|01-14-2006, 03:46 AM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2003
Plummer building legacy
Some love for jake....long, but a good read.
Plummer building legacy
The Boston Globe
Jan. 13, 2006 07:55 PM
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Here in the great outdoors, warm summer days offered substantial options for a young, wealthy, high-profile athlete. Yet on so many of those sun-splashed occasions, Jake Plummer found himself cruising down Arapahoe Boulevard, then heading indoors - to the movies, of all places.
Strange, perhaps, but if ever Plummer needed to remind himself why he was en route to such a destination, ice-cold water could be thrown on his face with glances to the side of the road. John Elway Dodge, conveniently situated next to John Elway Toyota.
Side-by-side, cash-flow investments to go with back-to-back Super Bowl rings. Fitting testaments to a legend whose shadow still looms large and in which Plummer must play as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos.
"They've tried to make him John and make him live up to their standards," said Ashley Lelie, a fourth-year wide receiver for the Broncos. "That's one of the hardest things to play in when they do that. But Jake's doing a good job of coming close."
Elway walked away from the game in the spring of 1999. A few months earlier, in his final pro game, Elway completed 18 of 29 passes for 336 yards and one touchdown to lead the Broncos past the Falcons for their second consecutive Super Bowl title. After 16 years in the NFL, all with Denver, Elway bid farewell, the virtual owner of this town. Oh, and good luck to the guy coming along next.
That was Brian Griese, whose run was, for the most part, forgettable - seasons of 6-10, 11-5, 8-8, and 9-7, one playoff appearance, and some off-field problems. The marriage came to an end following the 2002 season, and if folks in Denver were willing to drive him out of town, none seemed eager to pick up the new free agent quarterback on the way back.
Jason Steven Plummer was established, but his first six years in the NFL had been spent in that abyss of a franchise, the Arizona Cardinals. Rarely were the Cardinals involved in meaningful games - there had been just one winning season and two playoff games - and while Plummer showed flashes of brilliance, it was hard to overlook the fact he had thrown more interceptions (114) than touchdown passes (90).
Elway he wasn't. Heck, Broncos fans weren't even sure he could match up to Griese.
Jeb Putzier thought otherwise. The tight end had just completed his rookie year when he heard that a familiar face had been signed on to quarterback the team. Putzier is from Eagle, Idaho, just a short drive from Boise, where Plummer had gained so much notoriety before taking his talents to Arizona State. Plummer is four years older, "but I knew of him and I was glad to hear that the Broncos had signed him because I knew how tough he was," said Putzier.
Of that, there wasn't much doubt. After all, in six seasons with the Cardinals, Plummer was the offense, and teams simply had to zero in on him. He was constantly chased and was sacked a whopping 215 times in 84 games.
"He was a great teammate and gave everything he had," said Pete Kendall, the onetime Boston College standout who played on the Cardinals' offensive line in front of Plummer in 2001-02. "But the problem was, the way we were built, he had to be outstanding for us to have a chance to win."
That didn't figure to be the case in Denver.
His own man
Unlike Griese, who seemed to go out of his way to ignore the Elway legacy, Plummer embraced it. On the day he was introduced to the Denver media, Plummer posed with a life-size poster of Denver's favorite athlete and he sought out Elway for advice. Basically, Plummer was told to be himself, and they had to be pleasant words to hear, because first and foremost, he's a unique individual.
"Jake, he's a regular comedian," said running back Mike Anderson.
"He's a down-to-earth man," said wide receiver Rod Smith. "He's enjoying himself. On the field, he's a pro. But off the field? He's a regular guy."
For his offensive linemen, Plummer has carried on a tradition he started in Arizona, buying them gifts such as cowboy boots, and treating them to dinners at the finest restaurants in town. Though he signed a seven-year, $40 million contract in 2003 and could buy whatever vehicle he desired, Plummer has gathered a lot of attention for driving a run-of-the-mill, midsize car.
"I hope he buys a Rolls-Royce and lets me drive it," said Smith, drawing laughs, and more examples to validate the perception of Plummer; that he's a 31-year-old free spirit with a passion for the game and a never-say-die attitude that he exhibited on countless wild scrambles during his stay in Arizona.
Highlight-reel maneuvers, of course, but that's not the sort of stuff Broncos coach Mike Shanahan envisioned for Plummer when he went after him in 2003. Shanahan loved Plummer's mobility, no doubt, but favors an offense built around a no-nonsense running attack and a high-percentage passing game that mandates limiting turnovers. Observers pointed out that Plummer had averaged nearly 1.5 interceptions per game with Arizona and wondered aloud if Shanahan had perhaps been on the job too long.
Wasn't Plummer called "Jake the Mistake" by so many critics?
"I have made plenty of mistakes in my career," conceded Plummer, flashing a sly grin. "So I know how to bounce back from them."
Shanahan acknowledged the high number of interceptions, but was vehement in his assessment of Plummer. "He can make plays that other guys can't make," said the coach.
So what happened in his Denver debut? Plummer completed just 12 of 25 passes for 115 yards and was intercepted three times at Cincinnati. That the Broncos still had enough to beat the then-hapless Bengals, 30-10, didn't wash away the rough start for Plummer. Fortunately, the game was on the road, but Plummer knew what people in Denver were thinking: See, we told you he's not Elway.
"It's how it's always going to be here," said Smith. "Doesn't matter who the quarterback is."
Plummer felt it did matter. He was sure he had the mental toughness to handle the situation, and that first year in Denver proved him correct. Though he missed four games with shoulder and foot injuries, Plummer was intercepted only four more times that regular season and he helped Denver gain a wild-card berth with a 10-6 record and career-best 91.2 quarterback rating.
There was another 10-6 record in 2004, another wild-card playoff berth, and Plummer gained some favor with the Bronco faithful by throwing for 4,089 yards, the most in club history, and 27 touchdowns, matching Elway's team record. But for a second straight season, it came to an end with a humbling playoff loss at Indianapolis. Coupled with a few mistakes he apologized for - an obscene gesture to fans who heckled him; an angry confrontation with a local gossip columnist who reported that Plummer had been out on a date with one of the Broncos' cheerleaders - well, it made for a rough start for a guy trying to settle into Elway's shadow.
Of course, it could have been argued that Denver fans were forgetting these facts about No. 7:
Elway lost his first two playoff games, too.
Elway was winless in his first three Super Bowl appearances, his team outscored by a humiliating 136-40.
Elway threw at least one interception in each of his first nine playoff appearances, a stretch during which Denver was just 4-5.
Ah, but Elway had won his last seven playoff starts, had been picked off just three times in that stretch, and had brought back-to-back Super Bowl titles to this football-mad town. That is what Denver fans thought of after the 2004 season, and it was easy to point to the cause of the woes: Plummer had been picked off 20 times in the 2004 regular season, once more in the playoff loss, and he was killing the Broncos.
"It's a complex offense, because of all the checks and the reads," said Lelie. "I was struggling, too, but Jake's a quarterback, and in this town. I think 's harder on him."
Plummer had first gained national attention as the flamboyant quarterback for Arizona State, leading the Sun Devils to an undefeated 1996 regular season as a senior. In the Rose Bowl, Plummer showed why they affectionately called him "Jake the Snake" by breaking tackles and making his way into the end zone on third and 11 to put ASU ahead of Ohio State, 17-14, with 1:40 to play. Though the Buckeyes stormed right back to stun Arizona State, 20-17, Plummer's reputation for late-game heroics was set in motion. Though he spent a half-dozen seasons with lousy teams in Arizona, Plummer is credited with 21 come-from-behind victories, a number surpassed by just Drew Bledsoe (24) among current NFL starters.
Broncos fans still shook their heads. Twenty interceptions and 0-2 in the playoffs. That is what Plummer heard, but his buoyant personality refused to let it get to him.
"You're labeled as you start your career and I have tried to work through that label and just have some fun and try to win some games up here," said Plummer. "I had some good years in Arizona, but the way my career started wasn't like, let's say, Tom Brady's."
Latest numbers don't lie
There it is, the bottom line to Saturday night's AFC divisional playoff game against the Patriots at Invesco Field: Plummer isn't Brady, he of the three Super Bowl rings and 10-0 playoff record. The Denver quarterback, who has heard for three years that he isn't Elway, is now being told he isn't Brady.
Again, his teammates find it laughable. They look at Plummer and his Johnny Damon-like long hair and beard, then look at Brady and his neatly-cropped, "GQ" hairstyle, and agree there's a stark contrast in appearance, but it doesn't mean a thing.
"You think Plummer cares about how people are receiving him outside the locker room?" said Smith. "Look at his face. Look at his hair. He don't care. He just wants to win a football game."
Smith pauses for a deep breath, then shakes his head. He's got 65 career touchdown receptions and two Super Bowl rings and, he said, plenty of confidence in Plummer. "Tom Brady is a top-notch professional football player, and so is Jake," said Smith. "He just goes about it in a different way.
"But Jake has learned a lot in the last three football years. With this football team, he has us in a great position."
If Smith's assessment is accepted - the Broncos went 13-3 to win their division, secure a first-round bye, and get home field for Saturday night's game - then credit those beautiful summer days when Plummer chose the movies over golf. Disappointed in the number of interceptions he had thrown in 2004, Plummer accepted Shanahan's invitation to watch film of every pass he had thrown in his two seasons in Denver.
That was 887 passes, but the dividends were astounding:
In 2005, Plummer started all 16 games, attempted 456 passes, and was picked off just seven times. His interception percentage of 1.5 was not only a career best, but it was the best in the NFL among quarterbacks who attempted more than 300 passes.
By comparison, more heralded quarterbacks such as Brady (14) and Peyton Manning (10) were intercepted more frequently.
At one point, Plummer attempted 229 consecutive passes without being intercepted.
In a surefire way to keep the home crowd off his back, Plummer led the Broncos to an 8-0 mark at Invesco Field, with nine touchdown passes and just two interceptions.
Said Anderson: "He's learned he doesn't have to make every play."
Plummer has known all along that he wasn't Elway ("I bet it took a whole bunch of his great personality to take the pressure off of that. Everyone talked about Elway this and that. I definitely think Plummer's demeanor took a lot of stress off him," said Lelie) and now he knows he's not Brady.
"We've got different styles," acknowledged Plummer, who let that sink in, then added with a smile: "I think I'm a little quicker than Tom, no offense to him."
Vintage Plummer, to be lighthearted at a time when so many around him are deadly serious. But he insists he's focused on the game at hand, that he knows he has the chance to silence the critics who may want to rekindle mutters of "Jake the Mistake."
"That's why I came here," said Plummer. "I remember back when I came here as a free agent, it was because I knew that I would eventually get the chance to hopefully win a Super Bowl. We are in position to take care of our own destiny."
|01-14-2006, 04:27 AM||#2|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2001
Kush & Irsay
Awesome, thanks for the read...I think Jake is ready to take to the next level while the rest of the world is waiting for the other shoe to drop.
|01-14-2006, 05:29 AM||#4|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Oct 2003
|01-14-2006, 07:26 AM||#5|
RIP Darrent Williams
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Glendale, AZ
Yeah he has been awesome at home! Only 9 TD's tho..............
But I remember Jake here in AZ going balls to walls, fun to watch, but must have been hard for him.
Glad he is here now, and heres to him shutting up the critics and winning another ball game!
|01-14-2006, 07:36 AM||#6|
helmet to helmet hitter
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Arlington, TX
Almost an exact match to the game Steve Young was playing at this stage of his ressurected career with the 9ers..minus the big rushing stats. Jake's been stellar so far.
|01-14-2006, 08:01 AM||#7|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Sep 2004
When he came to Denver, there was a lot of verbal harrangment thrown his way. Shanahan was ridiculed, laughed at. (Seems that happens a lot.) But the man stuck it out. Jake is now a pretty good NFL QB.
Sort of like the laughter in the backrooms about the Cleveland guys.
I wonder who's laughing now........