|Volume 92, Issue 59
Wednesday, January 13, 1999
sleeping with the enemy
Jets will ride Italian stallion to Bowl win
Pro football history is about to repeat itself.
In 1969, "Broadway Joe" Namath led an underdog New York Jets team to a 16-7 Super Bowl victory over the Baltimore Colts. Vincent Frank Testaverde from Brooklyn, New York was five years old, a picture of the immortal number 12 plastered to his wall.
Thirty years later Testaverde, like Namath, will be the quarterback, hero and leader of his overly matched Jets club. In three weeks he will be the recipient of Namath-like glory and honour when the Jets win Super Bowl XXXIII.
It may seem early to throw the Jets' hat into the Super Bowl with the American Football Conference championship game still left to be played this week, but it is inevitable. While John "two-minute" Elway and the Denver Broncos will be looking for a repeat and are hungry, they are not nearly as hungry as the strapping Italian.
The six-foot-five, 227-pound pivot has battled a lot to make it to this point. After being drafted first overall in 1987 out of Miami by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Testaverde proved to be a little green, throwing 35 pickoffs in his second year with the club, his first as a starter. It was later discovered he is colour blind which made cueing in on the orange Tampa jerseys difficult.
Hitting the opposing teams' numbers with passes continued to plague Testaverde. In 1993, he was signed by the Cleveland Browns and was solid in the backup role for starter Bernie Kosar. When Cleveland moved to Baltimore, Testaverde took over the reigns but the interception bug never eluded him.
In 1998, the Jets took a chance on the now 12-year veteran, with plans to have him back up starter Glen Folly. Testaverde had other plans and even told a reporter point blank during training camp in August that he was not in New York to be the backup.
Two games into the season, Testaverde took over from Folly and his 12-2 record the rest of the way speaks for itself.
He was the AFC offensive player of the month for both November and December and threw 29 touchdown strikes, a franchise record which eclipsed the mark of 26 set by both Al Dorow in '60 and Namath in '67. He only threw seven interceptions on the year. In addition, Testaverde threw 421 passes, completing 259 of them for 3,256 yards.
He was named the team's most valuable player in a vote by the players and will represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl after achieving the highest passing rating in team history (101.6, second best in the National Football League).
Elway might have the history of success in big games and Minnesota Vikings' all-pro gunslinger Randall Cunningham may have some of the league's best receivers, but it will be the intangibles which will win it for Vinny.
After beating Jacksonville this past weekend, something which had eluded him in his six previous meetings with the Jaguars, he admitted to not having the most talented team in the final four but said the guys in the Jets locker room have the biggest hearts.
When the final whistle blows on the NFL's 33rd Super Bowl, number 16 will run down the shoot to the locker room with the bubbly chilled and waiting, just as his childhood hero did, a single finger raised to the fans. Just like Broadway.
To reach John Intini, email email@example.com
Copyright © The Gazette 1999