Santonio Holmes does his best T.O. impression
The New York Jets have made failure an annual part of their offseason schedule. It wouldn’t be so bad that they have failed to make the Super Bowl in the previous two seasons or the playoffs this year, except that the team sets themselves up as Super Bowl favorites, with Rex Ryan making an annual “Super Bowl Champs” guarantee and quarterback Mark Sanchez joining in this year, which puts the proverbial target on the back of Gang Green. Instead of living up to their own hype, however, the Jests imploded down the stretch, losing their last three games to finish 8-8, relinquishing the last wild card spot to the Bengals and securing a spot at home on the couch for the playoffs. So what went wrong this year? Well, lots of things, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. However, the major talking point for this team during the offseason will be the poisonous effect of Santonio Holmes on the locker room this season and his benching during the Jets’ final rally to save the season. After the jump, we examine what went wrong in, “The Saga of Santonio!!”
Rex Ryan built his reputation as a “player’s coach” as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens. He built and schemed a defense with guys who believed in each other and more importantly in their coach. He was expected to bring that kind of cohesiveness and camaraderie to the Jets’ sidelines as their head coach, but it seems cracks have formed in the locker room, no more evident than when things began going south this season. Nobody exemplified that crack better than wide receiver, and captain, Santonio Holmes. What started with his public dressing down of the offensive line after a loss earlier in the season, placing the blame for the anemic passing attack at the feet of the blocking for Mark Sanchez, culminated on Sunday with his Jets’ teammates getting fed up with Holmes and his moping, pouting, and general lack of enthusiasm for participating in the game. Holmes finished a game without a catch for the first time in 86 games as a pro and sat on the sidelines during the final stretch in the fourth quarter after being pulled from the game for an altercation in the Jets’ huddle between Holmes and offensive lineman Wayne Hunter.
After the game, Santonio’s teammates began to open up about the childish and selfish antics that had turned the team against Holmes. There was an altercation with quarterback Mark Sanchez when Sanchez organized extra film study for him and his receivers. The first day, Holmes showed up, stood in the back and “pouted” according to his teammates, with the veteran receiver constantly asking, “Why do I have to be here?” When Sanchez organized the extra film study again the next day, Holmes decided to skip it altogether. On Sunday, teammates came out and said Santonio was visibly checked out from the game, even while the Jets were trying to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter. Running back Ladainian Tomlinson, who knows a thing or two about being a leader, said everyone could tell by his lack of focus, lack of hustle, and general lack of passion that Holmes was ready for the offseason to get started, and that pressed some guys’ buttons the wrong way. Holmes said after the game, “Why should I?” when asked why he wasn’t hustling while the team was attempting to come back and save their playoff chances. Seems like a pattern is developing, doesn’t it?
And it seems that things in the locker room are even worse than what we saw on Sunday. Rookie third string quarterback Greg McElroy, who spent this season on IR with a thumb injury, did a radio interview where he responded to a question about the Holmes incident and shed perhaps a little too much light on a toxic situation in the Meadowlands. From Pro Football Talk:
“It’s definitely not a fun place to be, I can assure you,” McElroy said of the Jets’ locker room. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been around extremely selfish individuals. And I think that’s maybe the nature of the NFL. But there were people within our locker room that didn’t care whether we won or lost as long as they got theirs, they had a good game individually. And that’s the disappointing thing.”
I’m sure McElroy can enjoy plenty of ostracizing from his Jets’ teammates for being a little too honest about how things went, but he opens the door to a locker room that is far from cohesive.
How can the Jets fix their team chemistry problem? They can try some trust falls, maybe go on a team retreat, and above all else, find some way to get rid of Santonio Holmes. That will prove a daunting challenge, however, since Holmes recently signed a contract extension with the Jets that fully guarantees him $7.75 million next season, and another $7.5 million of his $11 million salary next season becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster after February 8. Any attempts to cut or trade the troublesome wide receiver would come with steep cap penalties for the Jets, and it’s not likely they would find anyone who would want to trade for him (Oakland and Cincinnati are already set at wide receiver, unfortunately for them). The most likely scenario will be the Jets do a major image overhaul for Holmes, saying what a good teammate he’s been over the offseason and what an important part of the team and a great leader he is and blah, blah, blah. The major problem? Getting Holmes to buy into it, which will mean answering his favorite question of late, “Why should I?”