Jets fans have had little to be proud about, when it comes to the situation at quarterback. The Brett Favre saga began as a huge source of pride to the Jets, but became an embarrassment by the time it ended.
The Jets then drafted Mark Sanchez, hope for the future, but his inevitable comparison to the only great Jets quarterback, Joe Namath, is either his blessing or curse.
From 1998-2002 the Jets official starting quarterback was the locally grown Vinny Testaverde, hailing from Elmont, New York. (a little more than a mile from Shea stadium where the Jets played for years).
His first season with the Jets ended up being his best, with 29 touchdowns, seven interceptions, a 101.6 passer rating, a 61.5 percent completion rate. He led the team to the AFC Championship game, where they lost to John Elway and the Denver Broncos, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
Now, why do I bring this up? That is a good question. There is a simple answer. Fans love homegrown players. Vinny was a New Yorker, through and through. He was the undisputed leader for the players, and was a constant in the locker room and on the field.
When Chad Pennington took over the starting job from Vinny in the middle of the 2002 season, Pennington constantly referred to Testaverde as his mentor, and continues to do as such to this day. Now, the Jets are in need of that leadership on offesne. Pennington was the last true leader on the team, and he has departed for warmer pastures.
When I sat down to write this article, I though back to 2005, when Pennington and Jay Fiedler both went down with injuries. The Jets made an emergency phone call to Vinny's House in Oyster Bay, Long Island.
The next week, I was sitting in the stands when I witnessed No. 16 trot on the field again, against the team that drafted him, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The crowd roared and was chanting his name, "Vinny, Vinny."
I have has season tickets to the team for 18 years, and I have never heard Giants Stadium get that loud. Brett Favre entered during a sold-out preseason game, and the decibel level wasn't even half of that.
Only four former Jets, have the respect of the fans the way Vinny does; Testaverde, Joe Namath, Curtis Martin, and Wayne Chrebet. Al Toon is a favorite, sure, but he is not a legendary Jet.
My point is this; Vinny Testaverde is a part of the New York Jets' culture. I say retire his number. I say make him Mark Sanchez's quarterback coach. He is an important part of this team and an important part of football history to me. I miss him in this league and on this team.
Where are you, Vinny Testaverde?
*Extra thanks to Steven Petty, Sports Director for 88.9 FM WNYO Oswego, NY*
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