Frank Gore will be back for a 16th NFL season after the 36-year-old running back reportedly signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets Tuesday. Gore, who turns 37 later this month, has a golden opportunity to break a record that was once believed to never have been surpassed.
The shelf life of a running back is short to begin with, but Gore has defied the odds for years. Gore continues to run at a high level in his mid-30s and has an opportunity to rewrite the record books in his age-37 season.
Marcus Allen is the only running back to see anything more than a few carries at age 37, the final season of a Hall of Fame career. Allen’s final year was in 1997 with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he carried the ball 124 times for 505 yards and scored 11 rushing touchdowns. Allen split the running back carries with Greg Hill, who led the Chiefs in rushing yards (550) but failed to score a touchdown.
While rushing for 505 yards is a record for a 37-year-old running back (Allen is the only running back in NFL history to have over 50 carries at age 37), that was just the beginning of his impressive season. Allen also caught 11 passes for 86 yards and completed both his pass attempts for touchdowns (2 for 2 for 15 yards). The 505 yards were a career-low for Allen, but his 4.1 yards per carry were his highest since 1995 and 11 touchdowns were his best since leading the league with 12 in 1993. Allen was tied for third in the league in rushing touchdowns.
Can Gore surpass Allen’s age-37 season? Gore rushed for 599 yards on 166 carries and two touchdowns while splitting carries with Devin Singletary last year. The 3.6 yards per carry average was the lowest of Gore’s career, but his performance was good enough to get him a job for another year.
Gore won’t be the No. 1 running back for the Jets, as that role belong to Le’Veon Bell. The Jets want to lighten Bell’s workload, which is where Gore comes in. Bell had 245 carries for 789 yards and three touchdowns in his first season with the Jets, averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry. There will be an opportunity for Gore to rack up some yardage if Bell struggles again. He also has a relationship with Jets head coach Adam Gase, as Gore was the feature back for Gase with the Miami Dolphins in 2018, rushing for 722 yards and averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Gore has never rushed for 11 touchdowns in a season, so Allen’s 11 scores appear out of reach. He still can reach the 505 rushing yards Allen had and will likely receive over 100 carries based on his production over the years. There also are some career milestones in play as Gore is just 653 yards away from becoming the third running back to reach 16,000 rushing yards in a career. He’s also just 52 attempts away from becoming the third running back to have 3,600 attempts in a career.
Gore will also extend his NFL record of most rushing yards by a running back since turning 30. He has 6,508 yards to this point, 719 more than Emmitt Smith (5,789). Four of the top five running backs in rushing yards after turning 30 are in the Hall of Fame, and Gore will certainly be joining them when he decides to retire.
No running back has ever attempted a carry at the age of 38. That will be Gore’s next feat if his age-37 season goes well.