New Bronco Plummer thrilled Denver interest was mutualPosted: Friday March 07, 2003 1:43 AM
Updated: Friday March 07, 2003 1:48 AM
DENVER (AP) -- In the closing seconds of Denver's final game of 2002, Broncos fans began a chant of "We want Jake!"
Jake Plummer was still in an Arizona Cardinals uniform at the time, but he couldn't hide from his thoughts.
"They were chanting 'We want Jake!' and I was thinking in my head, 'I want you,' " Plummer said.
Both got their wish on Thursday, when Plummer signed a seven-year, $40 million contract to take over as Denver's starting quarterback.
"I really couldn't voice that opinion at the time -- a lot of things had to happen in order for this to come to," Plummer said. "But you think back to Dec. 29 and now it's March 6, it's been a long wait, a very anxious waiting time. And I'm ready."
The Broncos decided to pursue Plummer and Gardener early in the free-agency process and moved quickly to sign both.
"We had two guys targeted," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "Very seldom do you get the two guys you want in free agency."
Not since John Elway retired have the Broncos had a quarterback who can make plays on the run and pull out late victories.
The Broncos believe Plummer fills both needs.
Elway was known for his scrambling ability and leading the Broncos to 47 fourth-quarter comebacks, most in league history, before retiring after winning the Super Bowl in 1999.
Elway's replacement, Brian Griese, was chastised because he couldn't do either.
Although inconsistent during his six seasons with Arizona, Plummer can turn broken plays into gains and rally his team to late wins. Elway needed 16 seasons to reach his total, but Plummer already has 21 comeback wins.
"Obviously, Elway's record and what he's done here speaks for itself," Plummer said. "If I can do half of what he did, it would be very nice."
The Broncos will take it, too.
Denver took Griese in the third round of the 1998 draft with the hope he could fill Elway's shoes. It didn't work out.
Griese went to the Pro Bowl in 2000, but struggled with inconsistency the past two seasons. Worse yet, Griese was just 27-24 as a starter and the Broncos have missed the playoffs three of the past four years -- unacceptable for a team that is used to winning Super Bowls.
The Broncos have indicated they will release Griese on June 1 to save salary-cap space and have given him permission to seek a trade.
"It just didn't work out and we had to move in a different direction," Shanahan said. "I think it was the best thing for him and I think it was the best thing for us."
But signing Plummer isn't risk-free.
Plummer, 28, hasn't exactly lit up the league. He led the Cardinals to their first playoff win since 1947 in his first full year as a starter in 1998, but has been plagued by poor decisions and inconsistency since.
Plummer has thrown 114 interceptions in 82 career starts and is coming off a subpar 2002 season in which his 65.7 passer rating was among the worst in the league among starters.
The Broncos hope that by working with Shanahan and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, both known for developing quarterbacks, Plummer will reach his full potential.
"I'm ready to come into this situation and reverse that trend as best I can," Plummer said. "And that's my full goal. The past is the past."
Gardener's past includes back problems that limited him to eight games in 2001.
After spending his first six seasons with Miami, the Dolphins cut Gardener just before training camp last season, partly out of concern his back wouldn't hold up.
Gardener signed with Washington and had one of the best seasons of his career, leading the Redskins' defensive line with 71 tackles and four sacks.
"This back will hold up and everything has been going well. I haven't been having any problems," Gardener said. "If I'm not playing the way I am supposed to be playing, get rid of me. Kick me to the curb."