DENVER (AP) – Jake Plummer’s been looking over his shoulder since the Denver Broncos chose Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler with the 11th pick in the NFL draft back in April.

He may not be craning his neck much longer.

A season-long slump that culminated with back-to-back losses to San Diego and Kansas City in a four-day span finally might have cost Plummer his starting job in Denver, where John Elway set the championship standard that has yet to be matched in the seven seasons since he retired with two Super Bowl rings.

Coach Mike Shanahan isn’t saying who will be under center when the Broncos (7-4) host the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 3, but the buzz is he’ll turn to Cutler, the last of the “Big Three” quarterbacks taken in the draft, behind Texas’ Vince Young and USC’s Matt Leinart.

“I can’t tell you what’s going to happen,” an emotional Plummer said after the Broncos’ 19-10 loss to the Chiefs on Thursday night. “All I know is that I’m getting on the plane, going to take a few days off and come back. And if I’m still behind the trigger, I’m going to play as hard as I can, like I always have.”

Like Plummer, Cutler said he’s not been told by the coaching staff of any impending move – but he’s ready.

“Yeah, I think I can go out there and play and be efficient with this offense,” Cutler said. “I don’t get a lot of reps in practice and haven’t played since preseason, so if I do get in there, I’ll have to knock the rust off.”

The Broncos began thinking about the future back in April, when they chose to go with Cutler after coveting running back Laurence Maroney. Still, the plan was to stick with Plummer this season while letting Cutler absorb as much as he could while holding a clipboard.

Plummer, though, has looked nothing like he did last year, when he shook his “Jake the Snake” and “Jake the Mistake” nicknames from his wild days in Arizona. He threw 18 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions while leading the Broncos to the AFC championship.

Plummer, 40-18 as Denver’s starter, admittedly began the season wondering if he’d get a quick hook if he played poorly. Shanahan, however, showed plenty of patience in Plummer, who has 11 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, a completion percentage hovering around 50 percent and a passer rating that ranks near the bottom of the league.

It would have been hard for Shanahan to bench Plummer during Denver’s 7-2 start, when a stifling defense covered for Plummer’s poor play. That’s harder now with injured safeties Sam Brandon and Nick Ferguson out for the year.

Shanahan has been quick to point out the offensive struggles aren’t entirely Plummer’s fault:

• The pass protection has been spotty with Matt Lepsis (knee) and George Foster (inconsistency) forcing some shuffling at tackle.

• The tailback tandem of Tatum Bell and Mike Bell has been terrible. Tatum can’t stay healthy and has been inactive three of the last four games; he’s rushed for 27 and 37 yards in his last two starts. Mike can’t stay consistent, and he’s rushed for 25, 136, 28, 90 and 28 yards in his last five games.

• Wide receiver Rod Smith has lost a step, leaving newcomer Javon Walker facing almost constant double teams while David Kircus and Brandon Marshall prove powerless to make teams pay for it.

• And the pass-catching tight end has all but disappeared from Denver’s offense. Rookie Tony Scheffler was supposed to be that guy, but he’s caught just six passes all year – none since Oct. 29 against Indianapolis.

So, tight end Stephen Alexander wonders about the wisdom of switching quarterbacks now, suggesting Cutler certainly is no quick fix.

“I’ve said all along that it’s not all about Jake,” Alexander said. “You guys want to make a big deal out of Jake Plummer and what he’s not doing, but this is not a one-man team. There are a lot of guys that need to go out and play better. Whether that’s protection issues up front, whether that’s guys running routes and getting the proper depth, dropped balls, there are a whole slew of things.”

Plummer, however, got no words of encouragement or votes of confidence after his latest bad game.

“No, I haven’t heard anything,” Plummer said. “I get little bits and pieces from people around me. People are saying, ‘Hey, hang in there. Don’t listen to what’s going on.’ I realize it’s the media: you guys that start that stuff because it is your job to. And the best I can, I shut it out because I know I have a lot of fans that are rooting hard for me. Yeah, there are some that don’t want me to play anymore, but I can’t control their thoughts unless I play well.”

Does he think he deserves to stay the starter?

“I’m the starter right now,” Plummer said, “and if Mike feels that he wants to put Jay in there, then my play hasn’t warranted him to not do it.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.