Way back in 2005, the San Francisco 49ers had the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. At the time, rumor had it that they were deciding between two quarterbacks: Utah's Alex Smith and Cal's Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers ultimately went with Smith, while Rodgers fell 23 spots to the Green Bay Packers. The rest is history.
Smith has gone on to become basically the definiton of a league-average quarterback, one who lost his job with San Fran to Colin Kaepernick and has essentially stayed the same player since moving to the Kansas City Chiefs. Rodgers, meanwhile, has become one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, a Super Bowl-winning multiple-time MVP.
What was the reasoning behind the 49ers opting for Smith over Rodgers? Well, Mike Nolan, who was the team's coach at the time, told NFL Network that (among other things) the team considered Smith "safe" while it felt Rodgers was "very cocky, very confident, arrogant" per CSN Bay Area. If that sounds ridiculous to you, well... you're not alone. Because it is quite ridiculous.
In fully explaining his reasoning, Nolan allowed that there were other considerations, such as the fact that the 49ers felt they would have to change Rodgers' mechanics and they felt Smith was more mobile. He indicated that he felt that might have been "paralysis by analysis" before adding, “The other thing as Alex at the time was a good kid -- a very good person, a safe choice, always trying to please. On the other hand, Aaron was very cocky, very confident, arrogant. So you can say, ‘Why didn’t you take him to begin with?’ Because that’s really what your best quarterbacks look like. They aren’t very pleasing. They aren’t very safe.
“And as time has showed, that’s really how Alex plays. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s very secure with the ball. And on the other hand, Aaron is a slinger. He’s all over the place and makes great, big plays. Obviously, he’ll be a Hall of Fame player one day.”
In just less than four full years with the 49ers, Nolan's teams compiled a record of 18-37. He spent last season as the linebackers coach for the San Diego Chargers.