SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman wants to be a head coach one day soon, and he already knows at least one person he’d hire on his staff.
Running back Frank Gore.
“I always tell Frank, ‘Man, when you’re done playing, come find me or I’ll find you,’” Roman said. “Because he’s a guy I love working with as a player, and I’m sure I’d love working with as a coach.”
Often underappreciated and overlooked around the NFL, Gore has carried the 49ers through good times and mostly bad the last eight seasons. Coaches are quick to credit the reliable running back’s smarts and savvy, doing everything from breaking down film of opponents to scouting potential draft picks.
Gore’s latest adaptation has come in the new read-option run game anchored by quarterback Colin Kaepernick that some thought might not suit his style.
Instead, Gore surpassed 100 yards rushing in a playoff game for the first time in last week’s 45-31 win over Green Bay, and the 49ers insist his knowledge is a vital part of the plan heading into Sunday’s NFC championship game at Atlanta.
“It’s top shelf,” 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh said of Gore’s football acumen. “Not to categorize it, but I know I have learned a lot from Frank, as well as the other running backs on our team. He sees it. He sees the big picture. He sees the whole picture.”
Despite tearing ligaments in both knees at the University of Miami, Gore has rebounded to become one of the NFL’s most durable players at a position that takes perhaps the biggest pounding. His versatility is what makes him special, coaches said, running inside and out, and catching passes from all kinds of formations.
“Frank is such an adaptable player that it doesn’t take him long to pick something up,” Roman said. “He’s one of the most gifted, knowledgeable, intelligent football players that I’ve been around really at any position.”
Where Gore goes after his playing days are over is uncertain.
All of 29, Gore doesn’t think those days are happening anytime soon. After enduring six non-winning seasons to start his 49ers career, the last two under Harbaugh’s guidance have rejuvenated his career.
That doesn’t mean he might not have one eye on the future.
“I think I’d be a great coach. For one, I love the game of football. I’ve been around the game all my life, since I was 4. I could tell who is a real football player. I’ve got an eye for talent,” Gore said. “I love being around football. So if Coach Roman ever gets a head job and he wants to hire me, I’ll be ready.”