Steve Young was in Aaron Rodgers’ position two decades ago, as an incumbent starting quarterback nearing the end of his career with a first-round pick breathing down his neck.
If Jordan Love, the QB the Green Bay Packers traded up to pick No. 26 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, is anything like Jim Druckenmiller, who the 49ers selected at No. 27 in 1997, then the 36-year-old Rodgers has nothing to worry about.
“I went out the first practice to watch Jim throw, and I'm like, 'I'm fine. We’re good.’ ” Young quipped to former 49ers coach and current NFL Media analyst Steve Mariucci on Tuesday.
Druckenmiller didn’t exactly push Young. He completed just under 36 percent of his passes in his lone NFL start in 1997, a 15-12 49ers win. Young, meanwhile, made his sixth straight Pro Bowl.
The 49ers traded Druckenmiller to the Miami Dolphins for a seventh-round pick just before the 1999 season, using it to select long-snapper Brian Jennings. Druckenmiller didn’t play another down in an NFL regular-season game, later spending time in the Arena Football League and the first iteration of the XFL.
It helped that the 49ers had found Young’s short-term successor after whiffing on his long-term one. San Francisco signed Jeff Garcia, fresh off a Grey Cup win, to back up Young in 1999. Garcia started 10 games that season, and he was the 49ers’ starter when Young retired after that season.
Druckenmiller wasn’t the 49ers’ last miss on a quarterback, either, as they also drafted Giovanni Carmazzi ahead of Tom Brady and passed on Rodgers with the No. 1 pick in 2005. Assuming Jimmy Garoppolo starts for the 49ers in Week 1 this season, he’ll be the fourth San Francisco QB (Garcia, Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick are the others) to start three consecutive season openers since Young retired.
Garcia, an undrafted free agent who began his professional career in the CFL, was the last to start four. The Packers better hope Rodgers doesn’t get the same feeling in his first practice with Love as Young had with Druckenmiller, as the 49ers haven’t ever truly found a long-term replacement.