Vinny Is Jets Best Choice

By Mark Cannizzaro Head Writer
September 27th, 2005
Despite his age, Vinny Testaverde is the Jets best option at QB.
Despite his age, Vinny Testaverde is the Jets best option at QB.
Vinny Testaverde was the only way for the Jets to go.

He was the one phone call Herman Edwards had to make when the Jets learned of the damning fate of their franchise quarterback, Chad Pennington, and his backup, Jay Fiedler.

Both are out for the season _ Pennington with another tear in the rotator cuff in his right shoulder and Fiedler with a dislocated right shoulder. The injuries came minutes apart, seven plays apart to be exact, in the Jets' loss to the Jaguars Sunday at Giants Stadium.

There was, quite simply, no one else out there of any true value to bring in as a quarterback off the street to come in and steady the Jets' sinking ship on offense than Testaverde, the 41-year-old former Jet.

There wasn't a team in the NFL that wasn't going to fleece the Jets in a trade, and that's if any team was going to offer anyone of value anyway. The NFL is a paranoid business, and teams are petrified of playing games without a quality backup quarterback on the roster.

So anyone the Jets would be trading for would have been a third-stringer on someone's roster anyway.

And, when Edwards, who was originally lukewarm about bringing Testaverde in, thought longer and harder about the players available on the street, such as Jesse "The Bachelor'' Palmer, Doug Johnson and Jonathan Quinn to name a few, he realized he had no other choice.

Testaverde was the player Edwards needed to reach out to, though oddly it was Testaverde who reached out to Edwards with a Monday night phone call to Edwards' Weeb Ewbank Hall office.

Edwards, who at that point, realizing the dearth of other possibilities, told Testaverde he'd "sleep on it.''

When Edwards woke up Tuesday and realized Testaverde was the best option to keep his boat afloat. That, too, came after a call assistant GM Mike Tannenbaum made to Bill Parcells, who coached Testaverde with the Jets and with Dallas last season.

"My gut told me what we had to do,'' Edwards said. "I feel the right decision was to bring Vinny back. I just think it's the right fit. You always want to make sure the chemistry of your team understands what you are trying to do, and I think they have a lot of respect for Vinny, especially the guys on offense that have played with him.

"There are still some players over there, the running back (Curtis Martin), the fullback (Jerald Sowell), couple of offensive lineman (Kevin Mawae and Jason Fabini), Laverneus Coles, Chris (Baker) have played with him.

"I think, for the most part, he's good fit. He can help Brooks (Bollinger), and if something should happen, he's a guy that can go in and have experience playing in games.''

Testaverde, who's 41, sounded more like a fired-up draft pick making his pro debut.

"I'm excited, I'm happy, I'm nervous, I'm anxious,'' Testaverde said. "If I didn't have high expectations I wouldn't have come back here. The defense is playing outstanding. I think the offense needs a little shot of adrenaline after losing two quarterbacks to kind of get that air back in the balloon.''

Asked why he keeps doing this, Testaverde said, "I guess because I still can. The goof Lord has blessed me with a talent and an ability and I feel like I need to use it as long as He's allowing me to.

"My dreams are to win the Super Bowl. I came close one year, but haven't tasted that yet. I'd like to try to do that. This is a situation that is unfortunate for the Jets fans, but it's one that I hope to capitalize on and that's why I'm doing it.''

Monday was a day of shock, with the team learning of how bad the quarterbacks were injured.

Tuesday was a day of both mourning and lamenting the predicament and of regrouping.

"I hope this doesn't happen to any coach, ever, ever, ever, because, man, it's not a lot of fun,'' Edwards said in a rare personal reflection of sorrow. "Really, I don't wish this on anybody. I don't. It's tough. It's a tough deal.

"It tests your faith, I guess. I have had a lot of harder tests in life in general, so, I can deal with this, trust me. If anybody can deal with it I can deal with it. For some reason, I don't know why, but I can deal with it.

"It is tough, though. I have never been in a situation where you lose your number one and two quarterbacks within a span of seven plays, but it's something you have to deal with.''

Dealing with Pennington's disappointment is much more difficult for Edwards, who looks at Pennington like as son.

"It's harder for me because of who the person is, Chad Pennington,'' Edwards said. "You know how much work he put into it, diligently trying to get back this year. He was on schedule that the doctors really gave us. We put him on a certain schedule to get him back. He did everything he could do in the offseason.

"He got back and this happens to him. What do you say to a young man like that, that put in all that hard work? It was very, very tough. It was a tough evening for Chad Pennington and myself (Monday) night. But he is the type of kid that will do what he has to do to try to come back. We have to look forward at this point, but it's tough. Obviously, he's a little down.''

Orthopedists who we've spoken to say it's a more complicated and longer road for an athlete coming off a "revision'' surgery, meaning a second surgery in the same area. So if there's a positive, Pennington can have more time to rehab before training camp than he had last time.

"It is a tough road for him to travel,'' Edwards acknowledged. "That's something we talked about, but if anybody can travel it, Chad Pennington can because of the way he works and his mindset of how he's always been able to recover from injury faster than a lot of guys.

"I think if anyone can do it will be Chad Pennington. I told him we have to pray for him and whatever happens, happens, and we'll see as this thing goes on what is going to happen. I know how much it means to him.

"Chad is one of those original guys. He doesn't have a lot of hobbies. He spends countless nights here, almost like a coach, trying to prepare himself to be the best player he can be. He's about the team. He's about winning. He's about doing all the little things. He's probably one of the most humble quarterback I have ever been around.

"You just know his character and you feel bad for guys like that, you know, when you sit there and you wonder why. You say, 'Why did that have to happen to him two years in a row or whatever it may be?' You just shake your head.

"I had to talk to him about that. That's what is even tougher because of our relationship. It's like talking to your son. What do you tell him? I mean, I don't know. What do you tell the guy? It is a sad day today, but it gets better. That's how you got to look at. It will be better down the road.

"Chad is strong enough that he will deal with it in a positive way and he will recover from it and be a better player for it.''

Asked on whether Pennington believes he can come back from this by next season, Edwards said, "No doubt. No doubt in his mind, no, no, no doubt. He's going to do what he has to do and get it fixed and let's go.''

As for now, though, Edwards must look forward and not backward. Beginning with Wednesday's morning team meeting ad continuing through the practices this week, Edwards will surely set a positive, energetic tone in an effort not to let his players feel down about the quarterback situation.

"I think the team right now has to think about Baltimore,'' Edwards said. "That's what we have to get focused on. That's the task at hand. All the other stuff kind of takes care of itself. There are 13 games left and we understand that and we've got to go play.

"And, if I know these guys, how they are going to react, we'll be fine. I just believe that in my heart. That's what we're going to do. We're going to go now. We're going to go. We have to go. We have no choice.''

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