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Article 7

by Steve Stegeman (July 26, 2000)




     Back in 1997, I saw Jake Plummer as a perfect fit on two teams, the Broncos and 49ers, so much so that I thought either team would be well-advised to spend a 1st round pick on him to secure him on their roster.  The 49ers instead opted for another quarterback with their 1st round pick, Jim Druckenmiller, who was seen as one of the best prototypical, big, strong-armed, pocket QB’s of the 1997 draft, but, without great speed or scrambling ability, apparently not ideally suited for the West Coast Offense, while Jake “the Snake” Plummer, who is, entered the NFL in the 2nd round of that 1997 draft, the 42nd pick overall, going to the Arizona Cardinals.  Nevertheless, he was and has continued to be met with the pomp befitting a prototypical 1st round pick of the top-10 variety by both his team and, for the most part, the media at large.  Having played and been a hero at Arizona State, such treatment by the Cardinals was foreseeable and even somewhat apropos, but the media’s embrace was uncharacteristic and, going into last year, was overwhelming to the point of ridiculous.


     Plummer’s wearing of the number 16 was just the beginning of the (premature/tendentious) comparisons writers have drawn between him and the great Joe Montana.  Take notice, though, to the fact that I used the words “premature” or “tendentious” in the parenthetical above, not “erroneous”.  That is because “erroneous” they are not.  “Insufficient” and, thus, “premature and tendentious” they were and still are.  When observing their talents as individuals in isolation, many of the comparisons, particularly those regarding intangibles and style of play, hold true, more or less.  It is when one compares their situations that the striking contrasts appear.  Montana’s positive attributes that we also attribute to Plummer are particularly well-suited and exploitable in what is now commonly known as the West Coast Offense, which brings me back to my original thinking.


     Jake could have spent a couple years under the tutelage of John Elway or Steve Young.  Then, at a more reasonable pace, have learned the system and taken the reigns of one of these two teams’ West Coast Offenses in due time, which would have been last season.  If Jake Plummer’s skills were applied in a West Coast Offense, he would undoubtedly flourish.  The crossing (over the middle) patterns of receivers, the short, crisp passes in the flats to running backs coming out of the backfield, the manufactured quarterback rushes and bootlegs, not to mention the impromptu scrambling and rushing, all ideally suit “the Snake’s” athletic ability and style of play.  Instead he mires in Arizona’s Marc Trestman offense.  Amidst all the “Snake” hype last year at this time, some sources actually did point out the “‘Marc’-ed-for-(statistical)death” Trestman scheme, but most of us ignored or even scoffed at the warnings.  Remember Trestman is the guy who only lasted two years in San Francisco before being unceremoniously dismissed.  This guy is to offensive coordinators what Rick Mirer (ironically now possibly getting his chance to completely ruin that aforementioned 49er West Coast Offense) is to quarterbacks.  He gave it a good go early on, but has stunk it up ever since.


     Another huge fundamental difference between Montana and Plummer is their respective receiving corps.  Though Plummer has a good (but as-of-late underachieving) trio of catchers in Moore, Sanders and Boston, they are not Montana’s Rice, Taylor and Clark (and Craig).  This difference is obviously not easily reconciled.  With the other issue, Trestman could go or Plummer could go, but with this one…  For one, it depends on individuals, particularly David Boston and rookie running back Thomas Jones, to live up to (or exceed) their billing and the Cardinals organization to scout well and string together a few really good drafts.  At least the latter half of that can surely be put into question.  Secondly, in Montana’s list of top receiving threats, you find a tight end, something you will almost always find in a true, successful West Coast Offense, but will never find in a “‘Marc’ed-for-death” Trestman offense.  Unless Arizona installs more 3-receiver sets, which also will not happen too often in a Trestman-run(into the ground) offense especially with the coming of Thomas Jones, Jake will usually only have 2 options.  What “the Snake” could do with a tight end, the glory of it!  ;)


     Having said all that, I am a believer in Jake “the Snake”.  He has spent more consecutive years on my keeper league team (4) than any other player on my current roster.  I drafted him back in 1997, and I still think he has a very bright future ahead of him…in the long run.  Heck, for this season I named my team “Plummer’s Snake” in his honor.  However, Plummer’s ability to succeed this year will be largely compromised by the presence of Trestman.  As Pro Football Weekly stated, “…he (Trestman) must give the (starting) quarterback (Plummer) more room to be himself” in his (Trestman’s) system which “…may be too rigid and structured in the way it does things.”  The bottom line though is that whatever Trestman does it will not mean converting to a full-time, full-on West Coast Offense.  I flinch when I say this because it means that Plummer would have to have a bad year this year along with Griese in Denver, Garcia in San Francisco or Kitna in Seattle (which, in reality, I do not wish on any of them as this is their livelihoods), but sometimes I think Jake would be better off ending up in the West Coast Offense of Denver, San Francisco or Seattle next year as all three of these teams are more or less in a period of transition at the quarterback position. 


Nevertheless, Plummer has value this year (more in keeper leagues), but I would not count on him this season being anything more than a platooning #2 fantasy quarterback.  Hopefully, the “offensive” line overachieves; Thomas Jones gets out of the gate fast, taking the heat off Jake, and his favorite target Rob Moore stays healthy, and David Boston breaks out.  But, do not count your Cardinals before they hatch!  It is best to play it safe and keep your expectations low when it comes to Plummer (and all of the aforementioned Cardinals) this season, and then, you might be pleasantly surprised by decent #2/#3 numbers rather than being disappointed by ugly #1 stats.



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