Those tired, old Vinny, veni, vidi, vici jokes you thought had been put away for good by the NFL media? Get ready to hear them again. Ditto the hackneyed "Vinny and the Jets" references.
The venerable Vinny Testaverde, with just three practices and after an offseason spent ferrying his kids to their summertime activities, will start at quarterback on Sunday for a stumbling New York Jets team in dire need of an offensive jump-start. Head coach Herm Edwards, who made up his mind Tuesday to elevate Testaverde to the starting perch ahead of Brooks Bollinger, announced the switch Wednesday.
Edwards held off making an announcement Tuesday because he wanted to first tell the team about the switch.
"At this point, I feel that Vinny's a veteran guy, we need a
change a little bit as far as making some plays in the passing
game. I think he can provide that," Edwards said Wednesday.
"Brooks did a good job for us, but at the end of the day, when you
can't make plays passing the ball, it's tough. So we decided that's
for the best interest of the football team, so we made the
Testaverde, 41, will become the third different starter this year for the Jets, who have lost No. 1 quarterback Chad Pennington for the season to a rotator cuff injury. Bollinger was the starter in last week's 13-3 loss at Baltimore, a defeat that dropped the team to 1-3, and a game in which the offense struggled for a fourth straight outing.
In his first career start, Bollinger, a third-year veteran, completed 14 of 28 passes for 149 yards, with no touchdown passes or interceptions, and was sacked five times.
Bollinger was disappointed with the decision, since he got one
chance to prove he can handle the load.
"I don't think it matters if it's fair or not," Bollinger
said. "They do upstairs what's best for this football team and
what they feel the team needs to win a game. It doesn't mean I have
to like it or want it to stay that way."
It is likely that Testaverde, signed Sept. 27 and given a cram course in the offense, will remain the starter for the rest of the season, barring injury. One reason Edwards did an about face on Testaverde last week, after originally apprising the veteran that the club likely would sign someone else, was because he concluded Jets players needed a leader in whom they had confidence, and that rationale will now be tested.
The New York offense, which ranks 28th in the league, has not scored a touchdown in its last 18 possessions, or since Pennington injured his shoulder against Jacksonville. The passing game is out of synch and even tailback Curtis Martin, who Edwards revealed Tuesday is playing hurt, is having problems. Injuries have forced a shuffling on the offensive line.
The situation doesn't figure to get any easier on Sunday, with the undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers bringing the league's top-rated defense to Giants Stadium.
When he takes the field, he will
be the fourth-oldest quarterback to start a game in the Super Bowl
era, behind Steve DeBerg, Warren Moon and Doug Flutie.
"There's certain things that can happen, hopefully will happen,
with getting the ball down the field, getting the ball out quick,
trying not to take sacks, hoping everybody gets their confidence
up," Testaverde said. "Our lack of success has hurt our
confidence a little bit offensively. We just have to get it up a
Testaverde, who started 15 games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2004, is in his second stint with the Jets. The Long Island native played with the team from 1998 to 2003, starting in 57 games. For his career, the 19th-year veteran has appeared in 217 games and started in 204 of them. He has completed 3,631 of 6,420 passes for 44,475 yards, with 268 touchdown passes and 255 interceptions.
"He's won here, he still has a live arm, but we have to help
Vinny," Edwards said. "You can put in a new quarterback, it
sounds real good, but you have to play well around him. We didn't do
that enough for Brooks in the game. That's no fault of Brooksy's. I
have to get a spark in the team."
With the Cowboys in 2004, Testaverde threw for 3,532 yards, with 17 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions.
His last start for the Jets was on Oct. 26, 2003, in a 24-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The following week, Pennington took over as the starter.
While he comes with some drawbacks -- notably a lack of mobility and a propensity for turnovers -- Testaverde might actually be a good fit for the offense installed this summer by new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. The offense calls for a more vertical passing game than the Jets have featured in recent seasons, with the ball going deeper up the field, and Testaverde still has solid arm strength.
"Vinny is probably better than half the starting quarterbacks
in the NFL right now," center Kevin Mawae said. "A lot of people
want to look at his age and the fact that he hasn't been doing
anything. But if you know Vinny, he hasn't been sitting on his
La-Z-Boy this whole nine months. He's been working out, getting
himself ready for a situation like this."
There was some thought this spring, with Pennington coming off extensive surgery to his right shoulder and having experienced injuries that forced him to miss time in both 2003 and 2004, that the Jets might sign Testaverde as an insurance policy. The team opted for Jay Fiedler instead, and Testaverde was not in any team's camp this summer. Fiedler also is sidelined with a shoulder injury and likely to miss at least eight weeks.
In addition to his first tenure with the Jets, Testaverde, the first overall pick in the 1987 draft, has played with Tampa Bay (1987-1992), Cleveland (1993-95), Baltimore (1996-1997) and Dallas (2004).
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.