Surreal scene as Jets clean lockers, changes loom
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By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)—Rex Ryan stood in front of his team for one last time and his eyes teared up.
This wasn’t exactly how the New York Jets pictured their season to end. But with his bold Super Bowl hopes dashed, Ryan couldn’t help but get emotional.
“He was crying because he loves us,” guard Matt Slauson said Monday. “He respects us, he knows what we are capable of and we didn’t even come close to our goals.”
That’s for sure. This was the year the Jets were going to deliver the franchise its long-awaited second Lombardi Trophy. Ryan guaranteed it. And after two straight trips to the AFC championship game, who could doubt the possibility?
But the Jets (8- never really put it together and it was a somewhat surreal setting a day after a loss at Miami ended a disappointing season as they cleared out their lockers. Ryan had what some players called a “harsh” talk with the players, telling them they needed to get back to being a team and not just a group of individuals.
“It’s not fun losing,” quarterback Mark Sanchez said.
Added Slauson: “We’re sick, we’re disappointed and we’re hurting a lot.”
That was clear from a mostly empty locker room as several players were already gone, and a few—including the normally media-friendly Darrelle Revis and Nick Folk—chose to not speak.
Linebacker Bart Scott bristled as he was walking out when asked about a report that he likely wouldn’t be back next season. “All I know is I’ve got a guaranteed contract for $4 million,” he snarled. He then used an expletive at a photographer and stuck out his middle finger, adding: “Take a picture of this.”
That wasn’t all, though. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes, benched Sunday after arguing with teammates in the huddle, went to his locker, grabbed a box and a helmet and was then escorted out of the locker room by a public relations staff member without talking to the media.
Holmes was still the hot topic Monday after he was yanked as the Jets tried to rally in the fourth quarter. LaDainian Tomlinson said the team was unhappy about the effort, demeanor and body language of Holmes, a team captain. He was held without a catch for the first time in his 88-game career and sulked while standing alone on the sideline as the team lost 19-17, ending the Jets’ playoff chances.
“I wouldn’t single Santonio out like he was the sole problem,” receiver Patrick Turner said. “It’s a team sport and one’s wrong, we’re all wrong.”
Sanchez declined to comment on what went on with Holmes, saying it was an “in-house” issue that shouldn’t be discussed through the media. But ESPNNewYork.com reported that the two clashed at a meeting last week, and several players questioned Holmes’ captaincy throughout the season.
Holmes and guard Brandon Moore went back and forth earlier this season when the receiver criticized the offensive line for not protecting Sanchez or giving him enough time to throw long passes. Moore said that kind of talk could have “a fracturing effect”—and it appears he was right.
“There’s a lot of reasons we didn’t have the kind of season we wanted, and chemistry can go down on that list,” Moore said.
When asked if he was disappointed by Holmes’ actions, Moore said: “I don’t know if disappointed’s the word. I don’t really have words to describe what that was.”
He also declined to discuss whether a team could accept a player who was deemed by some to have “quit” back next season.
“I don’t really have anything to say about 10,” Moore said, referring to Holmes by his jersey number.
While it might be hard to unload a contract such as the one Holmes signed before the season for almost $50 million, most players seemed to think there would be plenty of changes this offseason. They could start with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who has been criticized all year for failing to develop Sanchez and run an effective and consistent offense.
Ryan has said he expects Schottenheimer to return next season—unless he’s hired as a head coach elsewhere. Despite the heavy criticism and the offense finishing 25th overall, the 38-year-old Schottenheimer is still considered an up-and-coming head coaching candidate who could be in line for jobs such as Jacksonville and Miami.
Sanchez has also been the subject of lots of criticism as he didn’t progress in his third season as many had hoped. He threw three interceptions against the Dolphins and did little to cement his role as the Jets’ long-term answer at quarterback. He threw a career-high 26 touchdown passes, but seven of his 18 interceptions came in the last three games—all losses.
“My job is to come back a better quarterback, a better leader,” Sanchez said. “That’s what my focus is on.”