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Vinny To The Rescue

By James J. Parziale
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
October 5th, 2005
QB Vinny Testverde will make his first start for the NY Jets since the 2003 season. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
QB Vinny Testverde will make his first start for the NY Jets since the 2003 season. (Jets Insider.com Photo)

If you didn’t see this coming then you just were not paying attention.

No jaws dropped when it was announced Vinny Testaverde will take over the quarterbacking duties for the Jets this Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 41-year-old, whose closest football action before last week was playing the Madden video game with his son, will replace the one-and-done Brooks Bollinger in an effort to galvanize the offense.

On the surface it seems like a no-brainer. Testaverde’s resume brings experience to a young Jets offense struggling to find an identity and he could spark a miracle run, if there’s anything left in the tank. His arm strength and experience are very desirable qualities.

Head coach Herm Edwards was compelled to make a move to energize his team. Maybe he is making a change just to make a change, but after Monday night’s brainstorm with the coaching staff, Edwards decided this was the way to go.

“I’m trying to get a spark in the football team and sometimes you do what you have to do,” Edwards said.

But dig deeper, past Edwards and his now crushed Super Bowl hopes and realize Testaverde might not be the best choice. How can he jump-start the No. 28-ranked offense in the league is up in the air, especially with the running game pumping out less than 70 yards per game?

After all, Testaverde was on the scrap heap after the Cowboys let him walk at the end of last season. His 17 touchdowns and 20 interceptions were enough for Bill Parcells let him walk, a telling revelation sick Parcells was always enamored with Testaverde since his magical 1998 season.

Since then Testaverde’s done it with smoke and mirrors. After 1998, Testaverde’s average quarterback rating has been 78. Not exactly impressive, let alone sparkling.

In past years youth has been the Jets saving grace. In 1999, when Testaverde was lost for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon, the Jets started 1-6 before the “logical” choice Rick Mirer was benched in favor of Ray Lucas. Lucas went 6-3 and the Jets missed the playoffs by one game.

In 2002 the Jets were 1-3 before Testaverde was benched in favor of Chad Pennington, who went 8-4 and guided the team to the AFC East title.

This year, with both Pennington and Fielder out with shoulder injuries, the Jets are in a tough situation. Yes, Testaverde is a veteran, but behind an ineffective offensive line and no running game to take the pressure off, the prospects for success are not bright.

If Testaverde’s skills deteriorate, then Edwards may be forced to go back to Bollinger, who must now watch from the sidelines after a one-game trial against the best defense of the past decade.

“That’s not for me to decide,” Bollinger said when asked about starting after he was 14 of 28 for 149 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns in a 13-3 loss to the Ravens Sunday. “It’s not about [me] right now; it’s about doing what’s best for the team.”

Bollinger may not be as accurate as Testaverde, or have as much experience, but he has the capacity to improve. His mobility behind a banged up offensive line would also give him the edge over Testaverde, who said he understands about “85 percent” of the offense right now. Bollinger said he is helping Testaverde learn Mike Heimerdinger’s offense.

“It’s a situation we’re forced into,” said Testaverde, who added he kept in shape while the Jets were in training camp. “If we had our choice, yeah, I would have liked to have the whole preseason [to prepare], but this is what it is and we have to make the best of it.”

Meanwhile, Bollinger, who was visibly disappointed, is trying to make the best of his situation.

“I said from day one that I want to do what I can to help the team win; whatever role that puts me in,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I want to stay in that role.”

So Bollinger will be holding a clipboard this Sunday while the best defense in the league (statistically speaking) will have it's shot at Testaverde.

“My career was basically over,” Testaverde said when asked about his off-season. “I was ready to retire.”

The Jets hope that they can squeeze some magic out of the old war horse for at least the next three to four months.

INSIDER TIDBITS

Curtis’s Credo Curtis Martin doesn’t exactly like this feeling of déjà vu, but playing hurt is what he does. A tender knee kept him out of practice today and he is listed as probable for Sunday.

Martin, 32, is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry through four games this season, and like clockwork, he is answering questions about his age after winning the NFL rushing title last season.

“I’m going to definitely bounce back,” said Martin, who played on two sprained ankles in 2002 and a partially torn knee ligament in 2000. “I don’t doubt that one bit. The thing about this is that you have to expect that when you’re a running back my age. You can’t feel slighted that someone says that because the reality is that it’s abnormal for a guy my age to start in the NFL.

“My motivation comes from myself. I put more pressure on myself than any media or any coach could put on me. That’s just my mentality.”

With 41-year-old QB Vinny Testaverde seeing his first game action in nine months Sunday against the Buccaneers No.1 ranked defense, Martin’s impact will directly remove pressure off Testaverde’s shoulders. He will be crucial in the play-action passing game.

“The guy is in shape and he’s throwing the ball well,” Martin said. “We’ll just have to see how it works out.”

ROSTER MOVE:The Jets waived CB Darrien Johnson from the active roster and signed DB Jeremy LeSueur from the practice squad. LeSeuer was originally a third round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2004 from Michigan.
-The Jets are 7-1 all-time against the Bucs.
-This is Herm Edwards first time coaching against his former team. Edwards was the assistant head coach and secondary coach in Tampa Bay from 1996-2000.
-The Jets offense has been putrid this season, ranking 26th or lower in total offense (28), rush offense (30), pass offense (26), and points per game (30).
-Paul Hackett is the Bucs QB coach.

INJURY REPORT RB Curtis Martin, WR Justin McCareins and T Jason Fabini did not practice today.
-QB Chad Pennington (shoulder): out
-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): out
-FB B.J. Askew (ankle): doubtful
-LB Eric Barton (knee): questionable
-T Jason Fabini (knee): probable
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): probable
-WR Justin McCareins (back): probable

The Jets resume practice tomorrow. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com often for all the latest breaking NY Jets news.

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