In San Diego, the Chargers say they are prepared to start Ed Luther, who has thrown 22 passes in the National Football League, at quarterback during the 1983 season.
In Tampa, the Buccaneers say they are prepared to start the Throwin' Samoan, Jackie Thompson, formerly Cincinnati's third-string quarterback.
In Oregon, Dan Fouts, longtime No. 1 quarterback for San Diego, quietly waits for new negotiations with the Chargers, who thought the Fouts problem was over in late April, the day before the NFL draft.
In Florida, Doug Williams, Tampa Bay's veteran No. 1 quarterback, still is reeling from the Thompson trade, which came two months after the death of Williams' wife Janice.
Quarterbacks have held out before, of course, but what makes these two cases unusual is the way each club is dealing with the situation.
Owner Gene Klein of the Chargers is a stubborn man who steadfastly has refused to give in to what he considers ridiculous salary demands of his star players. Ask Klein for too much and, as quick as you can say Fred Dean or John Jefferson, you are traded.
Klein wants to keep Fouts, the league's most successful quarterback over the last half decade. Even Fouts' demand for $1 million a year didn't turn off the Charger owner. He countered with a base salary offer of $750,000, which would make Fouts the highest-paid quarterback in the league. Bonuses and incentives would increase that figure to $1 million if San Diego won the Super Bowl.
The two men had breakfast the day before the draft, reached an agreement and shook hands. But when Fouts and his agent, Howard Slusher, read the contract, they became livid. Fouts claimed what he saw in print was not what Klein and he had agreed to.
Klein, whose dislike for Slusher is well known, was angered in turn. He thought the handshake was binding.
The parties have met at least once more, in early May, but since then no known negotiations have taken place. Klein allowed Fouts to sit out 10 weeks of the 1977 season before a contract was signed. Indications now are that Klein will let Fouts sit again, and that Fouts, equally as determined, will remain in Oregon unless the Chargers' offer is changed.
The matter has Klein so upset that he doesn't want to talk about it, unusual for this most approachable of owners.
"I'm sorry to have to say this, but I have no comment," he said this week. "You won't hear that from me very often but that's the best way to handle this right now."
As for Luther, he was being groomed during minicamp for the starting spot, in case Fouts is missing when the season opens. Luther, from San Jose State, was a fourth-round 1980 pick who has played well each preseason but has been a mopup player each regular season.
"No question the public and the press are panicking about the Fouts situation," said a source close to the Chargers. "But (Coach) Don Coryell has won with all types of quarterbacks. Luther has talent; he just hasn't had a chance to show it."
At one point, it appeared the U.S. Football League might become involved, but now that the new San Diego franchise is expected to relocate in Tulsa, that possibility is more remote. But even at 32, Fouts, who earned $283,750 last year, would be a substantial draw for the fledgling league.
Williams has expressed an interest in the USFL, but no takers have surfaced. The Buccaneers called Williams' bluff by trading for Thompson, not wanting to be vulnerable should Williams extend his holdout through the start of the season.
"It's evident that they want Jack Thompson to play for them," said Williams after the Thompson trade. "Probably the best thing I can do now is to go to the USFL or come to terms and go (to another team) in the NFL."
Williams, who was paid $120,000 last year after rejecting the Buccaneers' renegotiation overtures, wants $875,000 per year in a five-year contract. Tampa Bay has countered with a $400,000-per-year proposal, but may be willing to go as high as $600,000.
The Buccaneers claim that their offer would make Williams one of the five or six highest-paid quarterbacks in the league. Williams, seeing what rookie quarterbacks are being paid and remembering five rough years with Tampa Bay, doesn't want to settle for what could quickly become outdated figures.
The Buccaneers also point out that Williams had offseason knee surgery (cartilage), and they aren't sure of his physical condition. Williams calls that "negotiation talk."
Thompson, who is Tampa Bay's trump card, arrives in Tampa Bay with shaky credentials. Once a well-regarded prospect, he has played little in his four NFL seasons, except in 1980, when he threw for more than 1,000 yards.
Last year, he didn't pay dues to the NFL Players Association and believed he was not a union member. When the NFLPA went on strike, Thompson told the Bengals he wanted to continue his employment--with pay, of course.
Cincinnati disagreed, and Thompson reached a verbal agreement with Michigan of the USFL while also taking Cincinnati to court. The case was sent to arbitration, Thompson lost and sat out the rest of the season.
Now, even if Williams returns, Thompson will be a viable contender for a starting job, considering Williams was ranked 13th among NFC passers last year.
"What they did . . . is almost tell me, 'Doug Williams, we want Jack Thompson to play for us,' " said a saddened Williams earlier this month.