Rathman on Gore’s workload: ‘We need to manage him’

The 49ers have tried to manage running back Frank Gore’s workload in recent years to keep him fresh for the latter stages of the season.

And those attempts, the statistics suggest, have been largely unsuccessful.

Last year, for example, certainly wasn’t a smashing success. Gore, 31, had 146 carries in the first eight regular-season games, 130 in the final eight games, ranked eighth in the NFL in rushing attempts and didn’t finish with a flourish. He averaged 4.2 yards a carry in the first eight games, 3.9 in the final eight and that number dipped to 3.4 in the postseason, which ended with an 11-carry, 14-yard performance in the NFC Championship Game.

Since 2011, Gore has had 424 carries and averaged 4.8 yards a rush in the first half of the season. He’s had 392 carries and averaged 3.8 yards in the second half.

On Tuesday, 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman said the team has closely monitored Gore’s workload “in the last three or four years.” And they’ll try again in 2014.

“We need to manage him,” Rathman said. “We need to keep him (fresh) from Week 1 to the Super Bowl. So that’s going to be the biggest challenge. He’s ready to go and he’s right where he needs to be.”

Second-round pick Carlos Hyde could help the 49ers succeed where they’ve fallen short in the past. At 230 pounds, Hyde is significantly bigger than Kendall Hunter, Gore’s primary backup since 2011 who will miss 2014 with a torn Achilles.

That is, Hyde could be better equipped to handle assistant bell-cow duties, which could entail 10 to 15 carries a game. He’s had 88 yards and averaged 5.9 yards a carry in the preseason, which could earn him a 50-50 split if that carries over into real games.

In addition, LaMichael James, a rumor since he was drafted in 2012, could receive more action after he flashed vastly improved pass-blocking skills in his 2014 debut on Sunday against the Chargers.

Gore’s brilliant pass blocking and pass-catching ability explain why it’s been hard for the 49ers to take him off the field. However, the do-it-all Gore isn’t as useful if he’s worn down during the stretch run, as the numbers suggest he was at the end of 2013.


Gore’s numbers in the first half of the season, second half of the season and playoffs since 2011:

First eight games: 146 carries, 618 yards, 4.2 average
Final eight games: 130-510-3.9
Playoffs (3 games): 48-164-3.4

First eight games: 119-656-5.5
Final eight games: 139-558-4.0
Playoffs (3 games): 63-319-5.1

First eight games: 159-782-4.9
Final eight games: 123-429-3.5
Playoffs (2 games): 29-163-5.6

* The 49ers had first-round playoff byes in 2011 and ’12.

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