Raiders' recipe for disaster

Day 6 of the Rich Gannon-Kerry Collins marriage, which came and went Saturday, was as blissful as the previous five days insofar as neither man attempted to slap the other. At least as far as we know.

But by signing Collins last Monday, while insisting Gannon remains their guy, the Raiders are just asking for a feud of epic proportions.

Make that an assortment of feuds, with various skirmishes involving not only their quarterbacks but also anybody with an allegiance to the team.

There are the fans, who are certain to take sides and quite literally will fight in defense of their man.

There are the team's non-quarterbacks, who surely will have a preference, even if their debate is limited to locker-room arguments among themselves.

There is Collins, who at age 31 is in his prime and easily could get an itchy fist if he is designated to hold a clipboard.

And there is, of course, Gannon, the famously feisty quarterback who spent his career seeking what he found in

Oakland and seems a likely candidate to clutch the football and his first-string status until somebody pries them from his cold, deposed hands.

As this preposterous arrangement approaches the end of its first week, there is too much that does not compute, including the disingenuous behavior of the principals. Collins is saying he understands he's here as a backup to Gannon, and he's fine with that. Gannon has said, through Turner, that bringing in Collins is the right thing for the Raiders to do.

Which it is, for numerous reasons, the most crucial being Gannon's stated reluctance to take a pay cut from his $7million salary and his uncertain future as a 38-year-old coming off shoulder surgery.

Sometimes erratic but occasionally spectacular, Collins is a quality starter. He is seven years younger than Gannon, with a history of durability. That Collins was available and willing to join the Raiders made this a no-brainer.

But the plan as announced by Turner beclouds everything, turning the matter from one of clarity to a weird shade of gray.

The Raiders bring in a new man, younger, more in tune with the desires of the new coaching staff. Yet they insist on keeping both QBs. This ignores the various factors and circumstances that make this notion a recipe for disaster.

And while they say this is about of improving quarterback depth, it undeniably invites a quarterback controversy.

They say Gannon is to be the starter on opening day and that they anticipate Collins will on the sideline wearing a baseball cap.

If Turner is being disingenuous and knows full well this is highly unlikely -- because Rich will become a salary-cap casualty sometime before September -- why would the coach bother to say this?

If Turner truly believes Gannon will be on the roster for opening day and that this Gannon-Collins union is healthy for all aspects of the operation, including team chemistry, it's time for the coach to pee in a cup.

Is this any different from buying a plasma-screen TV, just to place it on the floor, unopened, next to the faithful model you've enjoyed since 1996?

It's madness. Sheer and utter madness. The kind of lunacy that can divide a team, threatening any pretense of being a legitimate contender.

Keeping two proven starting quarterbacks on a roster applies a lot better to theory than it does to practice. There are reasons why this has not been tried more often and most of them relate to divergent loyalties and developing factions.

It does not work, and it's not hard to find examples in support, from Warner-Bulger in St. Louis, to Flutie-Brees in San Diego, to Couch-Holcomb in Cleveland, to Fiedler-Griese in Miami.

That's just in the past 12 months and without getting into the revolving door in Washington under Steve Spurrier, or the entire careers of Kordell Stewart and Jeff Blake.

Please don't bring up the salad days of the 49ers, when they won despite the tension between Joe Montana and Steve Young. As long as Joe was Joe, Steve was no threat. And once Joe no longer was Joe, there was no way he could keep the job over Steve.

Simply put, NFL offensive units operate best when united behind one quarterback, especially if all accept it is the better quarterback.

And if that man in Oakland isn't Gannon, there will be hell to pay. Rich has come too far and done too much to be content holding a clipboard, and he's too proud to take a demotion in silence.

If that man in Oakland is Gannon, his biggest challenge is not proving he can still make plays but proving he still can lead this team to victory despite the abrasions he has left on numerous teammates.

For Gannon's intense criticisms of coaching methods and individual work habits, once welcome, have worn thin in the locker room. There are Raiders who understand Rich and like him; there are more Raiders who merely tolerate him because he is the starting quarterback.

Somebody must go, regardless of their plan, otherwise the Raiders create their fragile and flammable mix. Somebody in the building has to know this.

For if they believe 2004 will feature Gannon-Collins peacefully coexisting as foundations of a contender, while everyone else fails to see or smell the smoke in the room, it's time to send in the fire fighters.

Send them now. Why wait until the blaze starts to rage?