The 1999 Jets entered the season as the favorite to win the AFC. They had put up a spirited fight in an AFC Championship Game loss the previous season to the Broncos. With John Elway retired, the path was clear for Bill Parcells' squad to go all the way.
It took until the second quarter in the opening game for those dreams to all but vanish. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who was coming off a career year, went down in agony on the field in a non-contact injury after a routine handoff. He suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon rupture.
After losing Vinny, the game didn't seem that important, but it was a pretty wild back and forth affair. The Jets were forced to insert punter Tom Tupa at quarterback until the fourth quarter. Tupa actually had thirteen games of starting experience in the NFL. Parcells had listed Tupa as the number two quarterback in the game. These were the days of the emergency quarterback, a rule that a team could designate one inactive player as their emergency quarterback. The catch was that if the emergency quarterback entered the game before the fourth quarter, neither the starter nor the backup could play again int the game. Parcells listed backup Rick Mirer as the emergency quarterback that day and Tupa as the backup to get an extra player active. Inserting Mirer would have left the Jets without a punter so Tupa came into the game.
Even crazier, Tupa played great throwing a pair of touchdowns. Mirer did enter the game once the fourth quarter started, though. The Jets' defense was unable to protect a late 30-28 lead, and a 23 yard Adam Vinateri field goal at the gun gave New England a victory.
The game was secondary, though. Without Testaverde, a Super Bowl season went up in smoke before it started. The Jets got off to a 1-6 start. A change at quarterback from Mirer to Ray Lucas sparked the team, and New York rallied to finish 8-8. Despite owning two rings, Parcells would later call that turnaround his greatest coaching job. It was nice, but everything was lined up for the Jets at the start of that season. It could have been a special year. One freak injury robbed us of a chance to see perhaps the Jets team with the best shot at winning it all since Namath.