We all know the story of how Aaron Rodgers slid to the Green Bay Packers at pick No. 24 in the 2005 NFL Draft. We know how excruciating it was for Rodgers and how it has influenced his career.
The decision not to draft Rodgers certainly haunts a lot of people too, most of them now former coaches and general managers. Jon Gruden — Chucky, himself — is among them.
Gruden was coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the time and called passing on Rodgers among his greatest regrets.
“I went and watched tape with Aaron. I can still remember it like yesterday. I watched tape with Coach Tedford and Aaron. Was really impressed in the film room and then we went out right there in the stadium. We walked right outside and started playing catch to loosen him up and then you look up in the stands and here comes this strange figure walking down the aisle and Aaron says, ‘Who is that?’ I said that’s our receiver. He says, ‘Well who is it?’ I said, ‘You’ll see.’ So it’s Jerry Rice. That was pretty good. That was a great day. I’ve still got the picture hanging right here at the FFCA [Fired Football Coaches Association]. It’s a memento of why I was fired. You can see one of the greatest regrets in my lifetime.”
The Bucs held the fifth pick in that draft and they chose Auburn running back Cadillac Williams. He lasted six seasons with Tampa, rushing for more than 1,000 yards just once (as a rookie). That was also the only season he averaged more than 4 yards per carry (4.1).
Williams’ career yards per carry of 3.8 pretty much sums up just how mediocre he was.
And what did the Bucs have at quarterback at the time? Chris Simms and Brian Griese, who combined to throw for 3,171 yards in 2005.
Gruden’s Bucs did go 11-5 in 2005, but they were 4-12 the next year, when Simms, Bruce Gradkowski and Tim Rattay all started games at QB for the team.
Gruden was out after the 2008 season.