10:00 PM ET, August 30, 2007
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA
SEATTLE (AP) -- Maybe he's just fortunate, but Mike Holmgren has never faced the situation in front of first-year Oakland coach Lane Kiffin.
In his long career, from being an assistant in San Francisco to his head coaching days in Green Bay and Seattle, Holmgren has always gone into the final preseason game set on his starting quarterback.
"I prefer fine coaching," Holmgren cracked.
The quarterback debate is at the forefront for Kiffin, who will use Thursday night's preseason finale between the Raiders and Seahawks as the final test for who will get the starting nod when Oakland opens the regular season against Detroit on Sept. 9.
The competition that began with three QBs -- all who had starting experience in the NFL -- is now down to Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper. Kiffin said Tuesday that Andrew Walter, who started eight games last season for the Raiders, would be the No. 3 quarterback.
"We're both still relatively new to this thing, as is everybody, for that matter, but at the same time, I just go out and work," McCown said of him and Culpepper. "I don't put any chips on my shoulder or make myself get going like I am the underdog."
McCown will get the start against the Seahawks, with Culpepper getting about an equal number of snaps, although Kiffin didn't say how long either will play. Other than the quarterback position, Kiffin intends on pulling most of his starters after the first series or two.
A quarterback competition of this extent likely could have been avoided if there wasn't a contentious, ongoing contract dispute between the Raiders and No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell, a holdout all summer. Kiffin's hopes of tutoring Russell in his offense, then handing him the reins vanished after Russell missed the opening days of training camp.
If Oakland cannot sign Russell by the 10th week of the regular season, Russell will not be able to play in 2007. If he's not signed by next April's draft, Russell will go back into the draft pool.
"I know that players even better than coaches understand the professional side of it," Kiffin said about Russell.
Culpepper, who signed with the Raiders on July 31 after being cut in Miami, is making a strong push to be the starter, despite missing offseason minicamps and finding himself well behind McCown and Walter in learning Kiffin's system.
His best outing came in Oakland's second preseason game against San Francisco. Culpepper went 6-for-8 for 75 yards, threw for a pair of touchdowns and showed there was still some mobility left in his reconstructed knee.
"We signed Daunte to compete to be the starting quarterback and that's exactly what he's done. If he's the starter, he's the starter," Kiffin said.
"That's the first conversation I had before we ever signed him, making sure he understood he's going to get a great shot at being the starting quarterback. He may not be the starter, he may be the backup, and I needed to know how he was going to handle that, and he was great."
McCown, acquired in a trade with Detroit, followed up with a strong outing last week against St. Louis: 6-for-9 for 138 yards.
"I felt like this last game, in particular, I came out and threw the ball better, accurately, like I expect myself to throw," McCown said. "So from those standpoints, yeah, I think I've continued to improve and get to the point where I want to be at throwing the football."
Along with the quarterback debate, the Raiders are still deciding who will be their offensive line anchor at center. Former San Francisco center Jeremy Newberry has been dominant when on the field, but the Raiders are being cautious with his aging knees.
Meanwhile, most questions in the Seahawks lineup already are settled, with most of the competitions now surrounding reserves at safety, tight end and linebacker.
Nate Burleson and D.J. Hackett are still competing to start opposite Deion Branch at wide receiver, and Darryl Tapp appears to have moved ahead of Bryce Fisher at defensive end. But in both cases, the Seahawks rotate multiple players at those positions.
Most of Seattle's starters are likely to play sparingly Thursday.
"I hear players around the league say that there's too many preseason games," Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "It sort of bothers me when I hear them say that because if it wasn't for these preseason games, I wouldn't be in the NFL. I wouldn't even ever had a chance."
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Team Averages & NFL Ranks
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|Pass Yds Allowed||OAK|
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Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 2-2|
|Nov 6, 2006||OAK 0, @SEA 16|
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|Sep 30, 2001||OAK 38, SEA 14|