Frank Gore could be the best 49ers running back ever, but a respectable group of talented backs have valid claims.
Joe Perry, Garrison Hearst and Roger Craig must be part of the debate. Other studs such as Ricky Watters and Wendell Tyler had limited time with the 49ers, so they don't pass the longevity test. Steve Young, the ninth-leading rusher in team history, was a quarterback, so he's out, too.
That leaves Gore, Perry, Hearst and Craig.
In five seasons with the team interrupted by a horrendous injury that cost him a sixth Hearst gained an impressive 7,139 total yards from scrimmage 5,535 rushing and 1,604 receiving.
Craig was a pivotal part of the West Coast offensive innovation. His combined yards from scrimmage 11,506 (7,064 rushing, 4,442 receiving) in his eight seasons with the 49ers are eye-popping, and his high-knee running style was an NFL signature. And he played on three Super Bowl winners.
Like Gore, Perry was consistent, dependable and efficient, known for how he carried himself as much as how he carried the ball. In his 13 seasons with the 49ers, he rushed for 8,689 yards.
Gore, 29, is in just his eighth season, so he should continue adding to his 8,743 rushing yards and perhaps win an NFL title or two before he's through.
We can wait until then to finish the debate.
What to watch
"Sidelined: Concussions in Sports," Ch. 6 (KVIE), 7 p.m.: The Bee's Matt Barrows is among those interviewed (check your local listings).
Who is the greatest 49ers running back?
Vote above or leave your comments in the comment field; or, go to www.sacbee.com/sports
If the NFL season ended today, who should be the 49ers' MVP?
Colin Kaepernick: 12%
Michael Crabtree: 7%
Frank Gore: 29%
Aldon Smith: 44%
Total votes: 381
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