|11-18-2006, 09:13 PM||#1|
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Good Jake/Bad Jake (article)
By Mike Klis
Denver Post Staff Writer
Article Last Updated:11/17/2006 02:12:05 AM MST
To find the man, peel back the layers of Jake the Snake, even if he has been scrambling upfield like the Snake of old.
Remove the pads, the helmet, the No. 16 Broncos jersey and he is no longer Good Jake/Bad Jake.
And, please, no wisecracks about how No Mistake Jake has dissolved into last year's news.
He is Jake Plummer, an honest Jake with acute human feelings and a hyper-competitive spirit.
As such, Plummer the man candidly admits there were times this season when the mere presence of backup Jay Cutler, the first-round pick with the powerful arm and show-stopping preseason, had gotten to him.
"I was pressing a little bit," Plummer said. "That's only natural. Just wondering if things you're hearing are true. Where, 'Hey, if he plays bad right away, will you pull him out?' That's for everybody, not just me."
As Plummer leads the Broncos into their AFC West first-place showdown Sunday night against San Diego, most of the Cutler storm clouds have passed. That doesn't mean Plummer's world is all blue skies and warm smiles.
It just means that in his uneven season, Plummer has performed well enough, and won often enough, to have drastically reduced the heat on the latest quarterback controversy in Broncoland.
"The thing about Jake is he's very tough on himself," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "Even when Jake plays well or plays great, he's looking for areas where he can improve."
What's unusual about this season for Plummer isn't that he's been Good Jake one week and Bad Jake the next. It's that he's often been Bad Jake/Good Jake within the same game. There have been five games this year - against Kansas City, Oakland (twice), Baltimore and Cleveland - when for a quarter, or half, maybe even three quarters, Plummer had the fans at home shaking the stuffing out of their sofa pillows.
But in each of those games, Plummer did not lose. He shook off an interception, looked at a third-down incompletion as ancient history, and made a play, or directed a drive, that led to victory.
"It's funny, we preach and preach and preach as coaches that you play one play at a time, and when it's done, you let it go," said Mike Heimerdinger, the Broncos' offensive coordinator. "Not every player does that. This guy does. If he couldn't come back, he wouldn't have the number of wins he has with this franchise. I kind of like the guy."
Last week against Oakland, Plummer was 2-for-8 with two interceptions in the first quarter. With seconds left in the third quarter, the Broncos trailed 13-7. But then Plummer started a drive by turning a busted play into a 3-yard scamper, and completed the first of five consecutive passes to a tight end. He finished off a 7-for-7 passing series with a fourth-down touchdown flick to fullback Kyle Johnson.
That game, that drive, was the essence of Plummer's season that has the Broncos tied for first place with the Chargers, who will visit Sunday with a defense strong against the run and vulnerable against the pass.
For the Broncos to earn sole possession of the AFC West lead, they may need the kind of four-quarter performance Plummer delivered in wins against New England and Pittsburgh, and in a high-scoring loss to undefeated Indianapolis.
"No doubt, there have been times where I played like crud and then played a little better when you had to," Plummer said. "Everybody wants to play the perfect game and win, but it comes down to winning and losing. We've had to lean on the defense some, but that's what a team's about. Last week, we didn't play great early and then when we had to get it done, guys stepped up and were getting open for me and making plays. That's a team sticking together."
It's this kind of response - a mix of honest self-evaluation, but also "team before self" - that ingratiates Plummer to those inside Broncos' headquarters.
Plummer is generous in gifts and praise to his offensive linemen, who privately swear by the guy. He has helped Cutler organize his own charitable foundation, which should be ready to launch early in the new year.
And, yes, Plummer has support from Javon Walker, who, after catching passes from the arm of Brett Favre in four previous years, is now the Broncos' primary offensive weapon.
"I like Jake. I've always liked Jake," Walker said. "He's a good guy, fun guy. As a quarterback? I think Jake does what the coaches tell him to do. This is not a 40-pass offense. That's just not the way it is here."
No, but Shanahan and Heimerdinger have made three critical adjustments that have helped Plummer. One is to call more rollout pass plays regardless of what the defense dictates; two, create more pass plays for Walker; and three, if nobody is open, run.
More than even last season, which is widely considered the best of his 10-year career, Plummer has once again become a double threat.
"There's maybe a little more Snake coming out. You never know," Plummer said with a grin.
Player evaluations never cease, as Shanahan proved at the season's midway point. But Cutler has yet to take a snap, and if the Broncos are to reach the Super Bowl, Plummer is more secure than ever that it will be him, and not Cutler, that takes them there.
"Mike stuck with me, the guys around me, defense and offense, they hung with me," Plummer said. "That's what you've got to do: You've got to keep pushing through bad times. The situation with Jay, it did affect me a little early, but I put it away and said: 'You know what I can do? I can control that situation by playing better."'
Staff writer Mike Klis can be reached at 303-954-1055 or email@example.com.
Up Jake, Down Jake
It has been an up-and-down season for Jake Plummer. A look at five victories that have featured both Good Jake and Bad Jake.
KANSAS CITY W, 9-6
Down Jake: 9-of-20, 89 yards, INT, 0 points with 1:02 left in 3rd quarter
Up Jake: 7-of-10, 84 yards in 4th QTR and OT, for three FG drives
BALTIMORE W, 13-3
Down Jake: 3-of-8, 6 yards, 3 points in first half
Up Jake: 10-of-16, 100 yards, TD in second half
OAKLAND W, 13-3
Down Jake: 3-of-8, 7 yards in second and third quarters
Up Jake: 5-of-6, 67 yards, 7 points in first quarter
CLEVELAND W, 17-7
Down Jake: Started 3-of-10, 17 yards, INT; Finished 2-of-6, 9 yards, INT
Up Jake: 15-of-25, 183 yards, TD from late in first quarter through midway of third
OAKLAND W, 17-13
Down Jake: Started 1-of-7, 9 yards, 2 INTs
Up Jake: 10-of-10, 89 yards, 10 points in second-half stretch