Alex Smith

Aaron Rodgers explains how growing up 49ers fan shaped him as NFL QB

Aaron Rodgers explains how growing up 49ers fan shaped him as NFL QB

Aaron Rodgers' love for the Bay Area and Northern California runs deep.

The Packers quarterback grew up in Chico and starred at Cal, and many believed he'd be drafted No. 1 overall by the 49ers before they passed on him to pick Alex Smith in 2005.

Rodgers since has crafted a Hall of Fame career in Green Bay, but spending his youth attached to the 49ers had a big impact on his life and career path.

"That was so important for me, as far as setting dreams and goals was being able to watch the late '80s and early '90s 49ers teams, which were obviously fantastic," Rodgers told NBC's Mike Tirico ahead of the Packers-49ers Week 12 "Sunday Night Football" clash. "I remember sitting down, we'd have a big Super Bowl party, and watching [Joe Montana] and The Drive. Then thinking, even at 5, 6 years old, 'That's what I want to do. I want to go out and be like that.' "

Rodgers largely has fulfilled his youthful dreams, becoming one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game while donning the green and yellow of Green Bay. Despite his greatness, Rodgers only has one Super Bowl ring to show for his legendary career, but he has the Packers (8-2) in position to make a Lombardi Trophy charge this season.

The Packers' biggest test to date will come Sunday night when they visit Levi's Stadium to face the team Rodgers grew up loving.

The 49ers (9-1) have been one of the most impressive teams in the NFL this season. A vaunted defense led by a fearsome defensive line helped the 49ers get out to an 8-0 start, but questions remained about whether or not quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could lead the team to victory when asked to do so. Garoppolo, without tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, couldn't in the 49ers' Week 10 overtime loss to the Seahawks, but he rebounded to throw four touchdown passes in San Francisco's come-from-behind win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11.

[RELATED: Why beating 49ers in Levi's is so important to Rodgers]

The 49ers likely will need even more from Jimmy G on Sunday night to knock off the Packers and maintain a hold on the top playoff seed in the NFC. 

NFL draft 2019: Ex-49ers GM warns against picking Kyler Murray No. 1

NFL draft 2019: Ex-49ers GM warns against picking Kyler Murray No. 1

The Arizona Cardinals hold the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s 2019 NFL Draft, and there’s plenty of speculation they'll select reigning Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

Back in 2005, the 49ers were in the same position, holding the first overall pick, with an obvious need for a quarterback. San Francisco's general manager at the time, Scot McCloughan, decided to use the selection on Alex Smith, and he has an opinion on the Cardinals' current situation.

In speaking to Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko, McCloughan had major concerns with making Murray the top pick in the 2019 draft, because of what he sees as a critical character flaw.

"To be a legit NFL quarterback, you’ve got to have leadership qualities,” McCloughan said. “Watching Kyler do an interview, it’s like, C’mon, guy, what do you got? Give me something. I’m sure they’re trying to train him up, but ... he’s just not a go-getter. Doesn’t mean he can’t be a good QB. Just means he’s not gonna be the guy in the locker room."

[RELATED: Kyler's football-over-baseball decision gives NFL what it needs]

McCloughan assisted the Browns in the lead-up to their selection of quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft, and that seems to have worked out nicely for Cleveland.

Of course, McCloughan also was the man who opted to select Smith with the first overall pick instead of eventual Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, so maybe he should keep his quarterback evaluations to himself.

NFL rumors: Aaron Rodgers never forgave Mike McCarthy for drafting Alex Smith

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AP

NFL rumors: Aaron Rodgers never forgave Mike McCarthy for drafting Alex Smith

Aaron Rodgers never seemed to like Mike McCarthy, and now we might know why their marriage was doomed to fail.

Despite the Super Bowl title, the eight consecutive playoff appearances and the immense amount of winning the Green Bay Packers did during the 12-plus seasons the quarterback and the coach were paired together, Rodgers always appeared frustrated by McCarthy.

Over the years, cameras have caught the star quarterback rolling his eyes at McCarthy and yelling in frustration at play calls, and the two had a heated exchange during a dreadful 2013 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Was Rodgers' problem with McCarthy born from the wear and tear of a 12-year relationship? Was it frustration at the lack of imagination in the Packers' offensive scheme? Was ego the main culprit?

Thanks to an explosive piece from Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne, new light has been shown on the toxic relationship, and the true reason for their disconnect was revealed.

In the lead-up to the 2005 NFL Draft, many believed Rodgers was destined to be the 49ers' pick at No. 1 overall. That never came to fruition, as the 49ers and McCarthy, who then was the team’s offensive coordinator, chose Alex Smith over Rodgers. That led to Rodgers' tortuous stint in the NFL draft green room before the Packers took him at No. 24.

Rodgers never forgave McCarthy for that, former Packer Ryan Grant told Dunne.

"Aaron's always had a chip on his shoulder with Mike," Grant said. "The guy who ended up becoming your coach passed on you when he had a chance. Aaron was upset that Mike passed on him—that Mike actually verbally said that Alex Smith was a better quarterback."

One year after the 49ers passed on Rodgers and caused him to sit in embarrassment for four-and-a-half hours on national television, McCarthy became Rodgers’ coach, but the quarterback apparently never forgave him. 

As the years wore on and the Packers' offense stagnated, Rodgers became upset with McCarthy's inability to adapt his scheme to the changing NFL. 

"Mike has a low football IQ, and that used to always bother Aaron," a source told Dunne. "He'd say Mike has one of the lowest IQs, if not the lowest IQ, of any coach he's ever had."

The anger and resentment sat and festered throughout their tenure together. According to Dunne, Rodgers never directly addressed any issues, allowing his annoyance with his coach to further poison the relationship until McCarthy finally was fired in December after a loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Now, Rodgers has a new coach, former Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, a bright offensive mind who should challenge Rodgers and inject life into Green Bay's offense. At least, that's the hope.

[RELATED: How many starters can 49ers expect from NFL draft?]

Rodgers and McCarthy won a lot together, but their relationship apparently was dead on arrival due to McCarthy's decision to draft Smith over Rodgers in 2005.

It just took a while to be officially pronounced dead.