If Gannon continues to do everything Turner diagrams, he'll be the starter for the opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But if Collins gets the nod, a controversy could flare. The Raiders aren't going to pay their backup quarterback $7 million. ( Collins got a reported $1.5 million signing bonus and has a $660,000 salary this year.) If Gannon is relegated to that role, the Raiders almost certainly will ask him to take about a 50% salary cut and might even release him if he balks. (At which point Gruden, Gannon's former coach, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, would most likely not hesitate to stir up his own quarterback situation by signing him.)
Collins is keeping a low profile. He knows his place in the locker room and that this is Gannon's team until he is told otherwise. Associates say Collins is thinking that even if he doesn't play this year, the job will be his in 2005 and beyond. "Coming here made sense for Kerry," Gannon says. "I'm not 28, obviously. He sees the future."
But with Oakland owner Al Davis, the future is always now. That's why the Raiders have found a way to make their salary cap work with Gannon on the books at $7 million. And that's why, as Turner said last Thursday, "the best man will play."
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]