Rodgers' pro-style experience gives him edge at No. 1
Posted: Wednesday March 23, 2005 8:31PM; Updated: Wednesday March 23, 2005 8:47PM
QB Aaron Rodgers played in a pro-style offense at Cal.
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Attending his first NFL annual meeting as a head coach, Mike Nolan on Wednesday morning found himself surrounded by reporters and seated at the vaunted No. 1 table at the NFC coaches media breakfast at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua.
And by No. 1, we mean in possession of the top pick in next month's NFL draft, a fact that ensures that San Francisco's new head coach will never be lonely or want for conversation between now and April 23.
Peppered with questions concerning the top two quarterbacks in this year's draft -- Cal's Aaron Rodgers and Utah's Alex Smith -- Nolan praised both players, but for the first time drew some distinctions between the two leading prospects for the No. 1 spot. This after Nolan watched both quarterbacks go through their pro-day workouts on consecutive days last week, and then met with them individually for a meal and a little job interviewing.
Nolan's early read? Rodgers has the edge mechanically, given that he is coming out of a pro-style passing game with Cal, while Smith played in Utah's variation of the run-and-shoot, where he lined up in the shot-gun formation and rarely took a snap from under center.
"They did a very good job with all the mechanics, but Aaron is certainly ahead of Alex because of the style of offense he ran," Nolan said. "Alex was doing a lot of things in the workout that he has not really done for two, three years. There was no center to come from underneath. He did take a drop and all those types of things, but it was a little different. The difference was there's a polish in Aaron at this point because he's been doing those types of things physically."
There you have it, NFL fans. With exactly one month remaining until the 49ers have to turn in their card to commissioner Paul Tagliabue, San Francisco's head coach says Rodgers is more polished than Smith in terms of running an NFL-style passing game.
Case closed. Wonder who Miami's going to take at No. 2?
Not exactly, dear draftniks. Rodgers, the local Bay Area boy, is ahead of Smith at this point, but it's not like he can just sit on his cushion and run out the clock for the next 30 days. Good mechanics, Nolan quickly pointed out, aren't everything.
"Mechanics are all fine,'' Nolan said. "Jeff George [the No. 1 overall pick by Indianapolis in 1990] was mechanically pretty damn good, but he couldn't move them more than a couple plays without something happening.
"Alex does some under-the-center stuff in his offense, but he's just behind the other fellow as far as development in that area. Maybe in three years or less they'll be very similar to each other as far as that goes.''
But for every minute Nolan spent talking about Rodgers and Smith's mechanics, he spent twice as much time trying to underscore just how big a role intangibles will play in the 49ers' decision, if they choose to take a quarterback in the No. 1 spot. In Nolan's eyes, a quarterback who has proven he can keep drives alive is a far safer bet than the most mechanically sound passer.