Same Pick, Different Day: Aaron Rodgers Would Have Been The Same As Alex Smith

Eli Nachmany@EliNachmanyCorrespondent IIIFebruary 16, 2011

Alex Smith shouldnt take all the blame for San Francisco's mediocrity; it could have been Aaron Rodgers running for his life, too.
Alex Smith shouldnt take all the blame for San Francisco's mediocrity; it could have been Aaron Rodgers running for his life, too.Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In the 2005 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers made a "huge" mistake.

With the first selection in the draft, desperately needing a franchise quarterback to turn the franchise around, San Francisco drafted Alex Smith out of Utah.

Later that round, the Green Bay Packers used a first round pick on Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers, envisioning him as Brett Favre's eventual replacement.

The rest is history.

The only problem here is that in the days after Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory, the internet flooded with articles about how the 49ers made a franchise-crippling decision by drafting Alex Smith instead of Aaron Rodgers.

This is false.

Comparing the two in body build, Smith has a quarterback's stature, standing tall at 6'4 and 217 pounds. In Rodgers case, the Packer is 6'2 and 220 pounds. While Smith has two inches of height on Rodgers, the two aren't built drastically different.

Both quarterbacks are athletic enough, making plays with their legs when they need to and being able to hit throws on the run.

Simply put, Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers are comparable players.

There's just one difference: Their path to success in the NFL.

The Utah product, Smith, came in to take charge of a rebuilding team. After legends like Joe Montana and Steve Young, and above-average quarterbacks like Jeff Garcia, Alex Smith was expected to follow in the footsteps of greatness.

Rodgers, too, was expected to play like the legendary Brett Favre, but the great divide with these two comes with the team they were given.

Smith was given a terrible offensive line, a subpar group of receivers, and a slacking defense. The No. 1 selection in the draft didn't have ample time in the pocket to make reads or accurate throws, as he was constantly running for his life or throwing to receivers that couldn't get open.

If the dearth of talent around him wasn't enough, Smith had no stability with his coaches.

In his first four years, Smith had four (count 'em, four) different offensive coordinators. Try going from Norv Turner's quarterback-friendly offense (in which Smith said he could have thrived in) to Jim Hostler's West Coast-style and then to Mike Martz's "here's the ball, now throw it as much as you can" offense.

Understandably, Smith was never able to live up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Smith was given a bad team with no stability in the offense, and for a young quarterback already dealing with the pressure of following greats, all of the challenges proved too much.

Smith faltered and was labeled a bust.

Fate would have it that Aaron Rodgers would win a Super Bowl. Packers fans rejoiced and columnists went to work writing articles about how San Francisco could have had the golden boy, Rodgers, instead of the bust Alex Smith.

While Smith may not have had success, it's unfair to say that Rodgers could have posted the huge numbers that Smith never did.

Rodgers' path to stardom was very different than Smith's.

For one, the teams that Smith and Rodgers took over were very different. While Smith couldn't rescue his horrible team from the sewer, Aaron Rodgers took over on a team that was just a game away from the Super Bowl the year before.

The former Cal quarterback had pass-catching threats such as Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, a top tight end in Jermichael Finley and a breakout star at running back in Ryan Grant.

Through the years, players such as James Jones and Jordy Nelson, too, have developed into reliable options, and the Packers were able to put Rodgers along a path of development—a benefit that Smith never had because of the 49ers' lack of a clear direction—that is now at the stage where he (Rodgers) is calling all of the shots in a spread offense.

Also, Rodgers had a comfortable offensive line to stand behind. With a good amount of time in the pocket, the Green Bay quarterback could make plays without having to be on high alert, like Smith.

Don't forget, either, that the Green Bay defense was stingy, as well as good at creating turnovers.

Rodgers received the reins to a thoroughbred horse, Smith got a mule.

Rodgers didn't have to deal with different offensive coordinators or too many moving parts. The Packers are notorious for their program stability and Rodgers had three years to learn Mike McCarthy's offense from one of the best that has ever played the game, and then Rodgers was asked to execute only that offense.

Under all of the circumstances, it would be a disappointment if Rodgers didn't win a Super Bowl.

While Rodgers posts gaudy numbers and Smith's totals are subpar, 2005 Draft references are inevitable.

The problem is that the 49ers would have been no better had they drafted Aaron Rodgers into their faulty system.

Alex Smith has been the scapegoat for every 49er mishap since 2005, but he shouldn't be compared to Aaron Rodgers.

After all, at least he's not Jamarcus Russell.


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