Everybody had an opinion – overwhelmingly favorable, I’d say – on the Patrick Willis contract extension yesterday. But some opinions count for more than others, and in this case, I really wanted to hear from Gary Plummer.
Plummer, of course, played linebacker for 12 years in the NFL, including his final four (1994-97) with the 49ers. More recently, he has witnessed Willis’ growth while doing game analysis for KNBR. Plummer takes a very analytical approach to the game, and it’s not surprising that he had strong opinions on Willis.
The funny thing, Plummer said, is that right after the draft, amid all the hoopla over the rookies, the thought just popped into his head: “The best thing the 49ers could do right now is sign Patrick Willis to an extension.”
Luckily for Niners fans, the same thought came to Paraag Marathe and Jed York. And yes, Plummer heartily endorsed the transaction.
“It’s great to see that, No. 1, they understand his value – and not just in a monetary way,” he said. “I know, the only way you can show your appreciation in the NFL is to extend a player’s contract. But from the coaches to the guys in player personnel to the owners, and down to us broadcasters, we all just appreciate a player of his caliber, and I mean on and off the field. He’s one of those guys you just check off. There’s never an issue with Patrick Willis on or off the field.”
Plummer thought it was especially important that the team didn’t wait until Willis’ contract was approaching its expiration date.
“Kudos to the 49ers for having that foresight,” he said. “How many years did he have left? Two? This is far, far smarter. It sends a message: Don’t worry about your contract. You worry about you, we’ll worry about your contract. A lot of NFL teams don’t even think about negotiating until they get into that final year. For the 49ers to not get stuck or pigeonholed into that philosophy, it’s a great move.”
If you read my story in the Press Democrat, you know that Plummer lumped Willis in with two of his former teammates, Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, as the three NFL players he saw up-close who had/have both savant talent and unrelenting drive.
“He’s scary good, because technique-wise, he has a way to go. His knowledge of the game, he has a way to go,” Plummer said of Willis. “Physically, there’s nobody better. I mean, there’s nobody I would consider to be in the same league. The sky is absolutely the limit with Patrick Willis. I get giddy sometimes talking about him, because he loves to play the game, he loves to compete so much.”
Plummer also felt the contract extension was about more than just Willis. It told other young athletes: Act like you’re supposed to act, and you will be rewarded.
“You hear a lot of lip service before the draft – ‘we want a quality player’ – and then a guy like Jimmie Johnson would go out and draft criminals,” Plummer said. “This is a very clear message to college football players and high school players, and the message is, it’s very important to be a quality player.”