With the New England Patriots and New York Jets set to square off this Sunday, the NFL on Friday released a YouTube video revisiting the 1999 season opener between the two AFC East rivals.
Why is that game worth remembering? Well, for a few reasons. But mainly because it featured one of the unlikeliest quarterbacking performances in NFL history.
Before the teams even had completed one quarter, Jets starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde ruptured his Achilles — a season-ending injury. And for whatever reason, the Jets did not have a traditional backup quarterback active for the game. Just emergency QB Rick Mirer and their punter, Tom Tupa, who had played quarterback in college and earlier in his NFL career.
Under NFL rules at the time, using an emergency QB before the fourth quarter meant sitting the team’s first- and second-string signal-callers for the remainder of the game. And since Jets coach Bill Parcells needed Tupa in the game to, you know, punt, he handed him the reins.
And you know what? Tupa wasn’t bad.
He attempted just 10 passes but completed six of them for 165 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His passer rating: 143.7.
Parcells finally turned to Mirer in the fourth quarter. Big mistake.
The first-round draft bust — Mirer was drafted second overall in 1993, one spot behind Drew Bledsoe — completed just four of 11 passes and threw two interceptions, including one that set up a game-winning Adam Vinatieri field goal. The final score was Patriots 30, Jets 28.
Tupa, who played for the Patriots from 1996 to 1998, went on to earn first-team All-Pro honors that season (as a punter, not a QB). The Jets missed the playoffs by one game, finishing 8-8 behind the quarterback play of another ex-Patriot, Ray Lucas.
That proved to be the final straw for Parcells as Jets head coach. He resigned after the season, tabbing his defensive coordinator, a guy named Bill Belichick, to replace him. We all know how that turned out.
One more unrelated fun fact we learned from watching the NFL’s video on the Tupa game: Did you know that Belichick called the first successful two-point conversion in NFL history?
It happened in 1994, when he was coaching the Cleveland Browns. Tupa, Cleveland’s punter at the time, burrowed his way into the end zone on a fake extra point. He scored in similar fashion three times that season, earning the nickname “Two-Point Tupa.”