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Lack of interest in Kerry, Warner

Tuesday, May 18, 2004



"Kerry-Warner" may not be the Democratic presidential ticket for the 2004 election. Yet the two are landslide winners in this late-spring quarterback race for the spotlight.

We pretty much know what Kurt Warner will be doing this fall. He will be slotted somewhere in the Giants' quarterback depth chart. Kerry Collins? He's still without a home, which shows some people working in the NFL don't have a clue.

Warner appears headed to the Giants as veteran tutor to Eli Manning, even though his profile does not ideally fit that role. Yet the trickle of interest in the soon-to-be-former Ram combined with a dearth of candidates for the Giants' opening could result in a classic case of desperation making strange bedfellows.

Collins, meanwhile, still seeks a job in a 32-team league where there may be just a dozen or so quarterbacks better than him. The fact no one has stepped forward and said this guy's better than what we have demonstrates how teams often look to make chicken salad out of their turkey salad.

In fact, Collins would look good in his old blue No. 5 jersey had he and the Giants parted more amicably. The Giants' job description now reads "Someone to come in and compete for the starting QB job and hopefully help us win this year." Collins, with some protection, certainly could have done that.

Theoretically, the winning applicant could develop into another Jon Kitna if he plays well and keeps the Giants in playoff contention. Kitna figured to start a few games for Cincinnati last year until No. 1 draft pick Carson Palmer was ready. But the Bengals actually won games and stayed in the race, so Palmer never left the sideline. Once the season ended, Cincinnati gave Kitna an extension - and Palmer the starting job for 2004.

Warner, a two-time league MVP, turns 33 next month. Since he got such a late start on his career, he figures he has many more productive seasons ahead. The Giants could give him the opportunity to audition for a long-term gig elsewhere before handing the job to Manning.

But Warner does not come without warts.

First, there is that arthritic right thumb that apparently flares up, something you hate to see in a right-handed passer. The Giants' medical staff looked at that thumb from every possible angle when Warner came in for a visit last week. They found nothing to indicate a serious problem.

There also are diverse opinions on how Warner will counsel young Manning. Some say he was an excellent companion to Marc Bulger, who took over the Rams' huddle last year. Others, however, have some reservations. "Kurt knew the TV cameras would be showing him on the sidelines with Bulger," said one doubter who thought Warner's helpfulness was scripted. "You could almost see Bulger saying 'Enough already!' when Warner was in his ear."

Now Tampa Bay's good-guy Brad Johnson might be a better Manning mentor, but he may not be the odd-man out with the four-QB Bucs. Johnson has not attended the team's off-season program, but newcomer Brian Griese only participated in a few sessions. Since Griese tends to wear out his welcome quickly, he could be the one to go. And you don't want that son of a former NFL quarterback tutoring your son of a former NFL quarterback.

Warner may not be the perfect fit, but one the Giants will accept since the fallout from an anticipated Collins signing has not occurred. Smart money still has Collins going to Oakland, where his talents clearly fit the play-action, down-the-field passing philosophy of new coach Norv Turner. The Raiders have made an offer to him as a backup, although they must know he eventually should beat out even a healthy Rich Gannon.

Collins, however, misread the market. He thought, and not without reason, there would be other teams bidding for his services. Yet there are some precincts from which he apparently will not hear.

Take the Arizona Cardinals. Dennis Green only watched this man throw five touchdown passes against his Minnesota defense in the 2000 NFL title game. Yet he insists he's better off with young Josh McCown, maybe because his miracle TD pass on last season's final play knocked Green's old team out of the playoffs. And the new coach apparently sold that premise to his constituents: A recent Arizona Republic poll showed 54 percent of the fans want McCown to be the starter. Collins finished third at 11 percent. Runner-up at 23 percent was Kurt Warner.

Yet this is a franchise that hasn't won since the Roosevelt (Teddy) administration and soon will move into a new stadium that must be filled. McCown better be the goods.

Right up there in the inanity rankings are the Miami Dolphins, who have been a top-flight quarterback away from Super Bowl contention for several seasons. Their latest candidate is A.J. Feeley, the former Eagle third-stringer. Collins may throw a better pass left-handed standing on his head than Feeley can right-handed standing on two feet. But Miami has made its commitment to Feeley, whose agent, David Dunn, also represents Collins. No agent wants two clients battling for one position.

And how about San Francisco? The albeit cap-strapped 49ers have lost starter Tim Rattay, who's not that good to begin with, at least until the start of training camp. Instead of looking for veteran insurance such as Collins, they are holding with former Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey, who general manager Terry Donahue apparently sees as a potential legacy. Few others consider the soft-armed Dorsey a legitimate prospect. "He's got the intangibles you look for in a quarterback," Donahue says. "In the practice before the [2003] Shrine Game, he probably didn't throw a spiral all week, but he was the game's MVP."

Dallas still could become a late bidder. Everyone assumes Vinny Testaverde is headed there as Drew Henson's mentor, but guess what? Testaverde might wind up elsewhere, though not with the Giants. The Bears with Rex Grossman and the Ravens with Kyle Boller know Collins could beat out either, but each prefers to stay with its relatively untested youngster. Good luck, especially in Chicago.

Collins and Warner will start games at quarterback before the nation heads to the polls in November. The difference could be Collins will be starting long-term at his new haunt, while Warner may be one year and out with the Giants.

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