Time For Vinny To Take The Reins

By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Head Writer
October 4th, 2005
As scary as it sounds, 41 year old Vinny Testaverde is the Jets only shot at saving the season. (Jets Photo)
As scary as it sounds, 41 year old Vinny Testaverde is the Jets only shot at saving the season. (Jets Photo)
The Brooks Bollinger experiment is over. It has to be. He is who he is, and that's an able third-string quarterback who might have a chance to elevate himself to a No. 2 someday.

Is it fair for Bollinger to be evaluated on one game started?

Of course not, but the problem here is that the 1-3 Jets, with 4-0 Tampa Bay next on the schedule Sunday at Giants Stadium, don't have time to be fair right now. They're desperate to keep this season relevant.

And the only way to do that right now is to hand the ball over to Vinny Testaverde.

Bollinger, who did nothing to embarrass himself against the Ravens, also did nothing to spark the team.

Quarterbacks are truly evaluated and rated for how often they get their team in the end zone. Bollinger never got his team anywhere near the red zone. So, he was evaluated Sunday, even though, in a perfect world, he should get another chance. He, too, has been evaluated along the way since he got to New York and he's a No. 3 quarterback.

"There are certain things you evaluate when you watch the tape and you make a decision on he did this well, he didn't do that well,'' Herman Edwards said. "Can he get better at this? Can he not get better at that? Do we have time? We're in a situation where time is at the essence, too.

"So, when you look at your offenses, you can't keep saying, well, we're going to keep getting better. Well, you have to do something to get better. But what do you do? Because what we're doing right now is not real good. I shouldn't say not real good, just not consistent enough for us to win. That's a decision that you've got to make.''

There's interesting irony here in that the reason Testaverde wanted no part of continuing his career with the Jets after the 2003 season was because he didn't want to be relegated as the No. 3 quarterback behind Bollinger at No. 2.

Another interesting twist to this week is the fact that the Jets are playing the Buccaneers, whose quarterbacks coach is none other than Paul Hackett, the former Jets' offensive coordinator.

The much-maligned Hackett was never a Testaverde fan, so a strong Testaverde performance could not only save the Jets' season and allow it to live in relevance for another week, but it could also stick it to Hackett.

Hackett, by the way, is declining all interview requests this week through a Tampa Bay spokesperson.

The Jets' problems run deeper than merely the quarterback position.

They can't block and they can't run the football. Other than that, everything's peachy.

The rumblings about whether Curtis Martin, at age 32, has lost a step are gaining momentum _ just as they did in 2003 when it took him until the seventh game of the season to rush for 100 yards or more in a game.

Martin has not come close to rushing for 100 yards in a game this season. He's 10th in the AFC and 19th in the NFL with 226 yards rushing and is averaging a paltry 2.8-yards per carry.

Martin has rushed for 1,000 or more yards in each of his 10 NFL seasons, something only Barry Sanders has accomplished. Right now, he's on a pace to rush for 904 yards.

"We're really struggling on offense and we've got to find a better way to move the ball and to protect our defense a little bit, because the more you send them out there, the more you go three-and-outs they tire,'' Edwards said. "Everything is up for discussion _ how we protect, how we run the ball. Everything is up for discussion as far as where I'm concerned. That's where it's at when you're functioning where we are functioning.

"How are we going to put these players in position to make plays on offense? How are we going to do a better job of running the ball, how are we doing a better job of protecting, how are we going to do a better job of throwing the ball? Those are the main three things. And from there, I think you go into, well, who do we feel is best for this? It's those three issues, first before anything else on my agenda that I'm looking at.''

Testaverde starting is Edwards' only true button to push to initially spark his team. From there, everyone around Testaverde has to make plays, starting with the protection from the struggling offensive line.

Then the Jets needs to look to some other players to make plays, such as taking advantage of the talent they have at receiver, and throwing the ball down the field to Laveranues Coles, Justin McCareins, Jerricho Cotchery and Chris Baker.

The Jets tried to win the other way _ by going into an offensive shell, protecting the football and trying to steal a game with defense and special teams. That didn't work. Now, instead of trying not to lose the game, it's time to go for the jugular and try to win the game with big plays.

"The players we have are the players we have,'' Edwards said. "Who are we going to get? We have 52 players. That's all we got. We don't have anybody in the attic. We have got our guys. We have good players. We have to help them to play better. That's what we have to do and that's what we're going to do as a coaching staff.''

Edwards is hoping to see similar results to the ones he saw in 2002 when, during a bye week with his team struggling mightily on offense in the passing game and Martin hurting (as he is now with a sore right knee) he revamped the offense. That included sticking with Chad Pennington at quarterback.

"I look this like, let's come to some conclusion saying, 'OK, we've done this for four weeks and obviously we're struggling. How do we get out of these struggles?' '' Edwards said. "How do we get these things better, how do we improve? It's no different than we did in 2002. It wasn't all of the sudden that next game we scored 20 or 30 points. You saw improvement. And we kept improving, and we kept improving.

"And the rest of the year we improved and we started winning games and we were fortunate enough to win the division that year. I have to see improvement. I think the players want improvement so they can have confidence.''

Successful plays breed confidence and confidence, of course, breeds winning.

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