What were you doing 16 years ago?
Me, personally, I was heading into my eighth-grade year. Braces were still fresh, I was working my first summer job doing landscaping, and in my free time, I was playing more Madden than anyone probably should.
What was Frank Gore doing 16 years ago?
He was preparing for his rookie season in the NFL as the third-round pick for the San Francisco 49ers.
Sixteen years later and, for me, the braces are off, I haven’t smelled the combination of two-cycle gasoline and long Florida grass in a while (though sometimes I really do miss it), and I don’t have near as much time to get into Madden as I once did. For Gore, well, he’s still getting ready for a season in the NFL.
At 37 years of age, Gore’s career is a marvel. He’s going on 15 straight seasons with at least 500 rushing yards (which is an NFL record), 15 straight seasons with at least 125 rushing attempts (another NFL record), and needs just 1,380 rushing yards to move into second place on the NFL's all-time rushing list.
This year, he’ll be looking to advance those career stats with the New York Jets, Gore’s fifth team in his 16-year career. Though he won’t be a feature back like he once was, the term workhorse can still certainly be used, and that is due to his work ethic.
“Oh my gosh, I could go on this one for a long time,” New York Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said of Gore. “When you really get to be around him for a year and watch him work and watch the intensity that he prepares with every day. This guy has the ultimate chip on his shoulder. He still feels like the guy that’s trying to survive and make it one more year.
The Jets had the second-least amount of rushing yards in 2019 with just 1,257. This despite bringing in the highly talented and highly productive Le’Veon Bell from Pittsburgh. Not only were the Jets near the bottom of the barrel in total rushing yards, but they were also tied for the worst yards-per-carry average in the league at just 3.3.
Bell—certainly for as much money as he’s making, as he is the second-highest-paid player on the team, taking up 7.47 percent of the cap—is going to be the feature player. Bell is more than just a runner; his skills in the passing game make him a truly three-down threat. But when Bell needs a breather or they just need to change it up, Jets running backs coach Jim Bob Cooter seemed to have no doubt Gore will show up when his number is called.
"I've been a Frank Gore fan for a long time," Cooter said. "I've really respected him, I've watched him in this league run for a ton of yards. And to get an opportunity to work with him is something I'm really excited about. He's going to bring an unparalleled work ethic, he's going to bring all the right kind of stuff we want in our offense and in the running backs room. And he's going to play good football for us whenever he's asked to."
In 2019, the Jets averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Gore has never recorded a yearly average that low in 16 years.
Last season in Buffalo, Gore played in all 16 games with eight starts. He led the team with 166 rushes and had 599 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught 13 passes, adding another 100 yards through the air.
Gore doesn’t have many trait-based highlights these days—give the man a break; respect your elders—but the play above is a perfect example to show what Gore can still bring.
For one, Gore knows blocking concepts inside and out. After 16 years in the league, he understands flow and potential running lanes well. He’s not going to burn you down the sideline with speed or juke you out of your shoes or even overpower you with a nasty stiff-arm on any given play. But if you’re out of your run fit, he’ll find the space; if you try to shoulder tackle him, he’ll bounce off you; if you think he’s just going to slow down and go down, he won’t.
Gore will also bring experience as an asset in the meeting room, the weight room, and the practice field. Behind Gore, the Jets' running back group consists of Lamical Perine, Josh Adams, Kenneth Dixon and Trenton Cannon, none of which are over the age of 26, with Perine being the player the Jets are trying to groom to be their eventual RB2 or even RB1 some day; he's only 22 entering his rookie season.
“I’m happy to even be playing this game at my age," Gore said. "I’m happy that this organization gave me an opportunity. But I’m just going to come in here, come work and help all the young guys and show those young guys I still can play.”
Not every veteran player likes dealing with younger players. It's not their job to always be a mentor or a teacher. But Gore seems to have embraced that part of getting older. Maybe he won't be like a parent to them, but he loves motivating the young guys in ways of leading by example -- while also stating that being around the young players helps keep him young and motivated, too.
“On the practice field, I’m going to go out there and practice like it’s my last,” Gore said. “Young guys seeing me pulling it hard every day, it’s just going to help our team get even better. So, I’m very excited, I’m a New York Jet and I can’t wait to get into the building to see what we can do.’ ”
That’s what Gore can bring to the Jets. Will it be extraordinary on its own? At this stage of his career, not likely. But will he be a serviceable backup who won’t allow the defense to take a play off just because the backup is in?
That’s the plan.