Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers CEO Jed York recalls awkward conversation with Aaron Rodgers

May 5, 2021 at 9:52 AM--

In 2005, the San Francisco 49ers opted to select quarterback Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers. While the former is well-respected across the league and among the fanbase, Rodgers went on to have a Hall of Fame-worthy career. He is the reigning NFL MVP, an award he has now won three times. One has to wonder, what if?

Jed York hadn't yet been named the team's CEO. That occurred three years later, with his parents transitioning to the posts of co-chairmen. Still, he remembers the selection well. The talent-deprived 49ers were about to embark on a rebuild and needed someone who could endure the tough days and years ahead.

"I think when you get to that question of why Alex over Aaron, we — again, this is not me, but collectively as an organization — felt like he was willing to overcome things, and fight and do things," York told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. "We knew we had an uphill battle in 2005, and I think that's why (head coach) Mike (Nolan) and (assistant head coach) Mike (Singletary) both felt — and (VP of player personnel) Scot (McCloughan) — felt Alex was the right pick."

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Rodgers has been bitter about being passed up and then falling to the Green Bay Packers at No. 24 overall. He ended up winning a Super Bowl with the organization, but obviously, his recent relationship with the Packers is strained.

York remembers a conversation he once had with Rodgers, which showed that the Packers quarterback still had a strong opinion about being passed over by his favorite team growing up.

"I actually ran into Aaron," York shared. "This was after we lost to the Giants, in Indianapolis. So, I saw him at one of the NFL events. And I said 'Hello' to him, and he kind of gave me a glare. I was like, 'Look, man, I'm sorry we didn't take you, but I think your career worked out pretty well. I don't know that we could have given you the same things that Green Bay was able to give you. I'm happy for you.'

"He was like, 'I would have still done really well if you guys drafted me.' I'm like, 'I get it. I understand. Hindsight is 20/20. I get it.'"

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan reached out to Packers head coach Matt LaFleur before the draft and asked about the availability of the disgruntled quarterback.

"The exact truth is I didn't want to wake up the next day, on Friday, and see Aaron Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks in this league, traded, without doing any due diligence on it," Shanahan explained. "So I just called Matt and asked him if there was anything to it, and Matt told me I'd be wasting my time if we had Lynch call. And so Lynch did not call anyone the next day."

One report stated that Rodgers hoped the Packers would accept an offer from the 49ers. Pro Football Talk reports that Green Bay feels the Niners and Denver Broncos tampered with Rodgers.

San Francisco went on to draft Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick.

You can listen to the entire conversation with York below.

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