I am a lifelong Packers fan. I also have lived in San Francisco since the end of the 2003 football season.
These two facts lead to me hearing the disgruntlement of 49ers fans over the franchise's choice of Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 NFL Draft.
In 54 games and 47 starts (regular season), Rodgers has a 26-21 record and accounted for 13,649 total yards with 100 touchdowns and 43 total turnovers. His regular season career passer rating is 98.4, an NFL record, and he has a 3-1 playoffs mark (all on the road) with a playoff passer rating of 113, also an NFL record.
By contrast, in 54 games and 50 starts, Alex Smith has a losing record and accounted for 9,849 yards, 53 scores and 69 turnovers. His passer rating is 72.1 and he has never made the playoffs.
The suggestion is that their team gave up on a sure-fire Hall of Fame (assuming he stays healthy) quarterback for a bust. I contend that the selection was not wrong.
What?! How can I possibly say that given the results?
Easy. First of all, hindsight is 20/20. To be fair, we must examine what was known at the time of the draft.
Most scouts, including Rodgers' own head coach, thought Smith was the better player. He was incredibly smart, mobile, accurate and successful in leading a Utah team that had never been to a BCS bowl before.
To what do you attribute the failure and success of Smith and Rodgers?
Rodgers was less successful, his mobility was questioned (seems hard to believe, eh?) and he had the Jeff Tedford curse.
Curse? But Tedford is known as a groomer of quarterbacks!
He was not always. In fact, Rodgers single-handedly changed that perception. He used to be known as the guy who could coach quarterbacks in college whose success would never translate to the pros.
The list of quarterbacks Tedford coached (Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, Billy Volek, A.J. Feeley, Joey Harrington, David Carr, Kyle Boller and Rodgers) could include two Super Bowl winners nine days from now, but no others have been what one would call successful starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Furthermore, no quarterback's name is more synonymous with the idea that you do not need a great QB to win a title than Dilfer.
But that only excuses the pick of Smith. Even knowing what we know now about the two, I contend Niners fans would still be complaining about which was picked had their team picked Rodgers.
It is all about the scientific concept of nature vs. nurture. While I do believe that put in the same situations, Rodgers would be better than Smith, it was more the environment they were in that made Smith a failure and Rodgers a success.
Rodgers has had one system his entire career and an offensive-minded head coach. He had three years to learn it before being thrown to the wolves. He had a great receiving corps.
Smith has been in six offenses in six years, the absolute worst situation for a thinker to be in, because it delays processing reads and reactions. He was also under defensive-minded head coaches who killed what little potential five of the offenses had. Unless Smith winds up in Chicago, San Diego or Green Bay, he will have to learn a seventh system because no one will ever use four of his last five offenses again.
He also played right from the start on a very bad team, learning bad habits that had him running for his life. He had no offensive support except in the running game, and because of the conservative style that it fostered, it may have been more of a negative than a positive. A bad line and bad receivers not only fail to get open, but they turn good throws into picks, where good receivers like those the Packers have give their QBs targets and turn picks into good throws.
Worst of all, Alex Smith had Mike Nolan as a coach. In another job occupation, Alex Smith could literally sue Nolan for injury and defamation of character.
Nolan forced Smith to play on a grade-three separation of his throwing shoulder and then publicly questioned his toughness, undermining leadership of the position that needs it most and possibly doing permanent damage to his previously average arm strength.
Do not blame the Niners for drafting Alex Smith. Blame them for putting him in a position to fail rather than succeed.