The clue to Jake Plummer’s eventual address came in the Arizona Cardinals’ season finale this year, a foreshadowing to the end of Plummer’s decade in the Valley.
Plummer was 13-for-27 passing for only 132 yards while the Cards were getting blown out by the Denver Broncos, 37-7 — and still the Denver fans screamed for Plummer when the final gun sounded.
He wouldn’t become a free agent for another two months. But the future was set.
“They were chanting, ‘We want Jake,’ ” Plummer said Thursday, “and I was thinking in my head, ‘I want you.’
“I couldn’t voice that opinion at the time. A lot of things had to happen in order for this to come about. It’s been a long wait, a very anxious wait, but I am ready. I have been all smiles since (Wednesday) afternoon.”
Wednesday was the day Plummer agreed to a contract with the Broncos. He received a contract that could be worth $40 million and he goes to a place where the playoffs are expected on a yearly basis.
He leaves a place where he almost won a Heisman Trophy and almost won a national championship in college. Where he almost helped turn a sad-sack NFL franchise around.
It’s a lot of almosts, and Plummer admitted Thursday there are regrets, especially when it comes to his six years with the Cardinals.
“There’s a feeling of not accomplishing our goals,” Plummer said. “And it’s tough to leave those coaches. Coach (Dave) McGinnis is a guy I’d go through walls for. He’ll forever be one of my favorite coaches. . . . I hope that they get some of what they need there. “Some of that is feeling we didn’t accomplish it, but in the long run, I played six years, learned a lot. We won a playoff game for the first time in 50 years for that organization, so we accomplished a lot. We just didn’t keep it going. And that was tough.”
Plummer called McGinnis on Wednesday, a conversation McGinnis called “lengthy and emotional.” McGinnis, who has been with the Cardinals for the duration of Plummer’s time as a pro, said he never thought Plummer’s icon status at ASU hurt him in his time as a pro.
“Jake’s been through a lot of changes here, this and that, up and down,” McGinnis said. “Jake is a tremendous competitor and I never doubted one time when he was out there that he was doing everything he could to make it work.”
The Cardinals are now left with only second-year quarterbacks Josh McCown and Preston Parsons on the roster. The team is bidding for free-agent Kordell Stewart. Vice president of football operations Rod Graves talked with Stewart’s agent, Leigh Steinberg, Thursday. Steinberg was expected to get back with Graves either late Thursday night or today after Stewart had wrapped up his visit to Chicago.
The Bears and Cardinals are the two teams expected to bid strongly for Stewart. The Cardinals never seriously wanted Plummer to be part of their quarterback equation.
“Our time had come and gone with Jake,” Graves said. That’s what happens when a player throws 24 more interceptions than touchdown passes, or when a team has a regular-season record of 30-52 in a quarterback's starts, as the Cards did with Plummer. But Plummer insisted those things are what will make him successful in Denver.
“I am very resilient,” Plummer said. “I can lose and come right back and give you whatever I have the next week. The lessons I have learned from (the Cardinals) are valuable lessons. “It’s not just a goal to have a winning season. It’s to win a Super Bowl, and it’s a legitimate goal, and for me to be part of that, I am going to be grinning for a long time.”
Plummer’s representatives called the Tribune on Thursday to inquire about placing an ad thanking the fans for their support during his years in the Valley.
But after 10 years, Plummer is no longer synonymous with Arizona. “I am ready to come into this situation and reverse that trend,” Plummer said. “The past is the past. I am going to turn the page in my career and start going for the big one and hopefully, win it.”
Graves also talked with Kennard McGuire, the agent for linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, and negotiations had begun. . . . The Cards were visited Thursday by Jets linebacker James Darling. He had visited Cleveland, is expected to go to Detroit and his future likely lies between those two teams and the Cardinals, although he didn’t necessarily rule out returning to the Jets. He is also a solid special teams player. . . .
Among other free agents the Cards are expected to consider are Eagles offensive lineman Doug Brzezinski and Oakland fullback Jon Ritchie.