San Francisco 49ers fans are fretting, hoping their team does not make the same quarterback mistake it made 16 years ago.
The Niners have the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, which begins Thursday, and they plan to pick a quarterback they think can take them to the Super Bowl, maybe several Super Bowls. They will choose Mac Jones of Alabama or Trey Lance of North Dakota State or maybe even Justin Fields of Ohio State. Some so-called experts say the 49ers still have not decided which quarterback they will take, but most expect the Niners to draft Jones, which already has the 49er Faithful second-guessing the pick before it is even made.
Those fans recall the 2005 draft, when the 49ers had the No. 1 pick and desperately needed a quarterback. Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers were the two candidates, and every week for the three months leading up to the draft it seemed the sentiment changed as to which the Niners should take.
Smith had taken Urban Meyer-coached Utah to an undefeated season, a Fiesta Bowl victory and a No. 5 final ranking in 2004.
But Rodgers had adored the 49ers and quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young while growing up in the Northern California town of Chico, and he had become a Bay Area star by turning Cal into a national power. It seemed a natural fit.
But the 49ers chose Smith, Rodgers slid all the way to the 24th pick, to the Green Bay Packers, and then came the inevitable question later on draft day, April 23, 2005:
Question: “How disappointed are you that you will not be a 49er?”
Rodgers’ answer: “Not as disappointed as the 49ers will be that they didn’t draft me.”
Oh, the hubris, the cockiness, the arrogance. . . . the prescience.
The video of Rodgers’ message went viral, just as Rodgers knew it would.
Smith started 30 NFL games before Rodgers made his first pro start, and Smith was a solid NFL quarterback. But in his seven seasons as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, he never got them to the Super Bowl and got them to the postseason just once. In fact, it was when Smith was replaced midway through the 2012 season, by Colin Kaepernick, that San Francisco got to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.
Rodgers has taken the Packers to the playoffs 10 times, and they won the Super Bowl in Rodgers’ third season as the starter.
While Smith won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2020 before retiring, Rodgers walked away with his third MVP and is still going strong.
The 49ers are still looking for their first championship since the 1994 season, falling just short because of talent deficiencies at the most important position.
So the question sits there: How many times would the 49ers have played in the Super Bowl, and how many times would they have won it, if they had taken Rodgers in 2005?
In recent years, Rodgers has admitted how much he adored the 49ers growing up.
In a 2019 video interview with Mike Tirico, Rodgers talked about the influence the 49ers had on his football life:
"That was so important for me, as far as setting dreams and goals was being able to watch the late '80s and early '90s 49ers teams, which were obviously fantastic. I remember sitting down, we'd have a big Super Bowl party, and watching [Joe Montana] and The Drive. Then thinking, even at 5, 6 years old, 'That's what I want to do. I want to go out and be like that.' "
A year earlier, in another interview with Tirico, seen below, Rodgers also talked about his childhood team.
“I watched Joe Montana and Steve Young growing up, so those were my two favorite players. Being right-handed obviously I thought I was Joe.
“I distinctly remember watching the Niner-Bengal game [in Super Bowl XXIII], The Drive, on the 8-yard line and going all the way down the field and hitting John Taylor to win that game, and following that up with a 55-10 victory over Denver. That was my childhood.”
Now wade through the rest of that interview until you get to the last minute and hear what Rodgers says about the 2005 draft.
“I thought I was going to go No. 1 and didn’t, and that motivated me for a number of years.”
Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53
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