Is Frank Gore a Hall of Fame player on first ballot?

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Running back Frank Gore signed a one-day contract with the San Francisco 49ers, ending his NFL career, starting as a third-round pick (65th overall) in 2005.

Gore last played on December 27, 2020, when he won 48 yards on 14 carries in the New York Jets’ 23-16 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Those 48 rushing yards gave Gore exactly 16,000 rushing yards over a 16-year playing career with five different teams.

It places Gore as No. 3 all-time in rushing. The quick sections of his potential Hall of Fame resume include his selection as one of four running backs on the All-Decade team in the 2010s and five Pro Bowls.

When a player in Gore’s production calls it a career, the phrase “next stop Canton” will be thrown around. And as one of the voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it is my belief that Gore will be inducted.

The real question is: Will Gore be a Hall of Famer at first vote? The short answer is that it depends on who else is among the 15 finalists. If wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald does not attempt a comeback, he and Gore will qualify for the first time in the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2026. Gore’s watch started from his last season playing, not his announcement of retirement.

So start with the big tickets. The top 16 all-time rushers in NFL history, who are Hall of Fame-qualified, are already in the Hall of Fame. Then No. 19 (John Riggins), 21 (OJ Simpson) and 34 (Joe Perry) are also recorded.

The only running backs among the top 16 who are not pitched are Gore and Adrian Peterson, who are still a free agent. For his part, Peterson was a four-player on the offensive, which was a unanimous selection on the 2010 All-Decade team (Tom Brady, Joe Thomas and Marshal Yanda were the others).

If Peterson does not play more games, he would be eligible for the 2027 Hall of Fame.

If Gore does not do so as a first-time elected player, and he and Peterson appear in the Hall of Fame poll at the same time, there is always the prospect – and a common one – of them sharing votes. This has happened many times over the years in a number of different positions, especially at wide receiver – Tim Brown, Andre Reed, Terrell Owens gridlock was one of the recent examples.

All three were eventually entered, but Reed was a finalist eight times, Brown was a finalist six times and Owens a finalist three times.

The last time two running backs were inducted into the same Hall of Fame class was in 2017, when LaDainian Tomlinson, in his first year of eligibility, and Terrell Davis (a triple finalist) were selected. It had not happened since 1994 before that class.

Overall, the list of all-time rushing executives is probably a far better measure of Hall of Fame consideration than, for example, the list of all-time passers-by, which seems to change every month of each season. The league is not friendly to running backs these days and no one is threatening to break the 12,000-yard barrier right now.

Tomlinson is the only running back, apart from Gore and Peterson, among the league’s top 12 all-time rushers who have even played in a game since 2005. And only four among the top 16 all-time rushers have played a game since the 2009 season started .

Hall of Fame discussions are always full of emotion because the math is soul-crushing simple. Each team in the league has at least four players who are not enrolled, which each of these teams considers a slam-dunk, no-brainer, it-is-a-travesty-he-is-not-with-player.

There are 32 teams multiplied by four – 128 players – with, count them, a maximum of five modern era slots for the Hall class each year. If no new players were added to the ballot every year at all, it would be 25.6 years to handle that group itself.

Much of the anxiety in the social media world about the hall, in addition to those who have waited or may not even get on the list of finalists, is the whole first vote.

Look, the gold jacket is the same gold for John Elway as it was for Floyd Little, who waited almost four decades after playing his last game, to be put down. They do not use different bronze for the busts of Hall of Famers selected in their first year of eligibility.

A selection of players rooted over the decades who were not selected in their first year of eligibility include Willie Davis, Joe Namath, Willie Lanier, Alan Page, John Mackey and Ozzie Newsome.

Gore’s argument for the Hall is consistent production from the top shelf. He is something of a medical marvel who suffered two ACL tears in college before becoming one of the league’s most enduring players for nearly two decades. When the arguments get heated at some point in the process several years from now, some will say that Gore ended up among the league’s top five rushers in just one of his seasons and never had the luck of playing with a Super Bowl winner.

But all that is another day in five years. After 241 games played in the regular season, nine 1,000-yard seasons, 11,900-yard seasons, today is one that Gore should celebrate. It was a rare career of a rare player who got to say goodbye where it all started.



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