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Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2000

Testaverde makes peace with Groh

Jets’ quarterback, coach clashed over brief benching during New York’s come-from-behind victory over Tampa Bay

September 28, 2000

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— Jets coach Al Groh and Vinny Testaverde insist all is well between them.

While they clashed over the quarterback's one-series benching against Tampa Bay, they do not want the disagreement to fester into a full-blown dispute.

Testaverde was angry he was lifted in the fourth quarter after throwing his third interception with the Jets trailing 17-6. Although the unbeaten Jets came back to win 21-17, he was still seething on Monday.

By Wednesday, however, fences appeared mended.

"Vinny and I have talked, as we do frequently," Groh said. "We're going on to football matters. There is no problem between us. I wasn't unhappy with him then, and I'm not unhappy with him now. There's no player on this team that I'm more comfortable with than Vinny."

Groh said the decision to replace Testaverde with Ray Lucas for one series, which lasted for three plays, was made because he saw "a frustration level on the team, which was something we wanted to guard against."

Groh called frustration "the most insidious" emotion in sports. He said the frustration was evident in Testaverde, the receivers and offensive coordinator Dan Henning.

"I think any player that's struggling like I was, with three picks, would be unhappy," Testaverde said. "Yes, I was unhappy, but I didn't disagree with Al. Nowhere in my contract does it say that I have to be the starting quarterback.

"There was a perception that we have an unhappy quarterback, but that was just a perception, not a correct one. We're 4-0, and I wouldn't trade places with any quarterback in the league right now."

Testaverde is determined not to let his relationship with Groh sour over the benching.

"I know from experience that if the coach and quarterback are at odds, the team will go south," Testaverde said, referring to his six years at Tampa Bay from 1987-92. "I'm not going to let that happen on this team."

The Jets have come from behind three times in the fourth quarter on the way to the 4-0 record, and Testaverde has struggled most of the way before righting himself, and the team, down the stretch.

Twice, the Jets have rallied from double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter to win, a feat they managed only once in the 1990s, when they beat Seattle 32-31 in 1998 after trailing 31-19.

Testaverde is 26-of-38 for 360 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in four fourth quarters this year. He's 51-of-117 for 551 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions in the first three quarters.

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