Frank Gore wanted to go out on top. With 10 games in the books and not a single win to show for it, this wasn’t what the Jets veteran had in mind for his NFL swan song.
“You don’t want to go 0-16, especially if this is my last year,” said Gore, who trails only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton for the most rushing yards in NFL history. “I can’t go out like that.”
A third-round pick of the Niners in 2005, Gore knows his NFL window is closing. The 37-year-old deserves a better final act than this, but unfortunately for Gore, a certain Hall of Famer and one of the most decorated rushers the league has ever produced, that may be out of his control. "Hopefully, we can get one. And I can't wait until we get it. I'll be so happy,” said Gore in comments to ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini. “If it is my last year, I can't say I'm going out 0-16."
Now playing for his fourth team in as many years, Gore was expected to compete for a backup role in New York but was elevated to lead status following the release of disgruntled workhorse Le’Veon Bell. Gore has struggled during his 16th and perhaps final NFL season (3.6 yards per carry), though he did score a touchdown Sunday against the Chargers in a loss that officially eliminated the Jets from playoff contention.
“I'd say it's tough, because it's the stage of my career, I was younger in San Fran and I always felt like, 'I got time, I got time,’” said Gore, still coming to grips with his NFL mortality. “Now, I don't know if I'm going to play next year.”
Due to the punishment the position entails, running backs tend to have shorter shelf lives than most. Which makes Gore, who registered his 99th touchdown on Sunday, even more of an anomaly. Resilient as he’s been throughout his career, the 212-pound bruiser knows his NFL time is running short.
"I've got to be real with myself, how teams think about my age. They might not want a 38-year-old running back on the team,” said Gore, who despite his declining skill set, has enjoyed his experience as a veteran mentor on a Jets team headed for a lengthy rebuild. “I don’t want to say ‘kids,’ I’ll say ‘young men.’ They come in every week to work their behind off. That keeps me going. I know that they care."
We know there’s no saving Adam Gase’s job at this point, but will the Jets be able to win one more for Frank? Their next chance will come Sunday against Gore’s former squad, the Dolphins, who defeated New York in shutout fashion (24-0) when these teams met in Miami last month.