One of my least favorite aspects of the NFL Draft is the over-analysis. There's so much microscopic scrutiny of pro prospects that it's easy to see how perceived red flags about a player could somehow morph into bona fide questions. I bring all this up because I'm tired of hearing about an issue that has been stapled to the backside of Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers: The Jeff Tedford factor. It's the most ridiculous concern I've heard about a player's potential.
If you've been following Rodgers' story over the last few months, you've certainly heard this theory. It focuses on the notion that Rodgers, one of the top two available quarterbacks this year, might not become an impressive NFL player because he played under Tedford at Cal. See, there's a history here. Tedford has coached five other quarterbacks who have become first-round picks since 1994: Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, KyleBoller and David Carr (although Carr played only as a freshman under Tedford at Fresno State). None of those players has made a significant impact on the NFL thus far. One -- Smith, the third pick in the 1999 draft -- wasn't even in the league the last two seasons after being the third overall pick in the 1999 draft.
As a result, Rodgers has faced questions about his future. The thinking is that those players haven't significantly improved since leaving Tedford so it's fair to wonder if Rodgers will be any different. Now comes my reaction: How does that make sense? Aside from being a fascinating coincidence, I'm not buying into the idea that there's any substance to this trend. Quarterbacks disappoint in the NFL all the time for all sorts of reasons. Who they played for in college rarely seems to be a major factor.
I could understand if Tedford ran the run-and-shoot, a system that didn't allow busts such as the University of Houston's Andre Ware and David Klingler to learn the necessary fundamentals to succeed at the pro level. But that isn't the case here. If anything, Tedford does everything to get his quarterbacks ready for the NFL. He's the kind of coach who works endless hours to prepare game plans for a quarterback-friendly system that turns signal-callers into stars. He's a master at honing mechanics and making quarterbacks comfortable in his offense. In short, he does what a good coach is supposed to do -- he gets the most out of the talent he's given.
Rodgers is another example of that. Scouts rave about his textbook fundamentals, particularly the smoothness of his delivery, his exceptional footwork and the ease with which he looks off defensive backs. Though 49ers head coach Mike Nolan reportedly is leaning toward selecting Utah quarterback Alex Smith with the first pick in the draft, Nolan recently noted that Rodgers was more polished at this stage of his career than Smith. This all comes back to the coaching Rodgers received from Tedford during his two years at Cal.