Now that Michael Crabtree's back on the field with the 49ers, the dynamics have changed for the team…
Niners got it right with Gore
For the Niners, ironing out a new deal with Gore sooner rather than later is the best thing that could have happened to resolve a situation that has been hovering over the team since training camp began without Gore in attendance back in July.
And reaching that deal couldn't have been a simple thing to do, not with agent Drew Rosenhaus handling Gore's side of the negotiations.
But now that Rosenhaus has confirmed the three-year contract extension, the "fair" deal Gore was looking for at $21 million over three years with $13.5 million guaranteed, the 49ers can at least say they got one important thing right during this turbulent summer when not everything has looked so right with the team on the field.
Gore's deal pays him well and gives him security, because 28-year-old running backs that have absorbed the NFL wear and tear that Gore has can go down at any time. It is not the best deal he could have received. Gore probably is worth more, based on what he has accomplished by NFL standards and what he means to the 49ers, and big NFL contracts often reward players for what they have done in the past regardless of what they will do in the future.
No, the big winners here are the 49ers, who didn't have to give in to the type of ridiculous contract numbers that Carolina this year awarded DeAngelo Williams, a good running back, but not one that has reached the elite level of Gore. Niners general manager Trent Baalke, who is in the job stage of trying to establish himself among his NFL peers, can say he stood firm against the demands of a hard-line agent but still got the deal done with San Francisco's best offensive player.
And Harbaugh? Well, he now has the most essential player to his hopes of reviving San Francisco's offense this year happy, focused and committed. OK, having a productive quarterback may be even more essential, but that's another issue. Gore is absolute money as an all-purpose back. He's one of the best in the league at doing everything. He is the ideal player for the halfback role in Harbaugh's version of the West Coast offensive system.
And besides all that, he's a great guy. Frank Gore is a humble, inspiring and endearing individual. Everybody likes the guy. How can anybody not like the guy? He's true to himself, true to his team, and he has been through a hell of a lot of adversity to get where he is today.
As Harbaugh said Tuesday afternoon, hours before the Gore deal got done, "Frank's a ‘says what he means, means what he says' guy… Frank is a great guy. Frank is a true 49er. I've said that from when I first got here, that's how I thought I would feel about Frank Gore. Now I know how I feel about Frank Gore. The guy is awesome. Somebody should do a movie. Somebody should do the Frank Gore story, because it's an awesome story.
"Yeah, it's a great story. He's a guy that really deserves all the credit. The way he's worked. He's so astute on so many fronts, and a guy that makes his life, changes his life, impacts other people in a positive way. He's a team guy, he's a great football player, and he's got a big heart, most of all that's what I like about Frank. He's just enjoyable to be around. He works his tail off. I love his work ethic."
For a guy that hasn't been around Gore nearly as much as others who have been around the 49ers the past six years, Harbaugh pretty much got it right. Gore is all those things. And his inspiring story is all those things, too.
Gore comes from an impoverished background, growing up with seven others in a one-bedroom apartment in the Coconut Grove area of inner-city Miami. He became a teenage father a few years after his mother Lizzie began struggling with kidney failure, a disease that would lead to her death in 2007.
Gore had one of the greatest prep careers for a running back in Florida history, rushing for 2,953 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Coral Gables High School in 2000. Then he earned Big East Conference Freshman of the Year honors at the University of Miami, averaging 9.1 yards per carry as a true freshman.
And then Gore tore up both of his knees – we're talking serious, career-threatening injuries here – with the first coming the next spring. Just nine months after recovering from his second knee injury, Gore returned for his junior season and led Miami in rushing, then left for the NFL a year early so that he could earn money to help his family and ailing mother.
Those circumstances led to Gore lasting until the third round of the 2005 NFL draft, when the 49ers became the fortunate team to grab him with the No. 65 overall pick. Gore's career has been mostly storybook ever since. He set a franchise record with 1,695 yards rushing in 2006, the first of his team-record four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.
Gore enters the Sept. 11 season opener against Seattle needing 931 yards to become San Francisco's all-time leading rusher.
How could the 49ers not reward a player and man like that?
Well, they no longer have to face that question. Whatever else happens with the 49ers during the first year of the Harbaugh/Baalke regime, everybody can know they got it right with a player who surely represents the heart and soul of the team.