The words are "controversy" and "competition." No sense ducking it but those words are going to be used and not exclusively by media -- but fans.
Concerned that the 38-year old Gannon could not sufficiently recover from a season-ending shoulder injury after Kansas City linebacker Shawn Barber belted him, the Oakland Raiders signed Kerry Collins, 31, to a free agent deal. The New York Giants released Collins after trading for Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning, the first overall pick in the draft.
Most people believed that Gannon would be expendable as, like most of his teammates, he flopped from NFL MVP in leading Oakland to a Super Bowl appearance. Gannon is also 38, an age that not many quarterbacks recover from severe injuries, and due $7 million dollars. Collins, meanwhile, is only due $600,000 before his salary escalates the following year.
Because of finances, the Raiders feel like they can afford to have Gannon start and Collins be the No. 2 man. When asked by one Bay Area reporter if he was competing for the starting job, Collins deadpanned and said, "No, I'm not." When asked why, Collins responded, "Because that's what they told me was going to happen when I came here."
Not that Collins is the second-coming of John Elway but it's hard to imagine acquiring someone who has started 117 of 123 games he has played without being serious about making him the starter. Plus, most people consider Collins a better fit for first-year head coach Norv Turner's offense, which figures to emphasize the vertical passing game more often.
"It's different for me," Collins said of being a backup. "I've played a lot. I'm a competitor. I want to play but at the same time I knew coming here that my focus isn't on that. It's about learning this offense and trying to be the best quarterback I can be. I only do things one way and that's with a lot of intensity, regardless of whether that role is as the starter or backup. I'm excited to be a part of a fresh start. I'll be ready if need be."
While Gannon has looked solid the first couple of days on minicamp, he'll have to fight off a challenge to remain the starter.
"I think you get motivated anytime you have a setback, whether you have an injury like I did or criticism that I've undergone since a year ago," Gannon said. "Whether it's justified or not is really not the point. I think my skills and my abilities have been questioned and challenged by certain members of the media -- not just members of the media, but football people, different people, fantasy football people. Anytime, when you're a competitive person like myself, you take it personally. And I do. And I can't understand how a person can go from being MVP of the league, going to four straight Pro Bowls and then getting hurt and being out and then being a bum."
By the looks of it, the Raiders might try one more shot with Gannon before turning the reins over to Collins. While one can only worry about now, suppose the Raiders rebound from last year's 4-12 disaster and go, say, 10-6 with Gannon regaining his MVP form. Then, what do you do with Collins? When he is more costly next year.