No mistake, heat on Jake

Jul 4, 2006 1:10 AM

Is it our imagination or does every NFL season involving the Broncos have us asking the question, Jake the Snake or Jake the Mistake?

Jake, as in Plummer, led Denver to a resounding 49-24 victory over top seeded Indianapolis in the playoffs, only to come apart the next week in a 34-17 loss at Pittsburgh. Jake turned Phil Mickelson on Bronco Nation, falling victim to past criticism of making the key turnover at the most inopportune moment.

Plummer threw three interceptions against two touchdowns in postseason play as the Broncos and veteran coach Mike Shanahan failed again to prove they can win a Super Bowl without John Elway or his shadow hovering over the team.

Time is running out for Plummer to produce at least a Super Bowl appearance for Denver, after the club invested millions to lure him away from the Arizona Cardinals, where he was wallowing in sub-.500 land. In case you forgot, Denver’s top pick in the NFL Draft was Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. Many NFL scouts felt Cutler, and not Vince Young or Matt Leinart was the top QB available in the draft.

Yes Jake, the knife is digging slowly into your back.

Is it fair to place the blame on Plummer? No, but Plummer knew darn well that management brought him to Denver in order to make a difference. He’s been far better than the Brian Griese experiment, but the noose gets a little tighter around Shanahan for each passing year of failure. And, that means the heat is turned up high on his choice at QB — Plummer.

Here are the betting numbers Denver fans have to deal with at the moment, courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook.

Super Bowl: 10-1

AFC title: 5-1

AFC West: 6-5

Projected wins: 10

The Hilton lists the Broncos as four-point road favorite in the Sept. 10 season opener on the road against the St. Louis Rams. Favorites had a record-setting year in Vegas books over the 2005-06 season, which the house believes was a fluke. Normally, underdogs more than hold their own, which makes Denver’s -4½ on the road a dicey situation if you are a betting historian.

It’s way too early to assess just how good or bad the Broncos will be, but as AFC West favorites in a division with San Diego, Kansas City and Oakland, figure a collapse is not imminent.