Thursday, April 14, 2005

Edwards and Rolle are better, but 49ers truly need a quarterback

San Jose Mercury News
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - It won't be because of Aaron Rodgers' mechanics, laser-guided arm strength, ties to Jeff Tedford or Chico childhood.
It won't be because Rodgers is the obvious choice, the consensus choice or even necessarily the preferred choice of any single member of the newly formed 49er war room.
If the 49ers select Rodgers with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft later this month, it'll be because of one glaring and totally convincing reason:
He's the anti-Tim Rattay.
For one, Rodgers actually does seem alive when he speaks to people, as evidenced by his cocksure comments to the media Wednesday afternoon and, I'd assume, his interaction with the 49ers' coaching staff during the previous eight hours.
For two, Rodgers never missed significant time at Cal because of injury, something Rattay cannot say about his NFL game career, his NFL practice career, or, I'm guessing, his NFL standing-around-in-a-room career.
For three, Rodgers is the kind of swaggering charismatic presence the 49ers haven't had at quarterback since Steve Young; and no, I didn't forget about Jeff Garcia when I typed that.
Rodgers might not be a perfect franchise quarterback prospect - too short, possibly; too mechanical, theoretically; too dependent on Tedford's teachings, maybe. Rodgers might not be head-and-shoulders above Utah's Alex Smith, who has his own weaknesses.
But Rodgers acts like a franchise QB, throws the sideline pass like a franchise QB and probably can step in and provide decent leadership almost immediately, like a franchise QB ought to.
"I think that really typifies what I am," Rodgers said when asked if he was a member of the franchise QB club.
"I think I'm a guy you can build around. I think my leadership style plus my skills combine to make me the kind of guy you can stick into a situation and then bring guys in to make me better and make the team better."
Which I can't say about Smith, because of the funky spread offense he ran at Utah. Does David Klingler ring a bell? No, because he stunk in the NFL after racking up monster yards at Houston.
And which new 49er Coach Mike Nolan can't say about Rattay, who had his chance last season and whose most memorable passes were completed to linebackers and safeties.
My sense is that Nolan, if all things were equal and truth-serum were available, would admit that Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards and Miami cornerback Antrel Rolle are the best bets in this draft to become stars.
But all things are not equal. The 49ers need a quarterback. I'm sure ownership would not mind adding an eagle-eyed QB from a local school, with local credentials and ticket-selling possibilities.
And Rodgers is there, grinning calmly and ready to throw darts starting Day 1 and for a long time after that. Rodgers was even cool enough to shoot down Edwards' assertion that taking a QB with the top pick was a riskier endeavor than taking a play-making receiver.
"Braylon is a phenomenal player," Rodgers said. "But a receiver only catches a few balls a game, and I'm touching the ball every play... My role on the team, my importance to an offense is a little more important on each play than a receiver's role."
Hey, Aaron, if the 49ers take you No. 1 after a 2-14 season, shouldn't the expectations for this once-proud franchise be lowered?
"Not at all," Rodgers said. "You bring a new coach in, bring a top pick in, the expectations are going to be high, which they should. The Bay Area should expect this team to be a lot better next year."
I do keep hearing indications that new personnel guru Scot McLoughan likes Smith, though that might either be a smokescreen or something Nolan can overrule easily.
I don't know Nolan well, but I know that he wants the 49ers to get much tougher and I know that he needs his quarterback to command respect from every corner of the field and locker room.
So Rodgers answered just about perfectly when I asked him to name his model NFL quarterback.
"I'm my own man - I'm starting a legacy for myself," Rodgers said. "But I love the way Brett Favre plays, his mental and physical toughness. I think those are two of my strong points."
When's the last time a 49er quarterback reminded you of Favre? It has been a long time, longer than anybody really would like to admit.

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