Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/29/12
Just as he was playing possibly the of his eight-year career, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith saw it all unravel in the last three weeks after a concussion sidelined him on Nov. 11 and second-year pro Colin Kaepernick stepped in. Now healthy, Smith finally spoke up Thursday, a day after head coach Jim Harbaugh named Kaepernick the starter for Sunday's game in St. Louis and, it seems, beyond. "It sucks, I don't know what else to say" Smith offered at the team's headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif. And with that Smith ended the polite silence that he kept for so long. This latest blow was a big one for Smith, who has been surrounded by controversy long before he even heard the name Kaepernick. He was the center of controversy in 2005, even before he was officially in the NFL. It began well before the draft and included such soon-to-be marquee names as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, all of them would soon be involved in dramatic NFL controversies. In March of 2005, The Sports Xchange reported that, in addition to a debate over whether the 49ers would take Smith or Rodgers with the first pick in the draft, the team also was considering trading the pick to San Diego. The Chargers had an unusual dilemma, an embarrassment of riches. Rivers, considered more NFL-ready than either Smith or Rodgers when was drafted in 2004, held out of camp long enough for Brees to keep his starting job and make the Pro Bowl. Rivers had a seven-year, $22.4 million contract that included a $14.2 million signing bonus. If the Chargers traded Rivers, they would immediately take a hit on their salary cap of approximately $9 million. The Chargers had franchised Brees at the cost of $8.078 million, the one-year tender price tag for quarterbacks. If they wanted to keep him out of the free agent market in 2006, they would either have to sign him to a new contract or use the franchise tag. 49ers Coach Mike Nolan and player personnel VP Scot McCloughan looked into a trade. It never happened. The Chargers eventually elected to release Brees, partially because he had a bad shoulder and was, after all, barely six-feet tall. Thus began, his career as a superstar with the New Orleans Saints, whom he helped to resurrect after with a Super Bowl title. That narrowed the field, and the controversy, to Smith and Rodgers. That was played out dramatically on national television on draft day. That time Smith emerged on top. Smith, from Utah, was snapped up by the 49ers with the very first pick. He was immediately the heir apparent to the 49ers starting quarterback position. Cal product Rodgers infamously languished in the draft hall until his name was called hours later -- No. 24 overall -- by the Green Bay Packers, who already had Brett Favre. In the years since, Smith struggled through seven offensive coordinators until he surfaced as one of the league's best last season, guiding the 49ers to the NFC championship game. Rodgers eventually inherited the starting job at Green Bay after Favre departed/retired/transferred in 2008. Rodgers began setting team and NFL records and was MVP in a victorious Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 season. But before all that, this is how Smith and Rodgers were perceived in April of 2005, by NFLDraftScout.com, which is published by The Sports Xchange:Quarterbacks, 2005 Draft (April, 2005) Quarterbacks, always the focal point in pro football, have been the first players selected in six of the last seven NFL drafts. And it may happen again this year, despite a strong debate over which quarterback is best, let alone worthy of the No. 1 pick. Topping the 2005 Draft list of quarterbacks are Utah's Alex Smith and California's Aaron Rodgers, according to rankings by NFLDraftScout.com. Others list them Rodgers and Smith. Who is taken first probably will be determined by the San Francisco 49ers, who are on the clock with the No. 1 and whose roster of seventh-round quarterbacks certainly needs invigorating. Rodgers appears to be more NFL-ready in that he played very well in a pro system at Cal and has the size, arm strength and everything else teams look for in a quarterback. However, he somehow gets demerits from some teams because he has been coached up by Cal's Jeff Tedford, who also churned out such seemingly NFL-ready quarterbacks as Akili Smith, David Carr, Joey Harrington, David Carr and Kyle Boller. Until one of Tedford's good-looking prospects rises to the top in the NFL, expect teams to wonder how NFL-ready his quarterbacks really are. Smith is definitely not NFL-ready, but his upside is tantalizing. He played in a spread-option, shotgun offense and needs to learn little things like taking the snap under center and proper footwork for three-, five- and seven-step drops. And his arm strength is only so-so. But he is an extraordinarily smooth athlete who has been a winner all his life and seems unusually comfortable in unusually uncomfortable situations, where his ability to make great decisions is amazing. Here is a closer look at the top quarterbacks in the 2005 draft:Alex Smith, 6-4 217, Utah Smith is a magician who consistently pulled the rabbit out of the hat in Utah's unusual spread-option offense. Intense inner fire, fluid athleticism, winning know-how (a 46-2 record over his last four years as the starting quarterback), harkens to a similar combination presented by Joe Montana. Operated in a spread attack, in which he took snaps from the shotgun and scanned the field. Moves through his progressions quickly and rarely throws into coverage. Amazingly consistent short to medium range accuracy that projects exceedingly well to teams using the West Coast Offense. Lacks the prototype arm strength and wasn't asked to throw the traditional deep pass often in the Utah scheme. Lanky frame that looks susceptible to injury, though he has never been hurt. Was a dangerous runner in Utah's option attack, coming through with 1,072 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground over the past two seasons. Not as technically sound as some of the other highly ranked quarterbacks and will need time to develop, but has the highest upside of any signal-caller in this class. Threw 47 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions over his 25 game career. Graduated with bachelor's degree (Economics) in only two years, while maintaining a 3.74 GPA. Uncle, John L. Williams, is the head coach at Michigan State.Aaron Rodgers, 6-2 223, California Rodgers is the latest in a long line of highly ranked quarterbacks coached by Jeff Tedford. A bit shorter than you'd like, but has the strongest arm of the class and boasts a career 63.8 completion rate. Quick set-up, fluid delivery, and accurate at all levels. Outplayed USC's Matt Leinart this past season in their head to head matchup, completing his first 23 passes, a Division I-A record. Productive prep player, but was not offered a scholarship by any Division I-A schools. Signed with Butte Junior College and led the team to a No. 2 overall ranking while throwing for 28 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions. Signed on with California after only one season at Butte and quickly emerged as the starter following Kyle Boller's departure in the first round of the NFL Draft. The most complete quarterback of this draft, but the "Tedford Trend" of Jeff Tedford-coached quarterbacks (Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, David Carr, Joey Harrington, David Carr, Kyle Boller)is noted. The all failed to live up to their high draft projections. Rodgers threw for 43 touchdowns compared to only 13 interceptions over his 25-game college career.
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