The San Francisco 49ers were one of 23 teams to pass on one of the greatest players in NFL history.
But no one cares about the other 22 teams because none of them took a quarterback. The Niners did: Utah’s Alex Smith.
Various ex-San Francisco coaches and executives have commented on the decision that dramatically altered the course of two franchises. Now, it’s former head coach Mike Nolan’s turn, giving the NFL Network his explanation of the fateful decision in 2005 (via The Comeback).
Basically, we thought in the long term that Alex Smith would be the better choice than Aaron. It was one of those, maybe, paralysis by analysis. We had so much time to think about it.
We put a lot of stock in changing Aaron’s throwing style. We also got caught up a little bit in that Alex was so mobile. That was a good thing. But in the end, we felt Alex would be the better long-time guy. Obviously, we were wrong in that thought process.
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.