05 January 2012

Who's to Blame for the Jets' Locker Room Mess?

There is no question that the locker room of the New York Jets had turned into a disaster by the end of the season as the team fell out of the playoff hunt by losing their last three games. Most notable of the problems was the behavior of wideout and team captain Santonio Holmes who clearly at times was given less than his best effort as well as his pathetic sulking bit done in the season finale at Miami. So who is at fault?
The Jets lost a lot of really good locker room guys after last season such as Damien Woody, Tony Richardson, Shaun Ellis, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith. Now while those departures were not all of the front office's fault, Woody's injury suffered in the postseason caused the team to cut him and he then retired, Richardson also retired, the team let Ellis walk and he did nothing in New England, Smith was spurned by the team who was trying hard to lure Nnamdi Asomugha but he wasn't really missed and Cotchery reportedly wanted out and took a pay cut in Pittsburgh because "he couldn't bear the thought of sitting in the receivers meeting room," general manager Mike Tannenbaum is to blame for not bringing in some good locker room guys and leaders like Cotchery, whose replacement in Derrick Mason was a disaster on and off the field, as well as giving arguably too much money to Santonio Holmes. Now normally a talent like Holmes coming off a tremendous postseason like the one he had would be worth the money he got but Holmes was not exactly known for having the best of character and it was telling how Pittsburgh essentially gave up him to New York for nothing, a fifth round pick, and now Holmes' actions made the Pittsburgh brass look smart for letting him go even despite his prodigious talent. The decision by Rex Ryan to make Holmes a captain was also a really bad decision.
But speaking about Ryan, he really deserves a nice chunk of the blame here. Ryan's boisterous blustering and consistent Super Bowl predictions may make him fun to cover and fun to play, it really puts a lot of pressure on his players. And it is clear that Ryan is not coach of the entire team but rather he's the defensive coordinator-in-chief. Now we all know that Ryan is a defensive guy but he is head coach of the entire team. In the postgame press conferences, the disconnect between Ryan and the offensive staff is clear when he can't answer questions why Holmes was benched against Miami, for example. You don't see that with guys like Mike McCarthy when asked about the defense in Green Bay or Bill Belichick with the offense in New England. As Gary Myers of the NY Daily News says "He's the coach and not just of the defense. He gave up control of the offense and lost control of the team." And say what you want about offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (and Jets fans sure do), when Ryan can't answer questions about the offense it cuts Schottenheimer at the knees and gives the impression that Ryan doesn't have his back. It makes it seem like he's trying to make Schottenheimer the fall guy even if they refuse to dump him because Jets fans are laying all of the blame on the offensive coordinator, which while he may be deserving of some blame due to a conservative style, and an erratic and inconsistent quarterback, he's also not the head coach and thus not who should be the sole and only bearer of the blame.
Back to Holmes, because of the guaranteed money that's in the contract, it's going to be very difficult to get rid of him. Cutting him will cause a lot of cap problems and it won't be easy to trade him with teams knowing the history does repeat itself and the problems that Holmes has caused and his poor attitude and practice habits are not attractive to most teams, even with his talent. So even as everybody and their uncle, with the exception of the team itself, says Holmes must go, why would a team hold onto a "cancer" anyways, it will be very hard to get rid of him. So there's more blame for Tannenbaum.
So it's very clear that there is plenty of blame to go around in Florham Park. And unless things get significantly better in 2012, changes will be coming.

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