuming that he is above analysis because of past achievements.
Date: December 13, 2008 at 1:29 AM
Comment: I have yet to see a competent article from you. How did you get this job? Look at the run vs pass ratio against the Jets, and consider that defenses always scheme to stop Gore. Consider that our offensive line is clearly not very strong (see red zone power run blocking failures). Also, consider what happened to the running game when Gore went out. Oh, and we DON'T HAVE A FB. Your Martz article was utter crap too. I don't get it. Do you not eat your Wheateys or something?
Date: December 10, 2008 at 9:53 AM
Comment: I think the niners should get a second running back like many teams have. Ringer of Michigan State would be nice. But Gore should not have to carry the whole running load. The Carolina Panthers are a case in point. We could also use an upgrade in offensive tackle.
Date: December 10, 2008 at 9:24 AM
Comment: I think what you are saying about Frank does have value but your taking it to an unwarranted extreme. Frank is not having the best year of his career by no means but he def. always leaves it on the field. Me personally, i def think Frank runs better behind a fullback. Either way, he is averaging 4.3 YPC this season compared to 4.2 YPC last season. A far cry from the 4.8 and 5.4 but I feel like this nonstop roller coaster of offensive coordinators (every single season) is much to blame. I do not believe we will take the next step offensively (the whole unit) until we have some longevity at the OC. Frank is doing his thing though, not a career year but he has been doing enough where you probably do not need to raise the questions you've brought forth. I think your expectations may be a bit too high and that has clouded your outlook on Frank.
Date: December 9, 2008 at 5:22 PM
Comment: Gore may have a "Free Pass" card in his pocket somewhere, I agree. But when you pretty much carry a team for 3 years already and have done everything you could possibly do to help the team win, I'd say you should be entitled to that "Free Pass" card. When teams play the 49ers, they always game plan for one thing above all others-Frank Gore. The success that Shaun Hill has had comes in part because of this. Let's not forget how dedicated Gore is to helping this team win. When they hired Martz, he cut his offseason early to come back and learn the new Playbook. Gore is not perfect by any means. He also has never given himself any praise for what he does. He's always looking for ways that he can improve his game. Maybe, it's just me, but when there is a player that dedicated playing on my favorite team, I can give him a pass every now and then cause I know he is better than that and he will work to get better next time.
By: Hill to Hill
Date: December 9, 2008 at 4:37 PM
Comment: About your comment about whether or not an elite RB should have a solid FB. I beg to differ; the year LT had 28 rushing TD's, Lorenzo Neal was his FB. Madison Hedgecock is blocking for Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. I know a lot has to do with the o-line, but a physical blocking back that paves the way makes a HUGE difference that having a tweener like Michael Robinson.
Date: December 9, 2008 at 11:28 AM
Comment: I've never made comments on anything before. I would like to say that everyone is entitled to their own views, this is just mine. I think it is comendable to write about this subject- Gore is the focus of the whole niners team, the bright spot even in the darkest hours. Despite the troubles the team goes through we know that come Monday the 'experts' may give Gore some praise. So naturally fans are protective of him. And yes, fumbles are a problem, I mean how many players are without problems? Not that i'm excusing it though. However, like you said, he has still been productive, almost 1000 yards, being a leader. It seems slightly spoiled of us, when Gore still gives us so much, to demand more from him. You say that we need to hold him to the same standards of the rest of the team. If that were the case then truly we need to look at the rest of the team and hold them more accountable as well-it's a mutual process and (despite the two game win streak) they aren't always so inspired. He may seem uninspired to you but you have no idea what goes on in his head and behind the scene. That's the problem with every person that tries to breakdown the game. How much do we really know.
By: Dan in Seattle
Date: December 9, 2008 at 10:54 AM
Comment: As a lifelong 49er fan (39 year fan) and holder of Frank Gore on my fantasy team, I think your comments are just a bit harsh. Not totally off the mark, but not spot-on either. Clearly, Gore's yards per carry are down a bit this year. During Gore's best season, he had a terrific left side of the offensive line, with Larry Allen in his 1st season with the 49ers, and Jonas Jennings relatively healthy. That's a very good run blocking left side of the line, and it's also where Gore was running for his yardage. This season, we've seen a number of OL changes. Now, we've seen the OL take shape, Rachal and Bass starting. imo, we're playing with a backup at RT (Snyder) which I believe should be addressed early in this year's draft. Also, don't dismiss the workload that Gore is carrying. He's in on every play, and if he's not carrying the ball, he's blocking. Even the elite RBs in the league are typically in some sort of two RB rotation to some degree. Not Gore. Very rarely does he come out. And frankly, he looks somewhat beat up at this point in the season. He's a half-step slower hitting the holes right now versus earlier in the eason, and imo, this to do with him wearing down.
Date: December 7, 2008 at 11:50 PM
Comment: Your article has merit but it isn't just lately that his game hasn't been up to snuff, although today against the Jets he was running well and even caught a short pass for a TD before he was injured. I think fans are finally seeing that he is not an elite running back. The best the Niners have? Yes, at this point because it looks like we won't get a look at Thomas Clayton. If Gore gets a hole up the middle he runs well. He just seems to be content to run between the tackles. Gore's weaknesses: He rarely bounces to the outside even if there is daylight, gets tripped up too easily, fumbles and drops easy passes way too often to be considered as a dependable clutch runner. Even if he breaks free he can be run down from behind so teams don't fear him as a big play threat. He's not a power runner in the red zone, he can't seem to find gold even when he's 3 yards away. Would he do better behind a good O-line?, of course, but Gore is a good RB with serious limitations. He's a good kid who's overcome knee injuries and the death of his mother, but his running game will not take the Niners to the playoffs, they need to draft that elite running back to get to the next level.
Date: December 7, 2008 at 8:30 AM
Comment: i feel for Gore. He came into a team and cried when he saw how uncommitted the players were. After York purged the team of Garcia Hearst , Peterson, Carter etc... we really didnt have much but dregs and high priced cast offs, big on talk and little in performance. If Jed acts like his father instead of his uncle we will lose Martz next year. ( for you anti martz fans who do you want Trestmen or Hostler back?) and the nonsese oc stuff will start again. We need a GM like Holmgren to help Singletary or get a offensive minded coach like we did when we let Seifret go, so we can have some continuity. Steve Young said it best , we are like the Arizona Cardnals but at least they are good now. We may end up like Detroit. Players are paid great money now, they dont playf for the "love" of the game. Watch players like Baas Gore , VD and (perish the thought) Willis get sick of this BS and start to bail to other teams ala TO soon. Who would want to be here?
Date: December 7, 2008 at 7:09 AM
Comment: Here comes another 1500+ total yard season for Gore. Just awful. The key to football team management is to get rid of good players after they have a mediocre season. It worked really well for us with Peterson, Garcia, Carter, et cetera...
Date: December 6, 2008 at 1:48 PM
Comment: I think what you meant to say is The Jets have a formidable run defense and are strong up the middle. Not "The Jets have a formidable run defense and a re strong up the middle". Proof read why don't you.
Date: December 6, 2008 at 10:58 AM
Comment: i agree that he isnt having a great year like he did before but i honestly believe the problem is martz. They should have never cut morran norris huge mistake moran was picking up blocks all the time. basically they brought martz in and force fed this syystem on a team that is not built for the passing game
Date: December 6, 2008 at 10:55 AM
Comment: How dare you! Franklin Gore is a Man-God. He should be immune to all criticism until he stinks it up for the rest of the season. I actually think Thomas Clayton should be on the big squad NOW! He runs like Gore did two years ago
Date: December 5, 2008 at 11:02 PM
Comment: You(the contributor) should bite your fu****g tongue.The mans mother just passed away last year and you're jumping all over him cause he aint rushing like Portis. Guess what, LT ain't doing it this year either. So you can go to hell with this article
Date: December 5, 2008 at 3:02 PM
Comment: I may be in the minority here, but this season is over. I honestly 100% don't care what Frank does as long as he doesn't get hurt. Remember, he's a year past his mother dying, and he's looking at another failed season without playoffs. In the back of his mind, Frank is probably wondering how many years he has left and if he will ever see the post season. Add to this the possibility of Martz leaving and Frank has good reason to be down. I would give him a free pass to take plays off until 2009, personally. Our front office hasn't done him any favors in building a team around him. We're getting closer, but still...
Date: December 5, 2008 at 11:26 AM
Comment: totally agreed! i have been thinking the same thing for weeks now, and you published it. the only thing you left out is that gore seems to also drop easy passes at the most inopportune times. he always seems to drop easy passes that would get the team a first down to extend a drive. he actually has been doing this for years now.