Here is a link to my Sunday column about Carlos Hyde. The full text runs below:
A good tailback is a thing of beauty.
A really good tailback is rare.
He is a man who runs into people. He is a man who runs through people. He is a man who bounces off people. Sometimes, he is not a big man. He inflicts pain. He endures pain. He runs.
He receives the ball in two hands and runs behind his big linemen — his protectors — and he runs toward the defenders. If this were a myth, the other guys would be called the enemy. And the enemy grabs at the ball. And the enemy grabs at him. And the enemy tries to knock him down and often knocks him down. And he runs.
He looks for a hole. Call it daylight. This daylight hole is a foot wide. But he crashes, bursts, bores into the hole and tries to make it bigger. Sometimes, he succeeds. And he gains a few yards, maybe four. Four is good most of the time. And he ends up on the turf, bigger guys sprawled all over him. And as he gets up, he yells, “My foot. Be careful of my foot.” Something like that. He gets up to do it again. He runs.
He runs up the middle “into traffic” or around the end. And sometimes — this is the glorious part — he breaks free. It happens before you understand what happened. The really good tailback is running away from 11 defenders, and you’ve never seen such running. Knees high. The legs turning over fast. The stride long. Even though he’s wearing pads and a helmet. He defies gravity. He runs.
The tailback running free is an unsurpassed pleasure of football — there are others like the “bomb.” You don’t expect the tailback to run free. You don’t expect to feel the freedom of the break-free run. But there it is. Total liberation. Total self-expression. Take it to the house. Six points just like that.
The wide receiver, a more glamorous character — often a diva — rarely breaks free. He already is free, if he’s any good. He runs free and catches the ball. It is a thing of beauty, but he never faces the obstacles, the sheer human weight of the defense trying to crush the break-free run.
For years, the 49ers have had a really good tailback. Frank Gore. Call him great. Never stops pumping his legs even when the defensive linemen and linebackers force him backwards. I compare him to Roger Craig. Craig was faster. Better receiver. More versatile. Did so much. A Bill Walsh kind of tailback. But if you need yards up the middle — punishing, essential yards — give the ball to Gore over Craig. Watch him twist and dive and get the yards. Just give him the ball.
Now the 49ers have two really good tailbacks. Maybe. Call this other back Carlos Hyde. The rookie. Call him promising.
Hyde is the most dangerous, the most dynamic addition to the 49ers’ offense since they got Colin Kaepernick in 2011. He is fresher than Gore. More athletic. Bigger. Quicker. Faster. More explosive.
Hyde is more punishing on contact than Gore. Gets more yards after contact.
Hyde runs the read-option better than Gore.
Against Dallas, Hyde went nuts on seven read-option carries. It’s all the Niners gave him, read-option runs. Averaged better than seven yards a carry. You would have thought he was Jim Brown. He did better at read-option runs than Gore. Not even close. If the Niners can use the read-option, they take maximum advantage of Kaepernick as a run threat. Either Hyde or Kaepernick. You got that?
But Gore is a better tailback than Hyde.
Gore still is the best tailback on the 49ers. It’s not even a discussion. Gore, a football savant, can do all the run plays. Being a great tailback takes experience and patience and wisdom. Don’t cut too soon. Don’t cut too late. Gore follows the pulling guard — Mike Iupati, usually — like nobody’s business. He is a genius at that power move. Watch him cut and watch him get more yards. He does that better than Hyde. He does that better than just about anyone.
The 49ers will introduce their run plays to Hyde slowly, systematically. Bring along the rookie. He will run the read-option. The Niners will give him a power run off tackle. Then a few more run plays. Take it slow. Niners run plays are complicated. The rookie is learning.
Hyde will compete with Gore for playing time. It’s just a matter of time.
Over the long course, he is more dangerous. Has fewer miles on his legs. Does more things. And there’s this.
Gore has been DOA in Seattle against, you know, the Seahawks. Not a good thing. The 49ers don’t play in Seattle until late in the season, Dec. 14. The 49ers will need Hyde then. Everything they are doing with Hyde builds toward that game.
You won’t see Hyde rush for 200 yards today against the Bears. But you will see him. And as games go by, you will see him more, see the progression in his game. You will see the 49ers’ strong running game get even stronger. They are a run-first team and running is their personality.
Carlos Hyde is their exciting young tailback. He runs.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.