Gore is a true Niner and nobody loves his heart and love of the game more then me. He's a winner and a leader. Period.
That said, he's been abused physically over the years and I can't remember the last time he's been truly healthy for a long stretch. If we were to look at Gore through the eyes of Bill Walsh, Gore is done and we never would have signed him LT like we just did. That contract was for what he had previous produced and our loyalty to him for all he's done for us.
If we were to objectively look at his skill-set, here are the issues:
1. Gore has never possessed the speed to run off-tackle and is certainly does not have top end speed. He is only a home run threat if he can beat a 9-man front (even then he's usually caught from behind).
2. Gore has lost a LOT of quickness as well. I counted a number of times he was caught from behind by a DL before he even got to the hole (not good). He's clearly lost his burst.
3. Gore psyche is waning as we saw the emergence of Hunter last year and his initial reaction on sidelines (no happy). Now we added Jacobs and James and other depth.
4. Gore, last year, was the worst I have ever seen him in blitz pick up and dropped passes.
In short, if you don't have a RB who can beat defenses inside the tackles AND outside the tackles, who struggled in pass catching (e.g. screens esp.) and struggled in blitz pick ups, this offense becomes one-dimensional. This is why we picked up James as he can rush inside, outside, can ad lib, is a great receiver, excels at screens, you can line him up at WR, has the vision/quickness/top-end speed, etc. Nobody has better vision in the NFL over Gore and Gore will squeeze through holes like no other. He can still be productive but last year really showed, esp. in the Giants game, that when you have a one-dimensional back, defenses can stack the box and run blitz between the tackles all day (en route to stacking the box - look at both our 1st and 3rd down yardage gains).
The FO sees this. Like with Ginn out, their presence on the field alone, forces teams to back off the LOS and respect their speed (see how Davis scored 2 TD's against them). Now, with deep speed and proven production with Moss and Manningham and Davis, you add a Sproles-like guy in Hunter/James and another sure-handed burner in Jenkins, defenses will HAVE to play off the LOS which Gore and the RB-by-committee can exploit inside and outside and in the passing game AND allow them to roll out in the flats (vs. staying in to block extra blockers = provide more outlets for Alex).
Smart FO indeed. As to Gore, don't be surprised if Gore is initially successful but tailors off as the year progresses as guys such as James/Hunter get more and more carries and the offense evolves into a more multi-dimentional threat!