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What Could Have Been: The San Francisco 49ers Drafting Aaron Rodgers.

Updated: Jan 28

What if the San Francisco 49ers drafted Aaron Rodgers instead of Alex Smith?

And with the first overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft the San Francisco 49ers select…a player who would change the direction of the franchise for years to come. 

Tying the franchise record for the least amount of wins with just two victories, the 49ers look to move on from the undynamic duo of Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey. Rather than adding the highly touted Alex Smith to their roster, the 49ers would use their pick to add a quarterback out of the University of California, Berkeley instead, by the name of Aaron Rodgers. Instead of having to wait until the 24th pick of the event, Rodgers would don the classic red and gold San Francisco jersey instantly altering the dynamics of the 49ers organization. 

With elite arm strength, accuracy, and an ability to dissect opposing defenses, Rodgers would bring a new dimension to the 49ers offense. Although he wouldn’t be perfect out of the gate, needing time to adapt to the professional level, Rodgers would find success under head coach Mike Nolan.  

For a team that had been three years removed from a playoff appearance, the 49ers' decision to draft Rodgers would send a shockwave through the football world. 

From day one, Rodgers's attitude and approach altered the 49ers, filling the roster with charisma and confidence that had not been felt since Steve Young led the team. It wouldn’t take long for Rodgers to embody the California cool, becoming the focal point of the team and the talk of the city. 

As Rodgers’s rookie season unfolds, the bond between the rookie QB and the veteran coach is strong, laying the foundation for what would be a lengthy and successful career in the Bay Area. With Rattay on the sidelines to mentor the budding star, the team easily surpasses their win total from 2004, challenging for a playoff seed for most of the season. 

California's own Aaron Rodgers

Looking to protect their young star, the Niners build a strong offensive line and bolster their receiving corps through free agency and draft picks. With targets such as Brandon Lloyd, Frank Gore, and Arnez Battle, Rodgers would have several options to pick from as he terrorized opposing defenses. 

Once considered to be a laughable division, the NFC West would be transformed into a dog-eat-dog world as the Niners, Seattle Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals would battle year in and year out for supremacy. Of note, the rivalry between San Francisco and Seattle would reach an all-new level as Rodgers and Seahawks’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck became one of the marque rivalries in the NFL. 

A perennial playoff contender, the 49ers, who in reality had failed to make the post-season from 2003 until 2011, would instead become a powerhouse in the NFC. With the opportunity to showcase his brilliance on the biggest stage, Rodgers would etch his name in history with numerous iconic moments, establishing himself as not only one of the great quarterbacks in San Francisco history but the entire NFL. While Joe Montana would remain on top of the list of elite 49ers quarterbacks with his four Super Bowl titles, Rodgers would find a way to surpass Young by claiming not one but two Super Bowl titles, leading the team to the 2012 and 2019 championships. 

As for Smith, the Utah Utes quarterback would find himself heading to Wisconsin to play backup to Green Bay Packers legend Brett Farve, eventually developing into a reliable starter once Farve departed in 2008. Although the Packers would still be a presence in the NFC North, they would not have nearly the same success with Smith as they did Rodgers, proving the impact of a single draft-day decision can alter the course and fortunes of a franchise and the legacy of a hometown quarterback. 

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