We’ve heard it over and over since Mike Shanahan came to town, as the Redskins have suffered through Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck at quarterback; what quarterback has Mike Shanahan every developed?
This question is easily answered if you just use Google and a little common sense. But, as the Redskins enter a new era with Robert Griffin III at the helm, the same ol’ tired questions come up over and over; who did Mike Shanahan ever develop? Is Mike Shanahan too stubborn to conform his offense to a new quarterback? If he’s such an offensive genius, why hasn’t he transformed the Redskins offense, and why has he started three different guys at quarterback?
Time to answer those questions. And we’ll start with the last man to lead the Denver Broncos to the AFC Championship Game; Jake Plummer.
Drafted in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals
30-52 record in 84 starts
17622 yards, 90 touchdowns, 114 interceptions, (.78-to-1 TD to INT ratio), 69.0 QB Rating
Under Mike Shanahan:
39-15 record in 59 games with 54 starts
59.1%, 11631 yards, 71 touchdowns, 47 interceptions (1.5-to-1 TD to INT ratio), 84.3 QB Rating
Jake “The Snake” Plummer was a very talented, but very inconsistent quarterback while he played for the Arizona Cardinals. In his sophomore season, Plummer guided the Cardinals to a 9-7 record and an upset win over the Dallas Cowboys. The Plummer-led Cardinals would never see the post season again, or post a winning record. Plummer was extremely athletic and possessed a pretty good arm, but erratic footwork and accuracy plagued Plummer throughout his career.
Which made it all the more shocking when Mike Shanahan signed Plummer to a $40 million dollar contract upon him coming a free agent. Plummer would replace Brian Griese, a quarterback who had led the Broncos to the playoffs and had only posted one losing season.
(If there’s one thing Mike Shanahan has never lacked, it’s balls.)
Denver’s offense transformed to better suit Plummer’s skillset. Mike understood Plummer’s strengths and weaknesses. Plummer was an incredible thrower on the run, and excelled at the deep throws. But, in the pocket his footwork and mechanics could break down, which led to accuracy issues and bad decision-making under pressure.
So Mike took the basics of his offense and expanded them. They threw far more on the run; bootlegs, waggles and quarterback keeps were always in Mike’s offense, but this made up the bulk of Mike Shanahan’s offense. They worked a lot out of shotgun, and used almost no 7 step drops. They were also leaned on their run game far more.
Shanahan managed Plummer expertly, extenuating the positives of Plummer’s game and hiding the negatives. Plummer threw for a career best 4049 yards and 27 touchdowns, but also threw 20 interceptions. The following season, Plummer’s yardage went down as the Broncos ran their way to the AFC Championship game, but his completion percentage went up. He completely 60.9 of his passes (the second best completion percentage of his career), 3,336 yards and 15 touchdowns with 7 interceptions.
The Broncos lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champions in 2005, and Plummer’s relationship with Mike Shanahan became shakier. Plummer seemed to resent Shanahan’s “demands for perfection”, feeling Mike was always looking for the next Elway. In 2006, Mike Shanahan added a little fuel to the fire when he moved up to draft Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, despite not speaking to or working Cutler out in the draft. Making matters worse, Plummer missed an OTA without informing the Broncos, further putting him in Shanny’s doghouse.
Plummer opened the 2006 season as the Broncos starting quarterback. He guided the Broncos to a 7-2 start, but his play had become very inconsistent; throughout the first 9 weeks of the season, he completed 55.6% of his passes for 1,994 yards and 11 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. His performance against the Broncos division rivals seemed to seal his fate, as the Broncos went 2-2 in the division with Plummer completing 59% of his passes and throwing 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
Shanny pulled the plug on Plummer and inserted Cutler. The following season, Plummer was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but retired before he ever saw the field.
Though their relationship didn’t end amicably, it’s clear that Plummer’s best years were under the tutelage of Mike Shanahan. (And I know this on the tip of someone’s tongue, so I’ll address it now; Gary Kubiak may have been the offensive coordinator, but Mike Shanahan called all the plays. Plummer was not “Kubiak’s quarterback”; he was Mike Shanahan’s quarterback. Mike signed him, and adapted his offense to suit Plummer’s strengths, and called every offensive play for the Broncos in that time period. Shanahan did not relinquish control of the Broncos offense until 2008, when he handed playcalling duties over to Jeremy Bates.)
Plummer saw an improvement in his completion percentage, quarterback rating, touchdown to interception ratio, and in the win and loss category.
So next time some says “Who did Mike Shanahan ever develop?”, you can kindly say Jake Plummer. Among others.
Next up (I think); Jay Cutler.