What if the 49ers Had Drafted Aaron Rodgers Instead of Alex Smith?
By Mark Powell
In the 2005 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers had a chance to bring a California kid home.
Rather than draft Aaron Rodgers out of Cal, San Francisco opted for Utah's Alex Smith. Meanwhile, Rodgers sat in the war room for hours in an infamous scene that's since motivated him to be one of the best professional quarterbacks of his generation.
But what if things had turned out differently?
Smith was considered a safe choice at No. 1, playing in a pro-style offense under Urban Mayer at Utah. Yet, he didn't have nearly the arm talent as Rodgers (few have since), thus consistently being overshadowed by him since.
Smith's stint in San Francisco got off to a rough start, while Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for several seasons until Green Bay decided to move on from the un-retired star. Meanwhile, the 49ers threw Smith right into the fire, and fans soured on him quickly thanks to his 1;11 touchdown-to-interception ratio his rookie year.
If there's anyone to blame for the 49ers blunder, it's Mike Nolan, who very clearly had a problem with Rodgers' attitude and cockiness. He knew he had a leg up on Smith, and scouts didn't take to that assertion kindly.
Had the 49ers overcome than concern and drafted Rodgers, he'd likely still be there to this day. However, it wouldn't have come without some bumps and bruises. The same can be said with Smith in Green Bay, who would've had time to mature and learn the playbook rather than lead a putrid offensive unit in San Fran.
Rodgers' career arc in San Francisco wouldn't have been as dramatic, despite his overwhelming talent. It also would've impact the football lives of the talent around him, and Smith's eventual successor at QB in Colin Kaepernick. We haven't even gotten to Jim Harbaugh, who took over by the Bay in 2011.
49ers fans beat up management to this day for passing on a generational talent like Rodgers, but simply selecting the right player doesn't guarantee success. It's the system around a young QB -- especially coaching -- that develops that potential into talent.
The fact remains that Smith had seven offensive coordinators during his 49ers tenure. The Packers stability under Mike McCarthy, meanwhile, allowed Rodgers to grow at his own pace.
Sure, the 49ers would've been better off with Rodgers than Smith, that much is obvious. The level of team success in San Francisco under Rodgers would be much harder to gauge.