Forget numbers -- starter is Gannon

Collins has to accept backup role with Raiders

Given his 131.3 quarterback rating, you have to hand it to Kerry Collins.

Only no one is ... handing him a starting job, that is.

Tonight, the Oakland Raiders close out their exhibition schedule against the St. Louis Rams, and barring an extraordinary turn of events, Collins will go to Pittsburgh for the opener the very same way he came into Oakland.

As Rich Gannon's backup. Period. End of subject.

Others may grouse about it. Collins is not. He accepts that Gannon is No.1 and does so with a smile on his face.

Not that Gannon has done anything to merit losing his starter's job this August. But Collins is aware there are those who arrive armed with statistics to show that Collins has been more effective and maybe deserves better.

Those statistics find each quarterback has had eight series, but while Gannon has been in for 21/2 times as many plays, Collins has matched or exceeded him in production.

Under Gannon, the team has scored one touchdown, kicked three field goals and punted four times. Under Collins, the team has four touchdowns and four punts.

While Gannon has led the team to 390 yards of offense in 77 plays (5.1 yards per play), the Raiders have 297 yards in 33 plays (9.0 yards per play) behind Collins.

Gannon has no touchdown passes, Collins has three -- from 34 yards to 89 yards. For the record, neither has thrown an interception.

Gannon has been more accurate (57 percent) -- 24-for-42 passing for 250 yards. Collins is less accurate (45 percent) -- 9-for-20 passing, but those nine completions have been for 256 yards -- 28.4 yards a pop compared to 10.4.

Should people read into those numbers what they seem to imply?

"I don't think they should," Collins said. "I know there is naturally going to be a lot of comparisons. But I just think I have gotten luckier in some respects.

"Look back at the games and at some of the opportunities I have had to make big plays. Rich has had the same plays called but got a defense that just wouldn't necessitate throwing the ball down the field. It's hard to compare the two because ... of what the defense is giving him."

The trend has been that Collins and Doug Gabriel seem to have a spiritual connection. All three Collins touchdowns were to the second-year receiver.

"Obviously when I've been in, he's been in there the whole time," Collins said. "So the opportunities are greater. He's a guy who gets down the field. The play-calling has been timed right, and we were able to hook up."

Coach Norv Turner brought up another important difference between Gannon and Collins -- Gannon has faced first-unit defenses. Collins, with one exception has faced backups.

"That is a fair statement," Collins said, adding "our twos are probably superior to their twos."

Although Collins downplays any statistical edge he might have over Gannon, he cautions about being misunderstood.

"I mean, I want to play," he said. "I've played a lot. And I'm a competitor who loves to play. Even though I am not (playing), I am real excited about being here. I am excited about the team I have come to. I am excited about the possibilities for the future.

"My wife and I are enjoying the area. There are a lot of things I feel good about being here. Even my spot here on the team is going to be one where I am going to be able to help. That makes me feel good.

"Am I disappointed I am not going to play? Yeah, I am. But at the same time there are a lot of other positive things going on."

Tonight, Gannon and Collins are slated to get 10 or 12 snaps before handing off to Marques Tuiasosopo.

"I'm really looking forward to this week, getting the amount of work I am going to get, because I won't be getting a lot of work once the regular season starts," Tuiasosopo said.

But none of what has taken place has surprised him.

"Really, it has gone pretty much as I expected it was going to go this preseason," Tuiasosopo said. "To me, there really weren't a lot of surprises. It's kind of been business as usual."