I think Santonio Holmes has become a bit of a boogey man for the problems the Jets had this past season. It is one thing to say he was part of the problem. He clearly was. From calling his teammates out to the press to some really ugly plays late in the year to getting benched on the season's final drive, 2011 will not go down as Holmes' finest hour. I think there is a distinction between saying somebody was part of the problem and saying he was the entire problem, though.
Since the season has ended, the portrayal in the media has tended to place the blame for the season at Holmes' feet. Teammates took swipes at him in the press. When somebody told Manish Mehta that Mark Sanchez is lazy, some just assumed it was the disgruntled Holmes. The ill conceived offensive system and the quarterback's problems reading basic coverages and making accurate throws have received much less attention.
Make no mistake about it. The Jets knew what they were getting into with Holmes. His past indicated he could be a problem child. That is part of the price the team agreed to pay to have Holmes around. To act shocked when things break down doesn't square with reality to me. The potential for problems is part of the deal. In order to get a productive Santonio, the team was going to need to do things a certain way.
What the Jets did instead was a recipe for disaster. They paid Holmes franchise receiver money and then had him essentially restricted to running seven yard slant patterns on almost every play. When the receiver gets open on these, it still requires a tight, deadly accurate throw on time through a rapidly closing window. That is what the Jets based their offense on last year, but Mark Sanchez was not the quarterback for that kind of offense. Making quick reads and accurate throws are clearly not strengths of his. Furthermore, the coaching staff beat into his head the need to avoid risky throws, like the tight ones slants require. Beyond this, the passing lanes were even more crowded than usual because the other team could stick all of its defenders within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage as the Jets never tried to make them pay by throwing down the field.
It makes no sense to pay a receiver the kind of money the Jets paid Holmes and run an offense this way. It makes even less sense when that receiver is a difficult personality. This is not an excuse for Santonio's bad behavior. It is just Santonio's personality was a known commodity and so should have been an understanding of how to keep him focused.
The season was not a total bust for Holmes. His numbers were quite low, but he was pretty adept at drawing penalty calls against the secondary that work like catches. He also had a pair of game winning touchdown catches late in the fourth quarter. Whatever problems he might have caused in the locker room, the Jets might not have won certain games without his play.
Jason of NYJetsCap.com now estimates getting rid of Holmes will cost $3.5 million more against the team's cap than keeping him would. That number is down from the $8.5 million estimation he previously had, but I struggle to see the logic behind creating a hole and decreasing the team's cap space just to get rid of a guy who has the potential to be a gamebreaker. Holmes has been extremely successful on good teams in the past. He was a Super Bowl MVP. Rex Ryan clearly pushed the wrong buttons making him a captain, but his influence is not one that has prevented his teams from being very good.
My friend Brian Bassett of The Jets Blog has called Holmes a necessary evil for now. I am of the same line of thinking. I will be thrilled the day the team can find a receiver who can produce without all the baggage, but I think the Jets are going to be hard pressed to find somebody better right now.
I think Holmes should stay. How about you?