Worth a Gamble
In the right system quarterback Jake Plummer could still be a star
Just as the praise for the marvelously improvisational Jake Plummer was overly lavish when he was picked in the second round of the 1997 draft, now the criticism of the quarterback seems a bit overdone. Six personnel directors and pro scouts who last week were asked for their take on Plummer responded with characterizations ranging from "awful" to "clueless" to "incredibly careless"—in line with the thoughts of Cardinals fans who essentially booed him out of Arizona after six mostly underachieving seasons.
But you read it here first: Plummer, the most intriguing player on the market when the free-agent signing period kicked off last Friday, will make the biggest turnaround in the NFL in 2003. On Monday all signs pointed to Plummer getting a chance to resurrect his career with the Broncos—the two sides talked contract numbers—and while landing in quarterback-friendly Denver would be great tonic for him, he is the classic example of a player who simply needs a fresh start.
With the Cardinals, Plummer never had a franchise running back behind him and had one of the NFL's weakest lines—he was sacked 215 times, fourth most in the league during the six-year span—in front of him. He was repeatedly playing come-from-behind football (granted, sometimes because of his own mistakes) and operating an offense designed for him to throw downfield more than most other quarterbacks, which helps explain his woeful 55-9 career completion percentage.
Over the past four years Plummer has been so desperate to make plays that he has thrown 21 more interceptions (79) than touchdown passes (58). One source close to Plummer says he finally understands that he has to stop trying to win games on spectacular plays when the opportunity isn't there. Well, it's about time. It would also help Plummer if he played in a system with more play action and short throws. So the Broncos and offensive-minded coach Mike Shanahan would seem to be a perfect fit.
"The things I've experienced the last six years will be what I draw on the next few years," Plummer said on Sunday. "I'm confident in my abilities and in what I can do in the right situation."
As the savior who never was, Plummer, 28, made some $30 million over the last four seasons. Now he'll make considerably less, and deservedly so. But as one Plummer confidant said last week, "He doesn't want money now. He wants to be good."
Emmitt Smith's Future
TV Booth May Be Best Option
Would alltime rushing leader Emmitt Smith take a job as a Fox analyst? It could happen if he can't find work in the NFL. Smith needs 2,838 yards to get to his goal of 20,000, but that seems the longest of long shots. Released last week after 13 years with the Cowboys, Smith turns 34 in May. In the past 19 years no player that old has rushed for 1,000 yards in a season, never mind done it twice. And he doesn't want to join a perennial rebuilder such as the Cardinals or the Panthers, both of whom have a spot for Smith.
The team Smith would love to play for? Sources say the Patriots. New England seems satisfied with Antowain Smith, but could be interested if Emmitt doesn't demand the starting job or too much money. Tampa Bay and Oakland could be in the mix, but neither wants to pay much more than the minimum.