The results of last week’s re-draft are in. As always, this hindsight is brought to you by the Dr. Boobie Hyver Lasik Eye Surgery Center: “The Official Lasik Surgeon of Dennis Ericksons everywhere.” Clearly, these choices were not difficult. Much like last week (and most 49ers games during the past decade), it was not even competitive. In fact, only Shawntae Spencer received a modicum of votes:
2004: Round 1
This choice was pretty easy for you. Too bad it wasn’t for Donahue and company. Drafting Snee means that Chilo Rachal would be a figment of our collective imagination.
2004: Round 2
The Dockett selection was a given. Can you imagine a defensive line that featured Justin Smith and Dockett at the ends? It would probably look just like a unit that featured Smith and Ray McDonald.
Hardwick vs. Starks: I think Starks would fit the bigger need. But, weight concerns probably doomed him.
2004: Round 3
Recap: Even if the 49ers had drafted Snee and Hardwick, the line would still be as porous as Cornell’s defense in the classic 1922 Field Hockey Championship. Am I right? I mean, Princeton really stuck to those heathens on the hill, didn’t they?
As for that defense that was one of the worst in the league, it would be even worse. Perhaps the team could win in shootout fashion, a la the 2011 Green Bay Packers. I guess we’d be banking on the quick development of Matt Schaub.
The 2004 Season
It would be another forgettable one for the 49ers (surprise!). But, perhaps, it was even more so for the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers would win two games in 2004. Both would 31-28 overtime victories, and both would come against the Cardinals. What are the odds?
After a 2003 draft that yielded no immediate starters, the 49ers found themselves equally devoid of talent as they were of leadership and managerial competence.
At quarterback, the 49ers chose the committee approach, after head coach Dennis Erickson watched Remember the Titans for the first time (He was always a bit behind the times). “It worked for Coach Boone,” Erickson asserted, defiantly.
“We just need to find our fake blast with a backside George reverse,” Erickson continued, “like our lives depend on it.”
Shockingly, the quarterback-by-committee approach failed (a new precedent, to be sure). Erickson was never able find his own Rev Harris or his Ronnie Bass. What he and 49er fans would find, however, is that the actors that played Harris and Bass could have quarterbacked the team more effectively than could Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, or Cody Pickett.
Alas, it would be unfair to place blame solely on Rattay, Dorsey, and/or Pickett, as the team as a whole lacked talent.
This team would finish with a 2-14 record, securing the first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
York, apparently disappointed in Erickson and Donahue’s performance, jettisoned the two despite the combined seven years remaining in contractual (salary) obligations.
“Nobody thought we’d be sitting here at 2-14,” York asserted following the split. “Absolutely nobody.”
York’s surprise in the team’s dismal performance illustrates just how out of touch he was. But, to be fair, only fans and casual observers of the game knew that a talentless team would have difficulty winning one game, let alone two.
York’s search for replacements would center on head coaches with NFL experience, according to Greg Beachem of the Associated Press. The head coach would then have the autonomy to hire his own general manager.
York insisted that this method gave “the 49ers the best opportunity to get a look at the best candidates and the most candidates.”
Like the head coaching search of 2003, the 49ers first choice (Pete Carroll) would essentially turn down the position. And so, over a 2-week period, the 49ers would interview Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, and Tennessee coordinators Mike Heimerdinger and Jim Schwartz.
They would eventually settle on Mike Nolan, the son of former 49er head coach Dick Nolan.
The hiring Nolan flooded the Bay Area with optimism. Fans saw parallels between the 49ers of 2005 and those of the late Sixties. Just like father Dick would help turn around a floundering franchise, fans thought Mike would do the same.
Nolan would hire Seattle’s scouting director Scot McCloughan as his vice president of player personnel. McCloughan was widely considered a “rising star.” Former Packer’s general manager Ron Wolf backed the hiring, saying that McCloughan “has an exceptional eye for talent, and he learns very quickly,” and that “he’ll be able to withstand all the pressures that go with the job.” (History would prove Wolf partially wrong).
McNolan, as they’d come to be known, would waste no time in attempting to improve the roster, signing tackle Jonas Jennings to a seven-year, $36 million contract (including $12 million guaranteed).
This would be the first of many controversial acquisitions.
The 2005 Draft
The draft would fail to provide difference makers, especially in the later rounds. Only one player — Frank Gore — would make a significant impact as a pro. Still, despite the dearth of talent taken, this draft might go down as one of the most debated in 49ers history. The reason: Alex Smith.
Controversial acquisition number two.
In the months leading up to the draft, the 49ers kept tight-lipped, careful not to tip their hand and expose their preferred No. 1 draft choice. Still, most expected McNolan to choose a quarterback: either Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers.
Smith was the “other” guy. He was foreign, having played for the alien Utah Utes. He was bigger and more athletic than Rodgers was, which amounted to more hype.
Rodgers, on the other hand, was a fan favorite. He was a local, having grown up just hours north of San Francisco in a barren college town called Chico. It was in Chico that he would learn to idolize the 49ers, though he would leave there to play his college football at Cal. Prior to the Draft, Rodgers would return to his hometown, and this is how I (almost) met him.
In 2005, I was living in Chico, taking (but not necessarily passing) classes at Butte Community College. When I was not experimenting with college courses, I managed to hold down a part-time job at The Home Depot. It was there that I would befriend Trent, who just so happened to be the childhood friend of Rodgers.
Trent hardly mentioned Rodgers, despite his burgeoning fame. In fact, were it not for the time I saw the two together, I would have thought that their friendship was of the fictional kind.
Days before the Draft, Rodgers was visiting friends and family. It was then that I was invited to go bowling with Trent, Aaron, and a few other mutual friends. Most sports fans would have jumped at this opportunity, but not me. No, on this particular night, I had a standing study “date” (not “study” date) with a girl who was the object of my affection.
You see, I actually thought she would be impressed by the fact that I stood-up (so to speak) Aaron Rodgers to study for a History test mid-term with her (I would go on to fail that test — one of the many downsides to studying with a girl who you’re desperate to date).
My relationship with the girl would advance, as we would later go to a Something Corporate concert together. And, after the show, we would head back to my place, where I would watch her make out with a random guy whom she thought was a member of the band (This isn’t a complete non-sequitur, as the band was at my house).
Like the 49ers, I would regret spurning Rodgers. Where the 49ers were left with miserable quarterback play and five years of losing records, I would suffer a barren love life and a failing grade in History. Where the 49ers’ narrative would be one of constant disappoint and upheaval, mine would be one that did not end with Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers and I becoming best friends after I beat him at bowling. In the end, both the 49ers and I would be left asking: “what if?”
This is the question you must answer: what if the 49ers selected Rodgers? Would they have been celebrating a sixth Super Bowl victory by now? Would they have encroached upon the perfect season? Would Rodgers have been able to withstand the carousel of coordinators and receivers?
To assert you opinion, click here to see if you can draft better than McNolan.