A slightly big piece of news this week was Chris Berman’s announcement that he will step down as ESPN’s primary NFL studio host moving forward. He will host some shows on occasion and make other appearances, but he is taking a significant step away from his previous role at the World Wide Leader.
Berman grew frustrating at times, but I don’t know anybody that didn’t love NFL Primetime back in the day. Back before NFL Red Zone and being able to get any and all highlights you needed on the Internet, NFL Primetime was the go-to show. In the mid-to-late 90s, NFL Primetime and Sportscenter might have been my two favorite sports-related shows.
ESPN eventually lost highlight rights to NBC, and NFL Primetime came to a close on New Years’ Day 2006. The final episode of the 2005 season featured a host of matchups with playoff implications, but it also featured a critical 49ers matchup. The 49ers 2005 season was not a pretty one. The team improved on its 2-14 performance in 2004, but not by much.
They entered the final week of the season at 3-12, facing the 2-13 Houston Texans. It was dubbed the “Reggie Bush Bowl,” with the loser ending up with the No. 1 pick. The New Orleans Saints were 3-12 entering this final weekend, and would lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to drop to 3-13. I had thought the 49ers would have picked No. 1 with a loss, but according to this ESPN recap, the Saints would have claimed the top pick with a loss. I don’t have strength of schedule information in front of me, so I don’t know if that means the 49ers would have picked second or third. Head-to-head record has no impact on draft order.
You can watch highlights of the game above, starting at the 12:20 mark. As you can see, it was a back-and-forth affair that was settled on a Joe Nedney overtime field goal. The Texans led 17-10 at one point, but Tony Banks threw a pick-six to Mike Adams. Houston had a 31-yard field goal attempt with 6:07 left in the fourth quarter, but pushed it wide right. We actually almost had a tie, as the 49ers did not get their game-winning field goal until 3:55 left in the overtime frame.
Whether the 49ers picked second or third, it is one of the many what-ifs in franchise history. At No. 6, the 49ers picked Vernon Davis. It took him time to find his way, but he eventually became a big contributor for the 49ers. The top five picks in the draft ended up being:
If the 49ers were picking second or third, how do you think the pick would have shaken out. My guess is the Saints probably would have taken Bush at No. 1, but I suppose we’ll never know for certain what they thought of Williams. They would not have taken Vince Young given the selection of Alex Smith the prior year.
Would it be Ferguson? The 49ers went into the 2006 season with Jonas Jennings starting at left tackle, and Kwame Harris starting at right tackle. The 49ers signed Jennings to a seven-year, $36 million deal in March 2005. He played 13 games in 2006, but just ten total in 2005, 2007 and 2008 combined. He was released in 2009. When healthy most of the 2006 season, he was part of a strong offensive line. But he could never stay healthy. The team spent a first round pick on Kwame Harris in 2003. He started all 32 games in 2005 and 2006, but never fully worked out. He played 12 games with no starts in 2007 as he was replaced by rookie Joe Staley. Harris signed with Oakland the next year as a free agent.
The also had enough questions at inside linebacker that they might have considered Hawk with the pick. Derek Smith led the team in tackles in 2005, but slowly lost ground before exiting the NFL. Their leading linebacker tacklers in 2006 were Brandon Moore with 92 combined tackles, and Derek Smith with 70. The 49ers would go on to draft Patrick Willis in the following year’s draft.