3 best running backs in San Francisco 49ers history
When you talk about the San Francisco 49ers, you’re talking about one of the most established franchises in the league. As one of the oldest franchises in the NFL, they’ve truly cemented themselves as a powerhouse in the NFC by winning 20 division championships between 1979-2019.
They’ve also won five of their seven Super Bowl appearances to top off their 32 playoff wins, which ranks fourth in the league. What has powered this very successful franchise is their potent offense led by legendary quarterbacks like Joe Montana and Steve Young. But everyone knows that an offensive line will only flourish if it has talented running backs to help push the ball.
Let’s rank the top three running backs in 49ers history.
3. Roger Craig (1983-1990)
Roger Craig is undoubtedly one of the best when it comes to 49ers rushers. The 1988 NFC Player of the Year was one of head coach Bill Walsh’s key offensive weapons in the 1980’s. The San Francisco 49ers Hall of Famer proved to be the perfect compliment to Hall of Famer Joe Montana’s passing game, which earned them three Super Bowl titles and basically dominated the decade.
Craig was an elite, all-around back for San Francisco and was the only player to have been selected to the Pro Bowl as both a halfback and a fullback. In his eight seasons with the 49ers, he had 1,686 rushing attempts for 7,064 yards and a total of 50 touchdowns. He also showed that he was a great receiver – catching the football 508 times for 4,442 yards.
The Iowa-native also made it to the 1980’s All-Decade Team to further propel as one of the best running backs, not just in San Francisco, but in the entire NFL.
2. Joe Perry (1948-1960, 1963)
You can’t be one of the franchise’ top rushers and not be on the list, right? The late and great Joe Perry lands at our number two spot. The Hall of Famer had two stints in San Francisco for a total of 14 years in the franchise.
The 1954 UPI NFL Player of the Year was part of the “Million Dollar Backfield” alongside other Hall of Famers John Henry Johnson, Y.A. Tittle and Hugh McElhenny which was pivotal for the 49ers in the 1950s. He led the league in rushing yards in 1953 and 1954 and was also the NFL’s rushing touchdowns leader in 1953, showcasing a perfect combination of speed and strength.
The three-time Pro Bowler is also the franchise’s second all-time leading rusher with a total of 1,667 carries for 8,689 yards and 68 touchdowns. He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969 and his #34 jersey has been retired by the 49ers. “The Jet” passed away in 2011.
1. Frank Gore (2005-2014)
As one of the most legendary players to ever wear the 49ers colors, Frank Gore is undoubtedly the best running back in San Francisco franchise history. “The Inconvenient Truth”, as Deion Sanders puts it, was selected to the Pro Bowl five times in his decade-long career with the 49ers.
Gore was one smooth running back for San Francisco, finding tiny holes in the opposing defensive line and taking full advantage of it.
After just being picked in third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Gore immediately proved that he deserved a slot in the 49ers roster. In his rookie year, he instantly led the team in yards even if he missed his first two games due to a groin injury. He would continue to stamp his class and broke out in his sophomore year with a terrific second season in San Francisco. As the team’s starting RB, he set the team-record for rushing yards with 1,695 and became the first 49er to lead the entire NFC in rushing yards.
Gore never seemed to take his foot off the gas as he continued his marvelous career in San Francisco until he departed in 2015. He was picked to be part of the 2010s All-Decade Team and is one of the top rushers in NFL history and is currently listed as third all-time with 15,347 yards in 3,548 carries.