The Jets have searched for quarterback stability for a rather lengthy period now, as the team using three first-round picks and two second-rounders on QBs since 2009 illustrates. For a stretch in the late 1990s through the late 2000s, though, the Jets connected on a couple of QB moves. One of them took place 23 years ago today.
On June 24, 1998, the Jets reached an agreement with Vinny Testaverde. The former No. 1 overall pick ventured to New York on an incentive-laden deal that ended up being a two-year, $8.7MM pact. The deal featured just $1.2MM guaranteed but worked out quite well for the Jets, who rode their new quarterback to the Super Bowl precipice.
The Ravens made Testaverde a post-June 1 cut that year, jettisoning their starter on June 2, 1998. Testaverde was a Browns 1.0 holdover who initially took over for Bernie Kosar in 1993. He remained the franchise’s starter in its first two Baltimore seasons, making the Pro Bowl in 1996. Following a 1997 season in which Testaverde missed time with a knee injury, the Ravens went in another direction. They acquired Jim Harbaugh from the Colts that February.
Searching for a long-term starter since Ken O’Brien‘s QB1 tenure ended in 1992, the Jets tried the veteran route twice between then and signing Testaverde. New York acquired Boomer Esiason from Cincinnati in 1993 and signed ex-Pittsburgh starter Neil O’Donnell in ’96. Neither veteran’s stay lasted longer than two years. The Bill Parcells-led franchise released O’Donnell the same day it signed Testaverde, after the former Super Bowl starter declined a pay cut.
At 35, Testaverde ended the ’98 season with his second Pro Bowl and set a Jets single-season touchdown pass record with 29, which Ryan Fitzpatrick surpassed in 2015. The Jets won the AFC East title and advanced to their first AFC championship game since 1982. Although the Jets’ 10-0 lead over the eventual Super Bowl champion Broncos did not last, Testaverde completed a bounce-back season that led to a three-year, $19.47MM extension the following March.
Parcells’ tenure ended after that ’99 season, one marred by a Week 1 Testaverde Achilles rupture, but the quarterback lasted four more seasons with Gang Green. He recovered to play a full season in 2000, and although that Jets team did not make the playoffs, one of Testaverde’s 16 starts that year came in the “Monday Night Miracle” game. A year after that 23-point fourth-quarter comeback against the Dolphins, Testaverde steered the Jets to the 2001 postseason. Second-round pick Chad Pennington replaced Testaverde during the 2002 season, but after a 2004 stop in Dallas, Testaverde returned to the Jets in 2005 and started four games for an injured Pennington at age 42.