Aaron Rodgers the 49ers Pick?
by Glenn Dickey
Mar 26, 2005

AARON RODGERS seems likely to be the 49ers choice as the first pick in the April 23-24 NFL draft.

That was the impression I got when I talked to new 49ers coach Mike Nolan after Rodgers workout at Cal. It was also Ira Miller’s opinion after Ira talked to Nolan at the NFL meetings in Hawaii. My impression may have been influenced by my Cal background, but Ira has no such bias; his alma mater is Penn State.

After witnessing NFL tryouts for both Rodgers and Stanford tight end Alex Smith, I thought that these workouts are mostly a dog-and-pony show, because many of the tests – such as speed in the 40, bench press and vertical jump – have limited connection to actual football ability.

Scouts I talked to at these tryouts agreed with me in principle. One scout said, “We have way too much time between the end of the season and the draft, so we over-evaluate. There are players who do well in workouts but aren’t good football players, and there are also good football players who don’t do well in workouts.”

Smith fell in the second category in his workout, being timed only at 4.9 for the 40 on a surface that was soggy from rain. “You want to know how much credence I put in these times?” said the scout. “I broke my stopwatch, so I’m using my kid’s Spiderman watch. It works fine for this.”

In Rodgers’ case, though, his workout definitely helped. His late-season statistics fell off last fall, through no fault of his own. His best receivers, especially deep threat Chase Lyman, were injured, so coach Jeff Tedford wisely went to a run-oriented offense.

In the workout, brilliantly staged by Tedford, Rodgers showed the scouts that he can throw any kind of pass, including the deep ball, with great accuracy.

He’s also a great leader, a guy other players listen to in the huddle. The 49ers don’t have that kind of leader now, and Nolan has stressed the need for one.

Nolan also is talking about wanting to draft a quarterback who could start from game one. That’s important because none of the holdovers – Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey and Cody Pickett – have shown anything to think they could be the quarterback who leads a big 49er improvement.

It’s asking a lot of a rookie quarterback to start, but Rodgers has the ability and the mental toughness to do it. He’d be the right choice. The 49ers need a lot of help at other positions, too, but it all starts with the quarterback.

THIS AND THAT:

--When a giant company offered to buy the entire NHL and run it as a single entity, the proposal was quickly rebuffed. But there is a precedent: the American Basketball League, a women’s league, of the late ‘90s.
Started by Gary Cavalli, Anne Cribbs and Steve Ham, the league was run out of their Palo Alto office. Players were apportioned to the teams around the league, to ensure relatively equal competition – and also to try to keep top players in the same areas in which they had played college basketball.
“There were pluses and minuses to the system,” said Cavalli, who is now executive director for the Emerald Bowl, which is played at PacBell Park.
“The plus was that there were no George Steinbrenners, so you could control the finances. The minus was that you had no local ownership. I think you really need a local owner who is enthusiastic about the team and who the fans can relate to. I think we would have modified our approach to do that if we’d lasted longer.”
Unfortunately, the NBA decided to start its own women’s league, and told sponsors that if they wanted to be a part of the men’s league, they had to be involved in the women’s operation, too. The ABL was a superior league and played in basketball season, but it had to fold in the middle of its third season because of a lack of advertising revenue.

--One thing baseball does right: spring training. Many fans love to go to see their teams in Florida or Arizona and make a complete vacation out of the trip. The games are interesting only as a chance to see new players, of course, but fans can choose to pay to see the games or not. Only games played the final weekend before the season in home parks are included in season tickets. Contrast that to NFL teams which make exhibition games part of the season ticket package, which means than 20 per cent of the games fans pay for are meaningless. Still the biggest ripoff in sports.

--The biggest reason the 49ers switched from KGO to KNBR for this season is the mid-week promotion KNBR can give them but KGO, with its very successful talk show format, could not. Game broadcasts are the lifeline for baseball teams but they’re much less important for NFL teams because so many games are televised. The mid-week promotion, though, is critical. KNBR was already doing quite a bit of that, but they’ll step it up considerably this year. I just hope the station has something to promote.

--When they played together with the Oakland Raiders, Tom Keating and Ben Davidson used to take off-season motorcycle trips, to Mexico and around the United States. “I’m going to take a trip to New England to hit New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine,” said Keating, now living in Washington, D.C. “After that, I’ll have been in all 50 states. Ben got them all years ago, and he’s added several foreign countries, too.”

--Wretched excess: Sports Illustrated this week has a cover with a top line reading “What Steroids Have Done to Baseball,” and another headline reading, “Broken Dreams,” leading into a story by Gary Smith. I put Smith in the same category as Frank Deford, but this was a story doomed by its premise. Take a deep breath, guys. Steroids are not the end of the world as we know it.

--As proof that steroids alone aren’t enough, I offer you Jeremy Giambi and Marvin Benard. Comments reader Stan DeVaughn, “If you combine greatness with steroids you get legends. When you combine a hamburger with exotic seasoning, you still have just a burger.”

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