Kerry Collins is 3,000 miles away from Giants training camp, wearing the silver and black of the Raiders, taking the second-team snaps. Kurt Warner and Eli Manning are competing for the job he thought he deserved to keep.
The Giants were Collins' team and they were taken away from him. His life changed when Giants GM Ernie Accorsi became infatuated with Manning, then pulled off the draft-day blockbuster. It triggered a variety of emotions in Collins. None of them made him feel very good.
"I was hurt. I was angry. I was disgusted. Flabbergasted," Collins said yesterday at Raiders camp. "And it was just the intensity with which they pursued him in the deal that really kind of made me sick. It made me sick to my stomach. It's what they wanted and if they feel that he's going to be what they think he's going to be, then they made their decision and we just go from there."
The Giants gave up four draft choices for Manning, including next year's No. 1. Collins insists he hopes Manning does well, but as far as he's concerned, the Giants didn't need to get him.
"You have an established quarterback who has proven he can win, a guy who is a good leader for the football team, a guy that has taken them to the Super Bowl and taken them to the playoffs one other time," he said. "No, I don't think they did, but obviously they felt differently."
Jim Fassel was the first to go. Collins was gone four months later. That's what happens when a team that's supposed to be a Super Bowl contender pulls a no-show with its worst season in 20 years, going 4-12 and ending with an eight-game losing streak.
Collins was more a victim than the cause of the Giants' collapse, trying to function behind an offensive line that at one point started three rookie free agents. Now Warner and Manning get to experience what it's like to play with no protection.
"I don't wish the Giants bad. I don't wish Eli bad," Collins said. "I hope it all works out. If it goes bad, it's going to be really, really hard for him, considering the way it all happened with him wanting to come to New York. I know what it's like there. People don't want a lot of b.s. They want results. If you win, it's great. And if you lose, it doesn't matter who you are. You're going to get it."
Collins for now is backing up Rich Gannon, but with Gannon, 38, coming off shoulder surgery and making $7 million this season, things could change. Collins' contract is structured with enough guaranteed money in 2005 to virtually ensure he will be the starter. "That's kind of the general plan," he said.
Collins fits Al Davis' mold of quarterbacks from the Raiders' glory years with his strong arm and down-field game. "He represents someone who can win," Davis said. "I like his ability."
Collins is intrigued by what he calls the Raiders' "mystique," and has enjoyed talking with Davis. "Now that I'm here, I really feel a certain rebirth and a certain excitement about the game that I haven't felt in a while," he said. "There is not as much pressure right now."
That comes from being in a more laid-back environment. And being the backup. After an intense five years in New York, Collins has embraced the change in atmosphere, but knows the new job description, No. 2 QB, will be tough once the season starts.
This is a quarterback controversy waiting to happen. But Collins says he and Gannon have never discussed it and their relationship has been "really smooth," Collins said. "He hasn't shown any animosity, hasn't been bitter at all towards me. It's been really, really good on his part."
After drafting Manning, Accorsi wanted Collins to stay. He could have remained with the Giants one more season and even made the $7 million that was in the final year of his contract. But he refused Accorsi's requirement to add extra years to help the salary cap. It would have voided out next March, making him a free agent. He refused and the Giants cut him, unable to carry his nearly $9 million cap number.
"I'm a prideful SOB," he said. "Listen, I was a part of that football team and felt at times I was glue that held it together through a lot of rough times. I would have stayed there if they would have kept my contract the way it was. But I wasn't in the mood to help them out in any way."
Instead of making $7 million with the Giants, he's making $2.3 million with the Raiders. That's a $4.7 million hit Collins took for taking a stand.
"Money isn't everything," he said.
August 3, 2004