The veteran quarterback will try to revive the fast-sinking Jets as they host the unbeaten Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Giants Stadium.
New York head coach Herman Edwards named Testaverde his starting quarterback Wednesday, a move the desperate Jets hope can spark their floundering offense.
Testaverde’s first start comes Sunday against Tampa Bay, the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 1987. When he takes the field, Testaverde will be the fourth-oldest quarterback to start a game in the Super Bowl era, behind Steve DeBerg, Warren Moon and Doug Flutie.
“Our lack of success has hurt our confidence a little bit offensively,” Testaverde said. “We just have to get it up a little bit.”
Testaverde, signed a week ago when Chad Pennington went down for the season with another torn rotator cuff, watched from the sideline as third-stringer Brooks Bollinger started in a 13-3 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.
The Jets did little to help the unproven signal-caller, failing to protect him or open up holes for running back Curtis Martin. But Edwards pointed to one statistic that helped him make his decision: Bollinger was 4-of-16 trying to get the ball to receivers.
“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.
Testaverde has a difficult task. The Jets rank 28th in total offense, and are going against the No. 1 defense in the league.
Testaverde is immobile, which also is a problem considering the offensive line has played so poorly. The running game has struggled, but Testaverde is hoping to be able to use his strong arm to complete passes to open things up on the ground.
Tampa Bay is one of three remaining unbeaten teams, and is vying for its first 5-0 start since 1997.
The Buccaneers’ ground game took a hit last week when rookie sensation Carnell “Cadillac” Williams tweaked his hamstring in a 17-13 win over the Detroit Lions.
The Lions nearly won it at the end, but what would have been a game-winning 11-yard touchdown pass from Joey Harrington to Marcus Pollard was taken away when the tight end’s sliding catch was reversed by instant replay with 13 seconds remaining.
Williams, who gained 13 yards on 11 carries last week, is listed as questionable. He ranks second in the AFC with 447 rushing yards. Williams is the first player in NFL history to begin his career with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
Veteran Michael Pittman stepped in for the rookie and caught six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown against Detroit. He also led the team with 30 yards rushing on five carries.
“I just tried to be a spark for this team the best way I could,” Pittman said.
Pittman ran for 926 yards and seven touchdowns in the final 13 games of last season for the Buccaneers.
The Jets’ run defense ranks 28th in the league.