Jake Plummer: Smiled When Shanny was Fired

Plummer reflects on Cards' emergence

Jake Plummer should be here. He should watch Sunday's game in a luxury suite. He should have a beer in each hand and a Pat Tillman jersey on his back, reminiscing about the day he beat the Eagles in Philly with one of his patented miracle comebacks.

Instead, he will be playing at a handball tournament in Seattle, trying to further his promising singles career. Something is wrong with this picture.

"I tell you what: I would love to throw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald," Plummer said. 

"I had some good ones in Arizona, but, man, that guy is talented."

Only 34, Plummer once was our golden boy, the kid who was going to lead us to the NFC Championship Game.

He was the hometown hero, and the deconstruction of that legend might have hurt worse than anything along the way.

He had a frat boy's sense of fun along with a touch of magic. He was more instinctual than intellectual. He was a star at Arizona State.

And then all the losing and all the interceptions and all the negativity simply crushed a favorite son.

"Getting your (backside) kicked all the time was really rough, but (ownership) didn't care one way or the other," Plummer said. "They just wanted a stadium. If we won, it was a bonus. But they were right. They have a stadium, and what they promised has become a reality. They have delivered on their word."

Plummer is not trying to bad-mouth the Cardinals. He's just a completely honest, zero-B.S. kind of guy. And even though he's fully enjoying his new life, the past two months have hit close to home.

First, the Cardinals. During the 2008 season, Plummer occasionally would check the NFL standings. Not only were the Cardinals in first place, they were in control of their division. They had a true home-field advantage, and Plummer should be proud of that.

After all, the day before the crucial stadium vote, it was Plummer who went door to door soliciting votes, as did teammate Rob Moore, coach Dave McGinnis and Fiesta Bowl President John Junker.

That's how tenuous the proposal was at the time.

After his time in Arizona was done, Plummer made a choice that would change his life. He decided against Chicago, where the bar for quarterbacks was set wonderfully low. He signed with Denver, where the shadow of John Elway swallows all.

Plummer has no regrets. He loved the city, the people and the fervor for football in Denver. But when offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak left to coach the Texans, everything changed. Plummer and coach Mike Shanahan weren't exactly peanut butter and bananas, and Plummer was eventually benched in favor of rookie Jay Cutler.

In the end, Plummer went from a culture of failure to a city with impossible standards. The death of Tillman affected him profoundly, planting seeds of rebellion. And when it all hit the wall in Denver, he walked out on the game and the people who had crushed his love for football.

"Shanahan was a great coach, to a certain level," Plummer said. "But I have to admit, I had a smile on my face when I heard he was fired. Not that it did me any good.

"I loved going out and competing, but it's tough when you're constantly second-guessed. I can still remember throwing a ball in practice, and I didn't know whether he was going to scream at me or say, 'Great play.' "

As Plummer dives into the handball circuit, a funny thing has happened. He's in great shape all over again. He's 190 pounds and quick as a cat. He can get out of his car and break into a sprint, something that was impossible during his achy football career. He loves that feeling and says he's never coming back to the NFL.

"If I could go and just play the game, I'd do it tomorrow," Plummer said. "It's all the other stuff that I got tired of. But I walked away with all my ligaments and limbs intact, ready to face the rest of my life."

This weekend, that means putting on goggles and competing on a small court, using a small, blue ball.

And it means a date with the television set, watching a team that almost took flight under his watch. It's a team he can't get out of his heart.

"When I left, Mike (Bidwill) told my agent to tell me not to bad-mouth the team," Plummer said.

"But they've come a long way. They're focusing on their personnel, not just a stadium. And it would be nice for Mike to get some credit. I know I'll be cheering for them. That's my old team."

Original Post: Orange mane


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