To hear the Oakland Raiders tell it, the plan isn't to make Rich Gannon into the next Jeff Hostetler or Jeff George. It's to make Kerry Collins the new Marques Tuiasosopo.
Although he stopped short of assurances Gannon would be on the Oakland roster when the regular season begins in September, Raiders coach Norv Turner and Collins both were emphatic Tuesday in their assertion that Gannon remains the No.1 quarterback.
"Our goal when we first approached this was to have Rich as our starting quarterback on opening day and Kerry as a backup," Turner said in a conference call with Bay Area media.
Collins echoed: "I understand Rich is going to be the starter, and I'm going to be the guy to go in there if something happens to Rich."
In the wake of Collins' signing Monday, it's unclear if that certain "something" has to do with Gannon's health or his contract.
Gannon, 38, is scheduled to make$7 million in salary this season, a figure Oakland could remove from its salary cap by letting him go at any time after June 1.
"Rich is our starting quarterback, and there are things that come into play in terms of sorting through the whole deal ... non-football types of things," Turner said.
Personnel executive Mike Lombardi, when asked about Gannon's status, declined to deal in "hypothetical" situations regarding pay cuts or restructures.
Neither Gannon nor his agent, Tom Condon, was available for comment. Gannon said last January he would restructure his contract to help with the salary cap as long as his total payout was still $7 million.
However, with few openings around the league, Gannon may find that even if Oakland were to cut his salary in half, it might be his most lucrative opportunity.
In any event, it appears the resolution will come later rather than sooner, setting the stage for both quarterbacks to be on hand for training camp in late July.
"Competition makes you better," Turner said.
However, it could also be a distraction should the team carry both quarterbacks into the regular season.
"If one guy makes a bad play or one-hops a throw, the media, the fans and some players are going to be grumbling, 'We need to get the other guy in there,'" wide receiver Jerry Porter said Tuesday on the NFL Network. "It's going to create controversy. I think they need to decide on one and just go with it."
Collins' deal, which reportedly includes a $660,000 salary and $1.5 million bonus, is relatively salary-cap friendly in the first year -- a figure not out of line for a backup with a starter's pedigree.
It goes up considerably the next two seasons and could be worth as much as $16 million, meaning that if Gannon remains on the roster in 2004, he should be prepared to give way to Collins in 2005.
"This may have a little more long-term possibilities than the other situations I was looking at," Collins said. "There was a lot of upside to being here."
With Oakland's recent history of switching quarterbacks -- dumping Hostetler for George and George for Gannon -- the natural speculation was that Gannon would be out of a job.
Turner said he spoke with Gannon at length late last week when talks with Collins became serious. They discussed how quarterback injuries could ruin a season and that depth was a good thing.
"We had a great visit, with Rich understanding where we are," Turner said. "I think he shared my concerns and my thought that if we had an opportunity to get an experienced guy ... who has taken a team to the Super Bowl, it would be in the best interests of the football team to do that."
While Collins' arm strength and ability to throw vertically were appealing, Turner said Gannon is also a good fit for Oakland's new offensive system.
"One thing Rich has showed me the last six weeks is that he's a very, very accurate thrower on the 18-, 22- and 24-yard throws," Turner said. "Everyone thinks that you've got to drill the ball in and have a cannon, but those are mostly touch throws that need accuracy, and Rich does those things very well."
Turner pointed to the implosion of the Atlanta Falcons last season once Michael Vick was lost to a broken leg in the preseason, as well as Oakland's well-documented injury troubles.
The Raiders in 2004 lost Gannon (torn labrum), Tuiasosopo (knee) and eventually No. 3 quarterback Rick Mirer (knee) before finishing the season with Tee Martin as the starter.
"Our quarterback situation right now is as good as anyone in the league," Turner said.
Turner said Collins' acquisition, in light of the plans to keep Gannon, were not an indictment of Tuiasosopo.
"I can say point blank that if Kerry hadn't become available, I don't believe we would have signed another quarterback," Turner said. "This was a unique opportunity, and we moved on it."
Collins, who was released after declining a pay cut after the Giants traded for No. 1 draft pick Eli Manning, is over the initial feelings of hurt and anger.
"That's part of life these days in the NFL," Collins said. "I've moved on and am excited to be an Oakland Raider."
He said he's looking forward to getting to know Gannon.
"I have never met Rich Gannon before," Collins said. "I have the utmost respect for him and what he's accomplished. I think we can have a good working relationship. I think we can help each other."