|12-11-2005, 10:01 AM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2003
Plummer is winning games, fans
Plummer is winning games, fans
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 11, 2005 12:00 AM
DENVER The new Jake Plummer has long hair, a beard and some miles on him now.
He has never looked more haggard.
He has never looked better.
Amazing what facial hair and fewer interceptions can do for an NFL quarterback.
Q: What's it like suddenly being known for your intelligence on the field?
Plummer: "It's an ongoing thing. I made some dumb decisions last week, so there you go. I'm not the smartest guy on earth anymore."
Off the field and off the cuff, Plummer is the same hissing cat he's always been. It's one of his best qualities. He knows the fickle nature of his business, and that a poor performance today when he leads his Denver Broncos against the Baltimore Ravens, will place him right back in the civic frying pan.
Yet in a city notoriously hard on quarterbacks, Plummer is clearly growing in stature. He went eight full games and 229 passing attempts without throwing an interception, both Broncos records. He has rekindled Super Bowl hopes in Colorado, a state that prefers its quarterbacks and automobiles stamped with the E word (Elway). And he was recently celebrated in an episode of South Park, a popular show set in a fictional Colorado town, when two main characters left the mall with new football cards:
Kyle: Oh, dude. Check it out. I got a Jake Plummer!
Cartman: Ah, man. I got a crappy A.J. Feeley again.
Q: So, how do you like your quarterback now?
George Foster, Broncos offensive lineman: "Jake is the best thing going right now, the best thing in the world . . . because he's winning football games. It's as simple as that."
Rod Smith, Broncos receiver: "We all realize that his position, by far, is the hardest on the team. And we are winning games because Jake is making really good decisions. He is doing a really great job of letting us work for him."
Darrell Luebbe, longtime Broncos fan: "People here wouldn't be surprised if John Elway walked across a lake. But a lot of people are jumping on Jake's wagon right about now."
Yes, it would appear to be a breakthrough year for Plummer, who is nearing his 31st birthday and still living the charmed life. He is incredibly wealthy. He is dating a Broncos cheerleader. After arriving in Denver with a minus 24 turnover ratio and a reputation for brain cramps earned in the latter stages of his career with the Cardinals, Plummer has made the long climb back to even (147 career touchdown passes, 147 interceptions). There is great symbolism in that statistic.
Q: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Plummer: "I see a guy who is enjoying playing the game, in his ninth year, looking to win a championship. But I'm not looking to be retrospective yet. I'm not retired. I'm living in the moment and I'm enjoying it. But I've never been the guy to analyze myself and tell you what I think of me."
Q: But after all you've been through, isn't it nice to be considered an MVP candidate?
Plummer: "I get too much credit, and maybe too much blame. For me to be considered a MVP candidate is more about the team. For me to be considered a MVP candidate is just a joke, really."
Here's the rub: A swashbuckling playmaker by nature, Plummer finds it somewhat ridiculous that he is being exalted for doing the bare minimum. In his view, he is simply the caretaker of a very good offense, handing the ball off and making an occasional play with his arm or legs. The whole truth is far more complex.
In 2004, Plummer had 20 passes intercepted, including an embarrassing left-handed pass that ended up in the hands of a gracious Chiefs defender. It was also a season in which Plummer was fined $5,000 for flipping off a heckler during a home game, and clearly, Broncos fans had grown lukewarm to their pricey quarterback.
So in the off-season, Denver coach Mike Shanahan made a decision. The team would keep Plummer, thus paying him another $6 million in bonus money. But the Broncos would reprogram Plummer, starting with a comprehensive review of every pass he threw during the 2004 season. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak spearheaded the project, and everything was dissected, from the defensive fronts to Plummer's progressions. The results speak for themselves.
"I thought Jake had a heck of a year last year," Shanahan said. "He threw a lot of touchdown passes, threw for a lot of yards, and looking at the film, we knew some of the mistakes that he made were mistakes that he could prevent. He studied extremely hard in the off-season, eliminated a lot of those mistakes, and that's what a great quarterback does."
Q: How hard has it been for Jake, given the shadow he's under?
Shanahan: "People forget. John Elway had it as tough as anybody I've ever been around. It makes it sound like it was easy for John. I think it was harder on John than it was on Jake. People don't realize what John had to go through, but the pressure of winning in a town that expects to win is always tough, and it always starts with the quarterback. Just going to the playoffs is not what this town wants."
Still, Plummer has had more than his share of ordeals, often of his own making. He always has had this uneasy alliance with fame, and more than anything, he is tired of always being a story.
Earlier this season, Plummer left a nasty phone message for a Denver gossip columnist after she revealed the identity of his new girlfriend. In that message, Plummer also took a jab at Denver fans, saying they weren't the greatest in the world. This became really big news, and it came after the audible he called on his wedding day in Hawaii a year before.
Q: You've been getting a lot of publicity lately for a lot of different reasons.
Plummer: "Look, if I think I'm right about something, if I'm having a legitimate argument with someone, I'm going to let them know how I feel. A lot of people have PR people that will make phone calls and take care of things that come up. I'm not that kind of person."
Q: Which gets you in trouble sometimes.
Plummer: "I don't watch reality TV. I don't read US magazine. I don't care what Heath Ledger did last night. I care about real stuff. Stuff that actually has an affect on people. Maybe it's dumb and not too smart, but it's who I am. And that's a real person."
Yet one of the biggest hurdles for Plummer wasn't the pressure that comes with Elway's enormous shadow, but the tragic death of his friend, Pat Tillman. It help explains the beard - which he still wears as a tribute - the sudden earthiness and the sudden disdain for individual accolades.
Q: How has Pat's death changed you?
Plummer: "He was very genuine, very honest, and he stood up for his morals. I may not be out climbing mountains and running marathons, but I believe in what he stood up for, and that's what I try to do. I was talking to his brother (Kevin) the other day. We said that Pat's gone, it sucks, but the only thing we can do now is make sure his legend is being preserved, and I think it's growing all the time."
Q: Has it changed your viewpoint of the NFL having to fight so hard to honor Pat's legacy?
Plummer: "Hey, if the cover-up is happening on the highest level of government . . . I was just a little upset that they didn't honor him a little more than they did last year. Because he's not a guy that you go, 'OK, here, let's give him a moment of silence and we're gone.' You know my feelings about that. But me and the NFL have made up."
Plummer and the city of Denver have made up, too. Another public apology has soothed the civic angst, although it really wasn't necessary this time around, now that Plummer is finding that golden boy touch all over again.
Plummer: "You know, I almost quit the game after my sophomore season at ASU."
Plummer: "Yeah. We were 3-8, with a lot of guys going not taking it seriously. We had a lot of guys going off in different directions, and getting beat wasn't a lot of fun. And with the talent we had, it was very frustrating to me because you could sense that everybody wasn't into it the way some guys were."
Q: Is some of the peripheral stuff getting to you here?
Plummer: "Things on the outside never affect what I do here. I love being around the guys. When I come here, it's an escape. It's my sanctuary. It's my time to have fun."
And as Plummer is discovering, you can have fun in Denver . . . even in the wintertime, even when playing in Elway's wake.
All it takes is winning. All it takes is a Super Bowl trophy on the radar screen. All it takes is a grizzled quarterback learning a few new tricks.
Jake on ...
"I'm still the same person. I'm just in a different setting, in a different city and I haven't shaved in a long time. That's about all I can say."
"I look back at the good times. I don't live in them. I don't get into what could've been different. I know what is still going on. It's not a secret to anybody. They don't do the little things to really take that next step. But to sit here and badmouth them, that's not my style."
His time in Arizona:
"I had a great time when I was there. What I did there, I take pride in. I felt like what I did was special, and somewhere down the road, I'll really enjoy it."
Then and now
Comparing Jake Plummer's career stats with the Cardinals and the Broncos:
Arizona (1998-2002, 84 games)
Att Comp Yds Pct. TD INT
2,754 1,450 17,622 .527 90 114
Denver (2003-current, 39 games)
Att Comp Yds Pct. TD INT
1,164 703 8,783 .603 57 33
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-8253.
|12-11-2005, 10:37 AM||#5|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Garrison NY
dude that's not the best pic of fox...considering that he is giving up the game-winning TD pass against the G-men