This Day In Sports: The trade that wouldn’t work for Jake the Snake

March 3, 2007: Capital High graduate Jake Plummer is traded from the Denver Broncos to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but six days later he would abruptly announce his retirement from the NFL rather than join the Bucs. The freewheeling quarterback out of Arizona State always had the ability to take fans—and coaches—from ecstasy to agony and back again. But man he was fun to watch. Plummer played 10 NFL seasons, the first six with the Arizona Cardinals. He was only 32 years old when he hung it up.

Plummer was born in Boise, but his formative years at Smiley Creek in the Sawtooths are well-documented (around here, anyway). He ended up back in Boise and attended elementary school at Pierce Park before going on to Hillside Junior High and Capital. After throwing for 6,097 career yards and 68 touchdowns and leading the Eagles to the 1991 Idaho A-1 championship, Plummer went on to Arizona State. He became starting quarterback for the Sun Devils midway through his true freshman year in 1993, and by the time he was a senior, he was a full-blown star. Plummer guided ASU to an undefeated regular season in 1996 and nearly toppled Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

Plummer wasn’t selected until the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft, but he was taken by the Arizona Cardinals, who played in Sun Devil Stadium at the time. So it was a fit in both football and marketing terms. In his second season, Plummer led the Cardinals to their first NFL postseason victory in 51 years. He had his top statistical campaign in 2001, but a tough 2002 season spurred Plummer to make a change and sign as a free agent with Denver.

Plummer’s best seasons came with the Broncos, where his mechanics improved (and the talent was better). He led Denver to the AFC Championship Game at the end of the 2005 season and made the Pro Bowl, but in 2006, coach Mike Shanahan demoted him in favor of Jay Cutler despite the Broncos’ 7-4 record. That led to the ill-fated trade to Tampa Bay. In Denver, he had turned around his closely-scrutinized touchdown-to-interception ratio. So where did that number end up for Plummer’s career? Jake the Snake threw 161 TDs…and 161 picks.

Plummer thought about going to Tampa Bay, and coach Jon Gruden flew out to Coeur d’Alene to talk to him about it. But the 2004 death of his best friend, former ASU and Cardinals teammate Pat Tillman, left him with the urge to live life to the fullest, and that no longer included the highs and lows of the NFL. Since retirement, Plummer has been an elite handball player, an assistant coach for Sandpoint High, and an actor in the movie “Kick.” Plummer is now back in Colorado, farming medicinal mushrooms outside of Denver “for people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

If you’ve never heard Plummer speak, you’re missing out, especially when he talks about sports in general. He’ll be the featured speaker at the ninth annual Idaho Youth Sports Commission Dinner and Auction on April 15 in Boise. Plummer spoke at the first event in 2015, and it was just plain cool as he talked about the rewards of participating in as many sports as possible. He also played basketball and baseball at Capital—and plenty of nerf ball games he made up with his brothers while growing up on Hill Road.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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