When Green Bay traveled to San Francisco to play the San Francisco 49ers in the past, it was always a duel between Brett Favre and Steve Young. These two teams played some great games: the 1998 NFL Championship Game, which the Packers won to play the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII and the 1999 NFC Wild-Card Game where Terrell Owens made “The Catch II” in front of four Packers defenders from Young after the refs totally botched a Jerry Rice fumble call. That game almost cost me a friendship as my mom stupidly made me wear my new Young jersey to school the next day, and my best friend who was also a Packers fan was offended. Luckily, time heals most wounds.
But now the two teams are in different directions. Green Bay is breaking in a new quarterback, while San Francisco is still trying to find the successor for Young. Ironically, Aaron Rodgers could be in San Francisco. In the days leading up to the 2005 NFL Draft, the 49ers were torn between Rodgers and Alex Smith. They chose Smith No. 1, letting Rodgers free-fall all the way down to #24 where Ted Thompson snatched him up. Rodgers got the job of holding the clipboard for Favre for three years before getting his chance. Smith was thrown into the fire Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Smith has gone through three offensive coordinators in three years and is now on his fourth in Mike Martz. Rodgers had to deal with the Favre debacle. Smith is now competing with J.T. O’Sullivan and Shaun Hill for the starting quarterback position. Rodgers is the man in Green Bay.
Yeah, tough cookies Alex.
Anyway, five things to watch for in tonight’s game:
1. The aforementioned storyline between Smith and Rodgers. Yes, I know it’s preseason, but I’ll take any storyline not involving Favre I can get.
2. The battle for the backup running back. As I mentioned yesterday, the battle for third-string running back is heating up. Ryan Grant is not expected to play, so Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency, and Noah Herron should see the majority of the carries and a chance to show what they can do.
3. The 49ers defense. They’ve spent loads of cash on this lately, so let’s see if the cash will come through for them.
4. The Packers defense. The Packers defense is going to have to do more work than they did last season with the offense in transition, so it should be interesting to see how they feast on a pretty weak offense.
5. The battle for backup quarterback. Brian Brohm was thought to have this job locked up as soon as he was drafted, but fellow rookie Matt Flynn has impressed coaches and is expected to challenge Brohm. Intriguing.
I’m not going to be able to watch this game, but good luck to the Packers. I’ll have a report on it tomorrow.