Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I Need More Gore

I originally planned to make this a Halloween-themed post, but it ended up being more of a statistical analysis post. Bear with me.

Halloween is almost here, and so I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about Gore.

Not Al Gore, crusader for climate cleanliness and inventor of the internet. I could discuss him and why he didn't become our 43rd President (*cough* Jeb *cough* scotus) but I won't.

Nor is this a post about Martin Gore, guitarist and chief songwriter of the legendary band Depeche Mode.  Isn't it about time they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? When are 80's bands gonna get some love?

But no... that's not the subject of this post, either. This is after all a sports card blog (although I have been thinking of tinkering with the format) and so the focus of this post is Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore:

Much like Martin and Al, Frank Gore is vastly underrated. Or maybe not. I have to admit I'm not as much of a football fan as I used to be (and it has nothing to do with the player protests.) With the NFL becoming a pass-happy league over the past decade or so, it's been hard for me to quantify which quarterbacks and wide receivers are truly great, and which ones are merely good players with inflated numbers. It should be easier to identify the all-time great running backs - but as you'll see, my knowledge is still incomplete.

As great running backs gradually became an endangered species, I began to keep an eye on the few who were still racking up "old school" rushing stats, specifically LaDanian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson. When Peterson was traded to the Cardinals - and then rushed for 134 yards and two TDs in his Arizona debut - I checked his career stats on Pro Football Reference to see where he ranks on the all-time list.

I assumed that "A.D." was in the top-10 all time in rushing yards and TD's. That's when I learned two things that surprised me:

Peterson is "only" 16th all-time in rushing (as of 10/25/17)... and Frank Gore is 7th.

Frank Gore has more career rushing yards than Peterson, Thurman Thomas, Marshall Faulk, Jim Brown, Tony Dorsett, and Eric Dickerson. By the end of this year he could pass Jerome Bettis, Tomlinson, and Curtis Martin. If he passes Martin - which is unlikely, but possible - he'll be fourth all time in rushing yards.

Emmitt Smith...Walter Payton...Barry Sanders...Frank Gore?!?

I honestly had no idea Gore was this good. I also had no idea that's he's 34 years old (well past the expiration date for NFL running backs) and still starting for the Colts. Also, I had no idea his nickname is ...wait for it...

The Inconvenient Truth

Obvious Al Gore reference aside, it is sort of fitting. I would never have considered Frank Gore as a top-10 or even top-20 all-time great running back. But he is. And here's my attempt to prove it.

Below is a list of every running back with 12,000 career rushing yards and a career average of 4 yards per carry and at least 75 career rushing touchdowns:

nameyardsYPCrush TDs
Emmitt Smith18,3554.2164
Walter Payton16,7264.4110
Barry Sanders15,2695.099
Curtis Martin14,1014.090
LaDanian Tomlinson13,6844.3145
Frank Gore13,3874.476
Eric Dickerson13,2594.490
Tony Dorsett12,7394.377
Jim Brown12,3125.2106
Marshall Faulk12,2794.3100
Edgerrin James12,2464.080
Marcus Allen12,2434.1123
Franco Harris 12,1204.191
Adrian Peterson11,983*4.899
*I'm assuming Peterson will gain 17 more yards this year

Now I see why Gore may have slid under the radar - his touchdown total isn't that impressive for someone who has carried the ball over 3,000 times through 13 seasons. In fact the low TD totals are downright strange; Gore has one season of double-digit rushing scores. Last year he rushed for 1,025 yards and four TDs. He also caught 38 passes - four of them for scores. (See what I mean about a pass-happy league?)

Rushing yards alone isn't a good indicator, it penalizes great backs with short careers and/or those who played a 12-or 14- game schedule. Average yards per game is a bit more equitable, and at the moment Gore is 35th all-time with 71.6 ypg. Remember how I said it would be difficult for him to catch Curtis Martin for fourth-all time in rushing yards? Gore would need to average 79.4 yards over the Colts' last nine games this season to do so. 

There is probably a website out there with much more analytical data that can accurately compare today's ball carriers like Gore and Peterson against the legends of yesteryear. But I just want to know for card collecting purposes.

I don't have a whole lot of (non-Packers) football cards, and I stopped buying packs and boxes around 2004 - mostly for budget reasons. Running backs who were great before '04 are in the Hall of Fame and their cards are in my star player box. Adrian Peterson is obviously a future HOFer, and one of a small handful of players I've sort-of collected over the past decade. 

But all of the other good-to-great backs over the past decade plus have befuddled me: Fred Taylor, Steven Jackson, Corey Dillon, Warrick Dunn, Ricky Watters, Jamal Lewis, Thomas Jones, Tiki Barber, Eddie George, Ricky Williams, Clinton Portis,  Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Shaun Alexander, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy.

Some of them are in my star box, some are in my commons binders. I've never been able to draw a line between them. But now I think I've found it.

Edgerrin James looked like a Hall of Famer to me (see the chart above) but he's not in. And if he's not Hall worthy than those guys definitely aren't. Frank Gore, on the other hand.. he belongs in the conversation of all-time greats. And he belongs in my star player box. 

Unfortunately I don't have any of his cards. Well, that's not entirely true. I have this one... my sealed factory set of 2005 Topps, which I bought for the Aaron Rodgers rookie card.  

I know there aren't too many football card traders on the blogosphere (and I've only received one return trade package over the past few attempts) so perhaps I'll grab some Gore on COMC, and maybe some other stars to bring my football card collection up to date.

Who is your favorite running back to watch or collect?  What players can you think of (in any sport) that are quietly building a Hall of Fame caliber career?



  1. Interesting. I think I've got a couple Gore cards I can throw into the box I'm building for you. I also didn't realize he was just that good.

    My favorite RBs are Tomlinson and Faulk for their San Diego ties.

  2. Awesome, thanks for the help! Yeah those are two of my faves as well. I bought an autographed 8 x 10 of Faulk at a memorabilia store in the mall during his playing days. I think it was $15 or $20.

  3. In the 80's... I liked Curt Warner and Eric Dickerson.

    In the 90's... I liked Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, and Dorsey Levens.

    In the 00's... I liked Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson

    In the 10's... I like Marshawn Lynch.

    As for Gore... I live in the Bay Area... so I watched him a lot when he was with he 49ers and knew that he was slowly climbing up the all-time list.

  4. Dickerson was awesome, I think he was the first RB I knew of and followed. Sanders was amazing, I loved the way he played - and respected - the game. Dorsey, definitely. I have an 8 x 10 auto of him, too.

    How come Gore never got in the end zone for San Fran? Did they have a short-yardage back that got all the goal line carries?

  5. I've probably got some Gores for you too.

    My biggest PC is Priest Holmes. He won me a couple fantasy trophies and is also just a good guy.