The 2005 NFL Draft had two quarterbacks competing to be the number one overall selection.
Smith posted a 21-1 record in his college career. He had a 3.74 GPA and was in a Masters' program before he entered the draft. He was definitely a smart kid. He finished fourth in the Heisman voting in his final year and he led the Utes to two bowl victories in his college career. Smith was athletic and accurate coming out of college with a high IQ.
Aaron Rodger wasn’t a high profiled recruit coming out of his senior year in high school with his small stature at 5’10” and 165lbs. He received no division one scholarship offers, and took his talents to Butte Junior College. He led Butte to a 10-1 record, and actually beat my college for the NorCal Conference Championship. I was playing safety at the time, and Rodgers was definitely hard to contain.
I saw a lot of talent in Rodgers when I played him and boy could he run. After one year, Rodger received a scholarship to Cal Berkley and grew to 6’2”. He had a solid two years at Cal where he led the fourth ranked Bears to the Holiday Bowl. He chose to forego his senior year and enter the draft.
The two quarterbacks were very athletic, but Rodgers had the stronger more accurate arm. Smith had the experience and success that many teams loved.
Many teams and experts had Rodgers rated higher then Smith as a quarterback, but the position wasn’t a necessity for most teams except the 49ers.
So why did the 49ers ultimately decide on Smith over Rodgers?
Rodgers was a northern California kid whose game was reminiscent of Joe Montana. Smith came from a spread offense that hadn't translated too well in the NFL.
The 49ers were completely rebuilding the roster in 2005, and hired new coach Mike Nolan. Nolan was a no nonsense guy who hated to be challenged. When he interviewed both players, Rodgers had some attitude and cockiness to him that Nolan just hated. No matter what the talent difference was, Nolan knew his guy was Smith.
The two stories took a different route when they entered the league. Rodgers was drafted by a team that had a legend in Brett Favre, and could quite possibly never see the field. Smith on the other hand, had to jump right into a team that had no quarterback or identity.
Everything on the 49ers was new and rebuilding, which is a bad sign for a young quarterback. Coming from a spread offense, the NFL schemes were too difficult for Smith early on. He needed to sit and learn, but the 49ers invested too much money into the kid for him to sit, so Smith struggled.
Rodgers sat and learned from one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game on a veteran laden team. When he finally played his first couple of games, he was ready and destined for stardom.
What if the 49ers had drafted Aaron Rodgers number one overall?
Rodgers already had less experience then Smith, but his talent was undeniable. Rodgers is also one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, which would have helped him when the pocket broke down just as we have seen in Cam Newton in the first few games.
Smith was a regular in taking hits and getting blindsided. He has no pocket presence, which could be the fault of the spread offense where everything is a quick pass. Smith also had horrible footwork when in the pocket. His drops were robotic and he never felt pressure around him.
People say that Alex Smith was affected because he has had six offensive coordinators in six years, and that could be true, but I believe that if Rodgers were in the same situation, he would have figured everything out by year three.
The cockiness or attitude that coach Nolan was afraid of in Rodgers would have helped him with the rocky situations in the early years. His teammates would have trusted him and respected him because they saw that confidence in his eyes.
Although Smith received his masters and experts stated that he was very smart with book and school, Rodgers was smart with everything that had to do with football. He is able to dissect a defense and break it down within seconds. Watching tape from when Rodgers was at Cal, you can see that Rodgers was comfortable in changing the play at the line of scrimmage and reading the defenses. Smith on the other hand wasn’t able to change up the play at the line of scrimmage as the offense had to move at a fast pace.
Alex Smith had a lot of talent, but he wasn’t confident or smart enough to succeed in this league. His body was that of a starting quarterback, but his mind and heart is that of a backup.
I am not saying that the San Francisco 49ers would have won a Super Bowl yet under Aaron Rodgers, but I do know that the 49ers would have been a playoff team and a lot better.
If Rodgers was on the 49ers, experts would be picking the 49ers as a Super Bowl Contender for this year, but instead they are regulated to being a possible division winner.
During Smith’s first six seasons, the 49ers had not made the playoffs and continue to have no identity. Smith will probably be regulated to the bench for the rest of his career if the 49ers do not succeed this year.
Rodgers’ level of play would have been elite just as it is with the Packers even if the 49ers had drafted him, and he had taken the exact same path as Smith.
I know that this is very difficult to breakdown, as we have seen the results seven years later, but what your take on it?