New York Jets Crash: The Santonio Holmes Episode

Sorry guys. I dropped the ball the last two games of this season, between illness and work and holidays, but there wasn’t much to say.

We all know that, instead of the Jets coming together to push for a playoff run, they completely fell apart. Or at least, the offense completely fell apart. The defense had its kinks, but the offense in the last three games of this season was completely embarrassing.

[caption id="attachment_446" align="alignleft" width="292" caption="Wide receiver Santonio Holmes (10) and quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) during better times. // Photo by the AP."][/caption]

They were so out of sync that wide receiver Santonio Holmes completely mailed it in the last game against Miami. He’d previously had a catch in the last 94 games he’d played in, but in the Miami game didn’t register any and was only targeted once. His lack of hustle angered his teammates to the point where right tackle Wayne Hunter (yes, that Wayne Hunter) told him, “If you don’t f------ want to play get your a-- the f--- out!” Tight end Dustin Keller then had to physically restrain Holmes from attacking Hunter, and well, it just went downhill from there.

Former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, in what would be his final act, subsequently benched Holmes for Patrick Turner, who scored a touchdown a few plays later (more on former Offensive Coordinator Schottenheimer and other coaching changes in another post). To compound matters, things looked even worse when head coach Rex Ryan admitted he didn’t know Holmes was benched, or why, and then that he’d lost touch with what was going on in the locker room.

Since then, tons of stuff has come out about what a selfish jerk Holmes allegedly is. Everyone, from sports commentators to third (fourth?) string rookie quarterback Greg McElroy, has implied that Holmes doesn’t care about the team and only cares about his stats.

Remember when Braylon Edwards was the locker room cancer on this team?

Reportedly, quarterback Mark Sanchez held two meetings in the last week of the season in an effort to get the offense on the same page (more on Sanchez another time, too).  Sources said that during the first meeting Holmes sulked and questioned why he had to be there. He was a no show for the second meeting.

Give Sanchez credit, he at least tries to make it work and knew why they had to be there. Sanchez and Holmes were off all year. According to a this Rich Cimini article at ESPN, the QB-receiver duo with the lowest completion percentage in the league (minimum 100 attempts) was the Jets’ duo of Sanchez and Holmes, connecting only 50.5% of the time. Sanchez and Plaxico Burress also made the QB-receiver lowest completion percentage list (minimum 90 attempts) at 47.9%.

Something was wrong, and Holmes allegedly didn’t want to be bothered to help fix it.

There are also rumors floating around that Sanchez and Holmes have gotten into arguments behind closed doors, and the two are not “personally compatible,” which seems to be a diplomatic way of saying “not friends.”

It’s sort of incredible, the way all this has come out in the last two weeks about the tensions other players seem to have with Holmes. There were clues, sure. For example, there was that episode in October, when the Jets had lost three straight. Holmes and offensive lineman Brandon Moore publicly got in a war of words, with Holmes saying the offensive line needed to up their game and Moore responding to it with criticisms of his own. But so much has come out lately that it’s surprising they were able to keep a lid on it this long, especially in a locker room that does so much talking.

What’s more amazing, though, is that everyone is acting surprised. Let’s think about it for a minute. The Pittsburgh Steelers pulled the trigger on the trade for Holmes, in which they got a 5th round pick from the Jets in return. Holmes is a Super Bowl MVP, a brilliant player, but there’s a reason the Steelers let him go so cheaply. There were rumors he was a cancer in the locker room. Anybody who was paying attention knew this was a risk.

Last season, Holmes was quiet, a good soldier, but the Jets were winning and he was playing for a contract. And there were hints, even then, that he wasn’t happy with the offensive scheme. Now he has that contract, and things went south for the team, and Holmes is apparently putting a lot of strain on his relationships with other players. Rex Ryan named him a captain earlier this year, probably hoping Holmes would buy in to the whole “team” thing, but the move backfired.

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson came out right after the game and ripped Holmes.

"It's tough for guys to follow a captain that kind of behaves in that manner," he told reporters. "The worst thing that can happen is when teammates start to question your passion. In that huddle, that's what you saw. Guys looked at his eyes and he didn’t have fire in his eyes. Guys were turned off by that. It was definitely boiling at that point. Guys had had enough."

The Jets have no real choice but to keep Holmes, as they’d take a huge cap hit if they cut him. They also don’t really have anyone to replace him. Jeremy Kerley has shown some promise, he was one of the few bright spots of the Miami game, but even so, he can’t do it by himself. Plaxico Burress probably won’t be back, because as good as he was in the red zone (eight touchdowns), he was completely absent between the 20s. He doesn’t stretch the field the way Braylon Edwards used to for the offense.

Burress, who also has a bit of a reputation as a poor locker room guy, has been quiet, though he’s friends with Holmes. It could be because he had a one year deal and is playing for a contract. We’ll see who gives it to him.

Holmes defenders out there have said that Holmes is frustrated because Sanchez has played so poorly, and who can blame him for not hustling when your QB is Mark Sanchez?

But here’s the thing. There’s no excuse for Holmes to quit on Sanchez, the Jets, and Jets fans, no matter how poorly anyone is playing or how badly things are going.

Wayne Hunter, who challenged Holmes, has been terrible this season. He didn’t quit. Sanchez has taken more criticism than anyone for his play in the last month. He didn’t quit. Rex Ryan backed Sanchez and Schottenheimer throughout the season, at least publicly. He didn’t quit. Hell, even Brian Schottenheimer, who must have known he was on his way out, came to work and didn’t quit.

It’s going to be a damn shame (and probably a disaster) for Jets fans next season if Holmes and Sanchez can’t get past what’s going on and make it work. Jets fans are disgusted with both of them for different reasons, but there is one key difference going into next season.

Mark Sanchez, who has been taking a lot of hits lately – from fans to commentators to anonymous players and Jets organization members – deserves this one last chance to prove himself under the new offensive coaching staff. Hopefully, the Jets will find a way to help him develop better than he did under Schottenheimer.

But Santonio Holmes, if the rumors are true, doesn’t deserve another chance. He’ll get one because they can’t afford to cut him, but he doesn’t deserve it, because quitting on your teammates is far more disgusting than playing poorly.

So much for the “professional” part of “professional athlete.”

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