Bad Jake is back; could Plummer's days be numbered?
November 23, 2006 8:09pm CST
DENVER (AP) -- Bad Jake is back in Denver, and that begs the question: Are Plummer's days as Denver's quarterback numbered? "We are going to just keep on working to get better," coach Mike Shanahan said in measured responses about his quarterback's status this week. "We have had some good games, we have had some average games, and we have had some poor games on offense." Plummer is feeling the heat like never before. "I've been on the hot seat all year," he said. "If I have one good game, it doesn't mean I'm off it." Yet, if Plummer has another bad game Thursday night in Kansas City, he could very well be replaced by first-round pick Jay Cutler. After all, the team would have 10 days to prepare the former Vanderbilt star for his first start against Seattle on Dec. 3. Plummer is 40-17 as Denver's starter, including 7-3 this season, but this year's record is built largely on a stifling defense that has swept Plummer's nearly constant struggles under the rug. Shanahan started thinking about the future back in April, when he chose Cutler with the 11th pick in the draft, which caused Plummer to start worrying about his own future. Plummer acknowledged last week that he struggled early on because he was looking over his shoulder. Despite Cutler's vastly superior arm strength and status as the franchise's future, Shanahan has stuck with Plummer for every single snap so far this season. And he's defended Plummer from constant criticism by blaming his struggles on so many new faces on offense, such as the backup linemen forced into action by injury or inconsistency. He also noted the revolving door of running backs hasn't helped. Shanahan, however, wasn't as quick to offer his usual spirited defense of Plummer this week after a dismal performance in a 35-27 home loss to San Diego on Sunday night that knocked the Broncos out of the AFC West lead. Plummer completed just 13 of 28 passes for 183 yards, and instead of salvaging his performance in the fourth quarter as he has done so many times this season, he went from bad to worse, throwing three straight passes that were knocked down, fumbling the snap on a key third down at the Chargers' 15-yard line and throwing an interception in the waning minutes with the Broncos trailing by a point. "We are just going to keep on working to get better," Shanahan said, noting there are "a lot of people, a lot of components that make it work and hopefully we can improve a little bit in that area because we are off a little bit, especially in our drop-back passing." Plummer rarely has resembled the player he was a year ago, when he shook his "Jake the Snake" and "Jake the Mistake" nicknames he garnered in Arizona and threw 18 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions while leading the Broncos to the AFC championship. He started off this season with a four-turnover performance at St. Louis and hasn't really recovered. He's thrown 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions and has completed just 54.3 percent of his passes. "Just making decisions, making the right decisions," Plummer said. "I don't like my completion percentage. If we complete the ball more, it's just more chances for guys to make plays." Javon Walker, acquired from Green Bay in a draft-day trade, has bailed out Plummer time and again with games such as his two-TD performance at New England in September, his big game at Cleveland in October and his three-touchdown day at Pittsburgh this month. But the Plummer-to-Walker connection was misfiring against the Chargers on Sunday night, when Walker caught four passes for 68 yards but five other passes, including three deep balls, were badly off target. Plummer put in extra film work during the Broncos' already short week of practice, trying to find something, anything, that will turn his season around, restore his coach's confidence and keep Cutler's debut at bay a while longer. "For all of you who have never played a game, everything doesn't work perfectly at times. But you've got to fight through those times," he said. "Eventually, things go your way." And if they don't, Plummer knows he'll be on his way soon enough.