6. Vinny's Achilles
For longtime Jets fans, the team's 1999 30-28 opening day loss to the New England Patriots is one of the most painful memories in the team's history.
Losing a close game at home to one of your bitter rivals is a bad way to start your season, for sure, but on September 12th, 1999, the New York Jets lost more than just an ordinary regular-season game.
Their entire dreams and hopes of winning a championship were killed when the team lost their star quarterback Vinny Testaverde to a season-ending Achilles injury.
The feeling that day in Jets nation was funeral-like.
1999 was supposed to be the Jets' year. After winning 12 games, their first division title since the merger, and getting to the AFC Championship Game, the stars were aligned for Gang Green, and John Elway had retired after winning his second consecutive Super Bowl with Denver.
The AFC was wide open for the taking, and New York, with Bill Parcells and his phenomenal coaching staff along with Bill Belichick, seemed poised to bring the Jets their first championship in 30 years.
Heading into the 1999 season opener, the expectation level was the highest it had ever been for the Jets. The fan base's optimism was at an all-time high. By the time the day ended, their spirits were crushed. It didn't take long for the good vibes to vanquish.
In the second quarter of the Jets opener, the always durable Vinny Testaverde went down in agony in a non-contact injury after a routine handoff.
Testaverde had suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon rupture without a single player touching him. If any Jets fans didn't believe in curses back in 1999, they did after that day.
With Testaverde gone, Parcells would lean towards former second overall pick Rick Mirer to replace Vinny. Mirer, a quarterback Parcells passed on drafting when he was in New England in favor of Drew Bledsoe, would lead New York to an abysmal 1-5 record as the team's starter.
After Mirer flopped, the Jets would eventually stabilize their quarterback position with Ray Lucas and win seven of their last nine games to go 8-8. But the damage was done in Week 1. Testaverde's injury was effectively the end of the Parcells era with the Jets.
Belichick would also part ways with New York at the season's end. Not only did a potential championship go up in smoke on opening day, but potential championships walked out the door when the season concluded.
The opening day loss to New England was as bizarre as Testaverde's injury. Due to emergency quarterback rules back then, teams could designate one player as their emergency option at the position.
On this dark day in Jets history, Parcells had listed Mirer as his emergency quarterback. The Jets were forced to insert punter Tom Tupa into the game and play him at QB until the fourth quarter.
The rule stated that if the emergency QB entered the game before the fourth quarter, neither the starter nor backup could play again. Because of this, inserting Rick Mirer immediately after Testaverde went down would have left the Jets without a punter for the entire game.
As it turns out, the Jets would have been better off keeping Tupa in the game. Tupa, a former quarterback, did have 13 games of playing experience at the position in the NFL, and on that dreadful opening day in 1999, Tupa played great.
He went 6-of-10 for 165 yards and threw two touchdown scores. Tupa kept the Jets in the game, and the team took a 28-27 lead late in the fourth quarter, but Mirer struggled mightily when he came on in the fourth quarter.
Mirer completed only 4-of-11 passes for 28 yards and threw two boneheaded interceptions. The Pats would win the game on a late 23-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
A victory over the Pats in Week 1 wouldn't have repaired the short and long-term damage already done, but even the football gods wouldn't allow the Jets to have a ray of sunshine on what was one of their darkest days ever.