The San Francisco 49ers can count on at least one NFL Hall of Famer in their corner Sunday Night, even if he is a little biased on the subject.
Legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice, who won three Super Bowl rings with the 49ers, is picking the team that drafted him back in 1985 to take down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (8-2) on Sunday night in a prime-time matchup between the current favorites to earn the top two playoff seeds in the NFC. In fact, Rice thinks the 49ers (9-1) will beat not only the Packers but also win at the Baltimore Ravens (8-2) and at New Orleans Saints (8-2) to sweep a challenging upcoming stretch of games.
“They’re gonna win them all,” Rice said Tuesday on 95.7 the Game radio show. “The Niners are gonna do it, man. I’m serious. Yeah, they’ve got a big task coming up with the Packers, but this team is going to rise to the occasion and they’re going to get the job done.”
More unexpected, though, were Rice’s comments that Rodgers is still harboring some bitterness toward the 49ers after they passed over him during the 2005 NFL Draft.
“The most important thing against the Packers, they can’t start slow,” Rice said. “They’ve got to start fast because you know Aaron Rodgers is going to come into this ballgame wanting to beat the Niners because he’s still a little pissed off that the Niners didn’t draft him, so this is his way of trying to get back at the Niners. But they can’t start slow, they’ve got to start fast.”
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Recalling Rodgers’ History with the 49ers
Back in April 2005, Rodgers had just finished a standout career at Cal about an hour outside of San Francisco and was considered among the top quarterback prospects, but the 49ers opted instead to select Alex Smith with their No. 1 overall pick. It allowed Rodgers to fall to the Packers at 24th overall — and inspired a legendary quote from him when asked how disappointed he was that he wasn’t going to be a 49er.
“Not as disappointed as the 49ers will be that they didn’t draft me,” Rodgers said in an interview with Bay Area station KPIX 5.
While the legacies of Rodgers and Smith are difficult to compare with how injuries have shaped the latter’s career, the Packers have certainly been pleased with their luck for landing a two-time MVP that will go down as one of the organization’s best-ever players and seems a shoo-in to join Rice someday in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Rodgers has also played well in six career games against San Francisco, throwing for 1,927 yards and 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions to lead the Packers to a 4-2 record.
What’s strange, though, is the reason Rodgers gave for why the 49ers choose Smith over him, which he divulged back in 2016 in an appearance on HBO’s “Any Given Wednesday” series with Bill Simmons.
“The story that I heard, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, was that (former head coach) Mike Nolan said that when he saw Alex open the car door for his mom, he knew that was the quarterback he wanted,” Rodgers said. “I was at lunch with the 49ers. My dad wasn’t there.”
Nolan has previously said Rodgers’ personality factored into the decision to choose Smith, who played several seasons for the 49ers and led them to the playoffs in 2011 before becoming a three-time Pro Bowler with Kansas City.
“The other thing as Alex at the time was a good kid — a very good person, a safe choice, always trying to please,” Nolan told NFL HQ in 2016. “On the other hand, Aaron was very cocky, very confident, arrogant. So you can say, ‘Why didn’t you take him to begin with?’ Because that’s really what your best quarterbacks look like. They aren’t very pleasing. They aren’t very safe.”