Each seeking redemption in a new decade, Frank Gore and the New York Jets’ offense may be a match made in football heaven.
No matter what he accomplishes in a New York Jets uniform, the image of Frank Gore bearing the emblems and numerals of New York’s green football team will undoubtedly appear on lists or slideshows of NFL legends dressed in the “wrong” colors. “New York Jets legend Frank Gore” will satirically trend during a future slow day on social media.
Yet, if things pan out, Gore could hold a small but notable role in Jets history.
The addition of the 37-year-old Gore seems counterintuitive to a rebuilding squad. Surely, the latter days of his professional football career would be better spent chasing a title, not helping a rebuilding offense find its footing, no? The third name on the NFL’s all-time rushing list has apparently been playing AFC East bingo over the past few seasons, spending the past two seasons between Miami and Buffalo. An elusive Super Bowl as both a spell option and veteran mentor with a contender would perhaps be the perfect way for the San Francisco legend to ride off into the sunset.
Instead, Gore has spent the opening stages of Jets training camp praising the situation presented in front of him. He’s set to spell incumbent starting rusher Le’Veon Bell after proving servicable in his prior stops with the Jets’ rivals. Gore is one of three 30-year-old running backs to tally at least 1,000 rushing yards over the past two seasons with 1,321 (Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram are the ohters).
“I know the situation here,” Gore in a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post. “We’ve got a great back with Le’Veon, who did great things and still can play this game. I know that he’s our lead dog. My goal is to do whatever it takes when my number gets called to do whatever it takes to help this team be successful.”
Gore is by far the most experienced name on the Jets with 16 NFL seasons under his belt. In a season unlike any other, he’s providing a youth exuberence to the New York proceedings right from the get-go. That included his earliest days with a Jets label, when minicamp endeavors were reduced to a virtual arena.
Head coach Adam Gase knew exactly what he was getting upon extending Gore an invitation to Florham Park. Not only did Gase supervise Gore’s lone season in Miami (where Gore ran for a team-best 722 yards in 2018) but he also played witness to one of the earliest years of his prime as an assistant with the 49ers in 2008.
“He’s a natural leader. He’s the kind of guy that guys respect around the NFL,” Gase said in a report from NewYorkJets.com’s Ethan Greenberg. “He’s done a great job as far as helping younger players that are in the room. I think he’s a good teammate especially the last three or four years in that backup role and the supporting role of whoever that starter is. He’s a great guy for Le’Veon [Bell] to be around. Those two guys can really do some damage together.
“We have two guys that can play all three downs. They both have outstanding skillsets. There’s a little bit of difference in their running style and how they do things, but we know Frank really well and we know how to use them.”
Now that the Jets have gathered in person, it appears Gore’s leaving an impact on the rest of the roster as well, particularly with his offensive contemporaries. Even at his advanced age, he’s finding a way to leave an impact.
Bell, for example, was still a junior at Groveport Madison High School in Ohio when the seasoned veteran made his NFL debut as a third-round pick for San Francisco in 2005. His middle school days came and went while Gore made a name for himself at the University of Miami.
Yet, Bell knows there’s plenty he can learn from Gore, whose earliest NFL days were spent as a silver lining during a lengthy rebuild. He never experienced a winning professional season until his seventh campaign.
“I look at a guy like Frank Gore. I’m fortunate that he’s in my room,” Bell said when asked about his inpiration by Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “I pick his brain. He has a similar mindset as I have. “The fact that he’s 37 years old and he’s playing at a high level still, and he was talking about the things that he was doing when I was 28. He’s like Le’Veon, ‘I was doing this, that and the other.’ So I know I’m doing the right things because I’m hearing it from a guy who’s done it and who’s doing it.”
Gore’s fateful seventh season saw the 49ers go 13-3 and reach the NFC title game. Though a Super Bowl appearance wasn’t to be…the New York Giants stole an overtime decision…they were able to take the next step when Gore’s two touchdowns erased a 10-point deficit against Atlanta for a 28-24 win. Gore is thus a rare Jet who posses experience and a taste of the championship nectar, even if it’s only a mere sip.
The arrival of Gore also takes a certain bit of the offensive load off of Bell. Rushing will be more vital than ever for a Jets team that has major question marks at the top of their wide receiver depth chart slots. It will lead to new opportunities in the backfield, but last proved that one cannot live on Bell alone.
But if Gore can provide relief now and the knowledge to succeed in the future, his impact can last far beyond the one-year deal bestowed to him this offseason.
“We’re excited about not only the production Frank’s brought in his career but we’re excited about the chemistry he’s going to bring to the running backs room and the locker room,” general manager Joe Douglas said in a May report from Randy Lange focusing on Gore’s arrival. “He’s got a great work ethic, he’s a true pro. It’s a relatively young room right now behind Le’Veon. So he’s definitely going to help those young guys and be a great example for them moving forward.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags