The Case For The Broncos Ring Of Fame: Jake Plummer

In the sixth of Thin Air’s series on considerations for the Broncos Ring of Fame is Jake Plummer (2003-2006).

Should Jake Plummer be in the Broncos Ring of Fame?

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Yesterday, we addressed the merits of a quarterback who joined the Broncos at a crossroads for only four seasons. Jake Plummer is another quarterback who came to Denver under those circumstances. The Super Bowl glean had definitely worn off, with the Broncos making the playoffs only once in four years, and Elway heir apparent Brian Griese having been dethroned.

In his first three seasons, when Plummer was under center the Broncos compiled a 32-11 record and made the playoffs in all three of those seasons. Plummer had a daunting task in the first two playoff games when the other side of the ball had the likes of Lenny Walls and Roc Alexander trying to fend off Peyton Manning. But in the third instance he was part of a Goliath-slaying: handing Tom Brady his first career playoff loss.  The next day, a shocking home loss by the #1 Colts sent the location of the AFC Championship Game to Denver.

Unfortunately, Plummer and the Broncos laid an egg against the Steelers–and as Ted Sundquist has described in detail, this set up Plummer for his eventual departure from the starting quarterback job.  This happened in the middle of 2006 after Plummer went 7-4. In all four of his seasons in Denver, he never had a losing record, coming in at a total of 39-15.

If one is looking for a Ring of Fame comparable to Plummer, take a look at quarterback Charley Johnson. Like Plummer, he started off his career with the Cardinals, and only spent four years in Denver to end his career.  Johnson went 20-18-3 as a starter and never made the playoffs, a far cry from Plummer’s total. However, Johnson once led the league in yards per attempt as a Bronco, while Plummer once led the league in interceptions in one of his seasons in Denver.

  • Holzy

    I took my brothers to that game against the Patriots, (come to think of it, that’s the last time I’ve been able to go to a Broncos game) afterwards I remember the players coming out of the stadium chanting “Go Steelers.” I always wondered if they regretted that after the ass-whoopin that followed.

    On topic: As much as I enjoyed Plummer’s years, I wouldn’t add him to the ring.

  • ohiobronco

    This one is a close one IMO. I must admit I am partial to Plummer. I recently read Slow Getting Up and am in the middle of A Few Seconds of Panic. I know I am late to the party on these but they make me pine for the Plummer era Broncos. They had a special air about them and he was part of the reason.

    I sited career passing yards, passing TDs and wins yesterday so I figured I should do so again here. He is 5th in passing yards and TDs behind Elway, Manning, Morton and Griese. He is 4th in wins, behind all of those except Griese.

    I am going to lean no. I would have liked to have seen more postseason success and to be ahead of Griese in career numbers.

  • Yahmule

    Only if he goes up with Shanahan.

  • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

    I think it should be a rule to have at least 3 words in between the names “Roc” and “Alexander” moving forward, in an effort to prevent nauseousness.

    • gobroncos

      You broke your own rule!

      • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

        Hence the “moving forward” portion of my comment. I try to cover my ass as much as possible given my peers on this forum. 🙂

    • ohiobronco

      Roc word word word Alexander no longer needs to be a source of pain for Broncos fans. His whole career existed to provide target practice and confidence boosting to our future Super Bowl champion QB.

      • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

        That’s a good way to look at it.

  • I’m glad Plummer’s case was presented. While I am not a huge proponent of him, I brought him up because we have to consider how he compares to somebody like Charley Johnson if you truly believe that Johnson was deserving, then Plummer merits consideration.

    And while it’s easy to argue that Johnson brought a winning attitude to Denver, one could make the same argument for head coach John Ralston — who, if you think about, has a better case than Johnson not only for bringing a new attitude to the Broncos, but because his drafting record was tremendous and that clearly laid the foundation for the Broncos to make their first Super Bowl run.

  • Jeremy

    I’m shocked he is getting so many “yes’s.” I like Jake Plummer, but I think it’s fascinating a guy who was so unpopular when he retired, has become so popular, in such a nostalgic way. I’m reposting this comment I’ve made because I think it’s relevant. (it was a reply to someone, and I’m not going to reword it)

    To expand upon your points about why Plummer is remembered so fondly, I
    think it’s two reasons. Like you said, Plummer was the antithesis of
    Shanny and Cutler both of which went sour soon after Plummer left.
    Further, Plummer in the minds of fans represents the 2003-2006 teams,
    which are remembered not just for winning and making the playoffs, but
    for lack of controversy, exciting football, and lack of tragedy. This
    stands in stark contrast to the 2006-2010 teams which are remembered not
    just for losing, but for controversy (Shanny losing his contract for
    life, Marshall’s shenanigans, McD, spy gate, trading Cutler, etc.),
    tragedy (Deaths of Darrent Williams, Kenny McKinley and Damien Nash),
    heartbreak, disappointment, and overall bland football.

    I wasn’t able to bring myself to vote yes for Plummer. It’s hard, because the team accomplished a lot when he was here. But I don’t think he did enough. And especially not in the playoffs. (Threw at least 1 int in every playoff game, and played pretty poorly in both playoff games in 2005).

    While I understand there are complicating circumstances, the way he acted and played in 2006 have to factor against him. Especially because the 2006 team was likely the most talented Broncos team of the 2000’s decade.

    • ohiobronco

      I think his lack of popularity at the time was due to a little bit of spoiledness. Broncos fans had not experienced 2010 yet so most had no concept of how bad things could actually be. I really wanted to say yes. He is a top 5 player at his position in team history so he has a strong case. I just needed him to accomplish a little more, which in the end is the story of the 2003-2006 Broncos.

      • Jeremy

        He was coming off a pro bowl year and the team entered the season as super bowl favorites and he ranked 27th in completion percentage, 28th in passer rating, and 32nd in yards/game. It seemed and he later confirmed that he was pretty checked out that season. He was 32, so it’s not like he had the excuse of being in physical decline.

        Fans have chosen to completely excuse him because his feelings were hurt they drafted Cutler and because he said Shanahan expected too much from him.

        If things didn’t go sour shortly after he left, he would be viewed more like Cuter.

        • ohiobronco

          I agree that 2006 is a significant mark against him.

      • Jeremy

        Also, you mention top 5 player at his position in team history. Considering there are only 9 players who have started more than 32 games, and only 5 who have started more than 50 games, that isn’t a terribly hard threshold to cross.

        For all the talk yesterday that Peyton wasn’t here long enough, he ranks 3rd among Broncos QBs in games started.

        • ohiobronco

          I think we are mostly in agreement. I do think the fact that there have been so few long term starters actually brings him closer to the threshold but I still put him just below.

    • PiperAR

      I reject the unsubstantiated premise that Plummer was not popular during his time as a player and only retroactively became popular in nostalgia. Without acceptance of the premise, everything that follows is moot.

      • Jeremy

        He was at the very least, incredibly polarizing.
        Here’s an article from Mile High Reports infancy, where John Benna, who claims to have long supported him, turns on him. There’s also a snipit of the Broncos fan forum at the time with a few fans debating his merits.

        I remember Plummer being blamed for the playoff loss against Pit. I remember the media never being particularly fond of him, and that rubbed off on a lot of fans. I remember the ridicule he got after he threw a left handed interception. I remember the heat he took when he had a road rage incident, and when he was caught flipping off a fan. I remember the weekly denver post mail bag always had fans writing in complaining about Plummer.

        I’m sure there were pockets of fans who stuck with him, but I think most fans were at the very least very frustrated with him by the end of the 2006 season (and many wanted his head on a platter).

        I’ll also admit I wrote most of what I said when I misread the vote total and thought it was coming in 90% yes. I probably wouldn’t have taken such a hardline stance if I read the poll correctly.

        • PiperAR

          It may be true that Plummer’s popularity declined, first as he took more than his fair share of blame for the AFCCG loss (QB tend to get too much credit, good and bad) and got pushed aside when the flashier shiney new toy Cutler came to town. But the decline in Plummer’s popularity doesn’t negate the rest of his time in Denver, nor is it clear to me why that’s the proper point at which to measure. Sure some fans complained about him, same as some fans wanted Kubiak not Elway to start. The left hand interception is an easy target to mock, but really it should get the same amount of criticism as a Jay Cutler’s worst play, as a bad decision is a bad decision and a pick is a pick.

          I don’t think Plummer’s popularity was hill-shaped, low when playing and climbing after the fact. I think it was a wave, and you may be right that 2006 and the 2007 offseason was a low trough in the wave, followed by a rebound after the fact.

          • Jeremy

            I think it’s unusual for a players popularity to rise so greatly in the 5-10 years after he retires. I think his popularity stayed pretty constant in 2003 and 2004, maybe dropping slightly as fans realized he was going to take risks and make mistakes from time to time. 2005, I think it rose as he and the Broncos posted their best season since Elway. 2006, I think his popularity declined rapidly, and like I said, most fans were somewhere between very frustrated with him and wanting his head on a platter.

            If QBs had approval rating like presidents, I’m guessing Plummer’s fluctuated in the 50-65% range from 2003-2005, and fell from the AFCCG loss to the Steelers until he was benched when it was probably below 30%.

            Now 80-90% of fans seem to view him favorably (myself included). That is surprising to me, and I think it’s very atypical for a players popularity to change so drastically after his retirement.

  • cjfarls

    My answer is no, and its not particularly close.

    That doesn’t mean I’m not a fan of Plummer’s… he had a couple nice years in Denver and seems a good guy. But his stint was relatively short, his post-season accomplishments were mostly non-existent, and his performance in 2006 absolutely atrocious. Folks roll out the RBs as example of Shanny’s genius… but I think we could just as easily roll out Plummer and Greise as that evidence. He was a JAG running a good/great offensive system with a lot of talent around him. That’s well enough, but not worthy of ROF enshrinement.

    Plummer is FAR closer to Greise in my mind than he is to Elway, Morton or Manning. (I also think Johnson probably shouldn’t be up there, even though the “competition” for enshrinement for him was far less daunting. Johnson’s there because there were almost no folks from his era to put in otherwise and everyone loves the winning QB – which IMO is a sucky rationale).

  • gnasses

    Feels bad to say it, but I say no to Jake the Snake. I was one of those not happy to see him go, and always thought it was a mistake. Love Plummer the player and the person. He is one of my favorite NFL personalities. He got screwed over by Shanny, but it’s still a no go. Shorter Broncos career with too little to show for those good teams. Damn Steelers game screwed it all up.

  • Hank Mardukis

    Loved the Snake, but no.