Last night I watched the Packers play the Chiefs on "Monday Night Football".
The Packers, and most importantly Aaron Rodgers, shredded a pretty good Chiefs defense. I know that the Chiefs have some injuries in the secondary and they start a rookie back there, but Rodgers looked invincible last night. Throws were on target. He hit receivers in stride. He moved around the pocket with a mastery I haven't seen since Brett Favre. Basically, in my opinion, Rodgers has surpassed Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the best quarterback in football.
On the other sideline, the Chiefs have a very different situation at quarterback. Now, I'm an Alex Smith fan. I think he's a serviceable quarterback. At his best, he's a decent game manager. But, last night, he looked lost and scared. His offensive line could not block the Packers defensive line last night. When he did have time, he danced around in the pocket and usually ended up scrambling for small to no gains. When he had open receivers, he either under threw or flat out missed them. The Chiefs did break their streak of no passing touchdowns to receivers, but by that point in the game, it was moot. Jamaal Charles played well, he always does, but the Chiefs need Alex Smith to do more if they want to compete in the AFC. Jamaal Charles can only do so much, he needs help from his quarterback.
The game and the Packer win is not the point of my column today. While watching this game last night, the commentators for ESPN(the god awful team of Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico) brought up the fact that Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers were in the same draft class. One of them was the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, the other was the 24th overall pick. Watching this game, you'd think that Rodgers was clearly the first overall pick, right? Well, you'd be wrong. Alex Smith was the overall number one pick in that draft by the San Francisco 49ers. After the 49ers took Smith, 22 other teams passed on Aaron Rodgers. He had a funky delivery and he didn't have a ton of highlights as the quarterback of the Cal Bears. At least, that's what the "geniuses" said on their scouting reports. Rumors also surfaced that the Packers picked him out of spite. They didn't want the Chicago Bears to draft him, who had the next pick, which they then immediately traded after the Packers took Rodgers. People in Green Bay and fans of the Packers all over the world were furious that the Packers took Rodgers, my father and I included. We didn't want a quarterback, we had Favre. And if they were going to take a QB, why Rodgers? We all thought he wouldn't amount to much of an NFL player. He would also have to sit behind Favre until Favre was done playing. The pick didn't make any sense to anyone, except for the editor of this website, RD. He called me and my dad after the pick and said that the Packers got the steal of the draft, and that Rodgers was going to be a star. We told him he was nuts. He had no idea what he was talking about.
I'm glad that I was wrong. I'm thrilled to have Aaron Rodgers quarterbacking my team. But, Rodgers did have to sit for the first four years of his career and learn from Favre. The same couldn't be said for the first overall pick, Alex Smith. He was going to be the savior of the 49er franchise in the early 21st century. His blend of athleticism, he ran the spread at Utah before almost every team was running it in college football, was going to change the position. Unfortunately, the 49ers were not a good team and Smith's first five years were rough. The 49ers lured Jim Harbaugh away from Stanford in 2011 and that changed Smith's NFL career, for one and a half seasons. In Harbaugh's first season, he needed Smith to be a manager of the game, and that's what he got. Smith became a guy that didn't turn the ball over and could move the chains with short passes and his legs. He led the 49ers to the playoffs for the first time in a long time. During that same season, 2011, Aaron Rodgers coming off a Super Bowl win in 2010, won the MVP. He was no game manager, he was a game winner. The very next season, the 49ers had one of the best starts of any team in the NFL, and Smith was leading the way. He suffered a concussion midway through the season, and lost his starting job to second year "phenom" Colin Kaepernick. As athletic as Smith was, Kaepernick was younger and more athletic. Harbaugh rode Kaepernick all the way to the Super Bowl, the Ravens beat the 49ers, and Smith was relegated to back up duty. Meanwhile, Rodgers was putting up huge numbers, won a title, won two MVP awards, was a constant on All Pro and Pro Bowl teams, winning division titles with ease and playing in the playoffs every year. Their careers were on completely different paths. Rodgers was playing like the first overall pick, and Smith, he may as well been a fourth round pick. The 49ers traded Smith to the Chiefs the season following their Super Bowl appearance. The Chiefs have been an okay team under Smith, but they haven't had anything near the success the Packers have enjoyed with Rodgers at the helm.
Just to give you guys a taste of some of the players picked between Smith and Rodgers, names like, Cadillac Williams(out of the league), Braylon Edwards(out of the league), Cedric Benson(out of the league), Ronnie Brown(I think he's out of the league), Shawne Merriman(retired and also a women abuser) and David Pollack(out of the league due to a neck injury and a huge chauvinist). Guys who are still playing that were picked before Rodgers include some good players like Derrick Johnson(linebacker for the Chiefs), Damarcus Ware(linebacker for the Broncos) and Adam "Pac Man" Jones(DB for the Bengals). These guys are good, but I'd much rather have Aaron Rodgers. I know that not all teams need a QB when it's draft time, or that the draft is a total crap shoot, but Rodgers is, by far, the best player taken in the 2005 draft. Watching the game last night and hearing that they were in the same draft class was so shocking to me. I thought Rodgers was older than Alex Smith because he's so much better than Alex Smith. Rodgers has mastered the quarterback position, and Alex Smith struggles to be a game manager. The fact that the 49ers thought so highly of Smith and that Rodgers wasn't even on their radar is bewildering to me. I'm sure they wish they had taken Rodgers, but I'm sure a lot of teams in the 2005 draft wished they'd taken Rodgers. I guess you never truly know what you will get out of the draft, but last night, Aaron Rodgers was one thousand times better than Alex Smith, and Rodgers was picked 23 spots later than Smith.
Truly, head scratching.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man podcast. He gives the editor too much credit, I just thought the Packers were being asses to the Bears. Follow Ty on twitter @tykulik.