With all the chatter regarding Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez, it’s easy to forget that the player who could do the most harm to the Jets this year is Santonio Holmes.
Chronically unhappy with his role last season, Holmes became more and more of a problem as the season unfolded, culminating in Week 17 ugliness that echoed into the offseason. And that happened at a time when the Jets threw more than they had planned; this year, with the Jets re-embracing the “ground and pound” approach, Holmes could have the ball in his hands even less frequently.
The new season didn’t start well. Holmes said that a two-quarterback system won’t work, prompting coach Rex Ryan to remind Holmes that he hasn’t been hired to serve as the team’s offensive coordinator.
But things have improved. As Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News explains it, Holmes recently has assumed a leadership role.
“Being a mentor to these young guys that we have in our receiving corps has been fun for me,” Holmes said. “I want these young guys to know that in order to be the best, these are the things that you have to work on.”
And so Holmes has been teaching the youngsters. “We could be in the cafeteria and he’ll teach right there,” rookie Stephen Hill said. “That’s normal. That’s every day. If I have a question, just ask him. It really does matter to him.”
New offensive coordinator Tony Sparano approves of that message. “It was a little bit of a surprise on my end,” Sparano said. “Sometimes that’s not natural for veteran players, because it’s such a competitive business. But Santonio’s been tremendous. I’m glad the young guys have used it. . . . He’s likes to teach. Sometime down the road when he’s done playing this game, I think he might be a coach one day.”
“Surprise” was the buzz word for coach Rex Ryan, too.
“I’m a little surprised [he's been mentoring so much] because he’s learning a brand new system,” Ryan said. ” Sometimes when you do that, you’re kind of focused in and in your own world. He’s trying to bring these guys along as well. I know one thing: Santonio cares a great deal about this football team.”
Generally, that’s a very positive development. But Holmes has shown in the past that he cares about his own numbers more than he cares about the team. And if Holmes doesn’t like what the “ground and pound” does to his “catches and yards,” Holmes now will have a flock of young teammates that he can shepherd in the general direction of malcontentedness, T.O.-style.
So while it’s a good thing for now, it can be a bad thing later.