Background and college
While growing up in Elmont, New York, on Long Island, Testaverde was a star quarterback at Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, and the University of Miami, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1986 on his way to becoming the Hurricanes' all-time leader in career touchdown passes with 46. He played in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl against Penn State for the 1986 national championship, a game in which the Miami Hurricanes were heavily favored, however, lost as he threw multiple interceptions and not a single touchdown pass. Testaverde played an important part in the University of Miami's ascendance as one of the top collegiate football programs of the 1980s and 1990s. Along with Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar, Testaverde is considered part of the University of Miami's quarterback dynasty.
Testaverde was the first overall draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1987 NFL Draft. In 1988, Testaverde became the Bucs' starting quarterback, with a 47.6% completion rate for 3,240 yards and 13 touchdowns, but with 35 interceptions. Toward the end of his tenure in Tampa, Testaverde began to receive taunts from fans and radio personalities about his color blindness. In 1991 a radio station in Tampa rented a billboard after losing to the New York Giants that had Testaverde standing in front of a blue background. The billboard read: "Vinny thinks this is orange!" Despite the nickname, Vinny Interceptaverde, which would stay with him, his numbers continued to improve and, by the 1992 season, his last with Tampa Bay, he threw for a 57.5% completion rate for 2,554 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. Testaverde signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Cleveland Browns in 1992. After spending half a season as fellow Miami Hurricane Bernie Kosar's backup, he became the starter upon Kosar's release. He spent three seasons in Cleveland, then moved with the Browns to Baltimore and played two more seasons with the newly-renamed Baltimore Ravens. Testaverde made his first Pro Bowl appearance in 1996 with the Ravens.
First spell as a Jet
After Neil O'Donnell was cut in 1998, Bill Parcells was looking for an experienced back up to Glenn Foley. Foley struggled early in the season, and was soon demoted in favor of Vinny. Testaverde flourished, completing 61.5% of his passes with 29 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. In arguably his best season in the NFL, he led the Jets to the 1998 AFC East title and then to the AFC Championship game, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Testaverde was also named to the Pro Bowl. He failed to carry this momentum to the 1999 season; Testaverde tore his Achilles tendon in the first game, and did not play the rest of the season. In 2000, however, he returned to quarterback the Jets. The highlight of the season was the "Monday Night Miracle" game against the Miami Dolphins on October 23, 2000, selected by fans as the greatest game in Monday Night Football history. In that game, the Jets fell behind 30-7 going into the fourth quarter, but came back to win the game, 40-37 behind 5 touchdown passes from Testaverde, including one each to Laveranues Coles, Jermaine Wiggins, Jumbo Elliott, and two to Wayne Chrebet. In 2001, he again led the Jets to the playoffs, where they lost in the first round to the Oakland Raiders. In 2002, he was replaced after a 1-3 start by Chad Pennington. He made cameo appearances to take the last snap in both the playoff clinching game versus the Green Bay Packers and the 41-0 playoff win against the Indianapolis Colts. In 2003, he was assigned to a backup role behind Pennington, although he started the first 6 games due to Pennington's left wrist injury.
Off to Dallas
After Bill Parcells decided to come out of retirement to coach the Dallas Cowboys, he decided Vinny was the man for him, and signed him to a one year contract. Testaverde initially was signed to be a backup and mentor to young Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter. But after Carter was abruptly cut by the Cowboys, Testaverde was given the starting quarterback job. After Drew Bledsoe was signed by the Cowboys, Vinny was left to stay at home and watch tv.
Second spell as a JetJay Fiedler out for the 2005 season, the New York Jets re-signed Testaverde on September 27, 2005. Testaverde was named the Jets' starting quarterback in week five of the 2005 season, in a home game against the team that originally drafted him, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On December 26, against the New England Patriots on the final ABC telecast of Monday Night Football, Testaverde set a new NFL record for most consecutive seasons with at least one touchdown pass, 19, by throwing a 27-yard pass to Laveranues Coles to secure the record. That pass is also notable as being the last touchdown pass thrown on Monday Night Football while it was still broadcast by ABC. The game was also notable because the Patriots sent in back-up quarterback Doug Flutie, making this the first game in NFL history in which two quarterbacks over the age of 40 completed a pass (Testaverde was 42, Flutie was 43 ). As expected, Testaverde struggled (his QB rating was 59.4) and was eventually replaced by Brooks Bollinger.
After the Jets
On November 14, 2006, the New England Patriots signed Testaverde as a backup to starter Tom Brady (the only other quarterback on New England's roster at the time was Matt Cassel). Testaverde threw a touchdown pass to Troy Brown on December 31, 2006 against the Tennessee Titans, giving him at least one touchdown pass for the twentieth straight season. The Patriots defeated the Jets, Testaverde's former team, in the first round of the playoffs, and in a typically classy move by Patriots head surveillance officer Bill Bellisneak, Testaverde took the last couple of snaps to run out the clock. Testaverde was cut by the Patriots in 2007, but in October, he agreed terms with the Carolina Panthers. He then threw a touchdown pass for the twenty-first season against the Arizona Cardinals, extending his record. On December 2, 2007, Testaverde became the second oldest starting quarterback in NFL history at 44 years and 19 days old. He threw two touchdown passes against the San Francisco 49ers in the Panthers' win, beating his old record for the oldest starter to win an NFL game. Testaverde officially retired from the NFL after the 2007 season.
Stats as a Jet