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VINNY'S LOSS IS DEJA VU FOR THE JETS

Vinny Testaverde called them "identical situations."

"There are a lot of similarities," Rick Mirer said.

So Testaverde, lost for the year with his ruptured left Achilles' tendon, figuratively passed the controls of the Jets offense to Mirer on Monday.

"I understand this is a tough situation for me, but I can't do much about that," Mirer said. "Good things can happen. It's just a matter of getting off to a good start. I'm pretty confident in what I can do."

Bill Parcells would like to be as confident in Mirer for Sunday night's game at Buffalo and beyond. But the Jets coach has more worries than just plugging in one maligned quarterback for another who made very good in last year's run to the AFC title game.

He's also lost backup running back/kick returner Leon Johnson for the year, won't get wide receiver Wayne Chrebet back for another five weeks, and may be without starting tight end Eric Green, who has a pinched nerve in his neck.

"It was a tough situation to have Rick go in there," Parcells said of throwing Mirer into the fourth-quarter fire Sunday and seeing him go 4-for-11 and throw two costly interceptions in the 30-28 opening-day loss to New England. "He wasn't perfect -- he underthrew one ball he threw perfectly in practice.

"He's smart and he's mobile, but this is a different set of circumstances."

Mirer said his story -- second pick of the 1993 draft, a 20-34 record as an NFL starter, a 41-to-64 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio, and four teams in seven NFL seasons -- is a reasonable facsimile of Testaverde's performance before his rags-to-riches 1998.

"Yeah, I'd like to get that off my back," Mirer said of his journeyman's tag. "Vinny showed me last year that good things can happen, and this is an offense that can provide good things.

Testaverde, speaking some 18 hours after having successful surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, made the same pitch for his successor.

"I look back to last year when Glenn Foley got injured and I came in -- the team rallied around me," he said. "Coach Parcells allowed our offense to give us a chance to win games. Just knowing that, there's got to be a confidence that our team will rally around Rick.

"He's picked up the offense very quickly -- quicker than I did when I first got here. It's just a matter of him trusting and knowing the talent around him and utilize it, not be afraid to use it."

Parcells said he has three quarterbacks he's "pretty well committed to" in Mirer, punter Tom Tupa, and Ray Lucas. For the Bills, he said, "I'm going to go with Ray as the backup."

But Tupa can't serve as the inactive third quarterback because, by rule, as soon as he entered the game in the first three quarters for his first punt, neither of the Jets' first two QBs could play the rest of the game. So Parcells may not have a third QB for the Bills.

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