|Holmes and Sanchez won't sport the captain's 'C' on their jerseys in 2012. (Getty Images)|
In January, just days after the Jets' season ended ingloriously in Miami, coach Rex Ryan held a press conference to explain why things went so horribly wrong in 2011. As was the case the two previous years, Ryan announced during the summer the Jets were Super Bowl contenders. Except instead of advancing to the AFC Championship Game, which happened in 2009 and 2010, New York finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
There was plenty of blame to go around: Quarterback Mark Sanchez didn't play up to expectations, the defense struggled at times to stop the run and, of course, the locker-room issues that were highlighted by then-team captain Santonio Holmes' Week 17 implosion that led to a mid-game benching and plenty of questions about his future in New York.
“Our locker room wasn't as close as it's been in the past, obviously, but one thing we know is we're going to fix it,” Ryan said in a January interview with ESPN. “We might have been knocked down this year but we're not knocked out. We're going to be swinging, and there's no doubt about it. But I can't wait. It's about moving forward, put that stuff behind us. But there's things we're going to learn from. This past season, 8-8 clearly is not good enough. We did have some issues where, obviously, I never did a good enough job of recognizing it and fixing it, but we're fixing it right now. There's no doubt about that.”
The remedy: keep Holmes, trade for Tim Tebow and do away with team captains. The former has already been in the news this spring; Tebow is, well, Tebow; and the jury is still out on the latter.
“I think in a situation like that where there are no captains named, it kind of forces guys to step up and take ownership,” guard Matt Slauson said via the New York Post, “and guys like Brandon [Moore] have done a phenomenal job with that. Mark [Sanchez] has done a phenomenal job, obviously. Those are just the offensive guys. It kind of forces those guys to step up and all the rest of us respect them even more because that ‘C' is not just given to them.”
Defensive lineman Sione Pouha added: “The real emblem is not the ‘C', it's the team name on the front of your jersey. It doesn't affect us in any way. We know we're all here to help each other. We all stand in one line and march together.”
Fair enough, but six months ago, former Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson called the locker room drama last season "as bad as I've been around." And while he conceded it can be fixed, it'll require the organization "to make some tough decisions.”
Moore, meanwhile, doesn't sound particularly concerned.
“You guys in the media like to anoint leaders,” he said according to the Post. “But there's people here every day who are veterans, starters who are leading by example, helping a young guy, setting the tempo, leading by doing his job at a high level or limiting his [mental errors] or running to the next drill. That's leadership. If that's the case, a lot of guys are doing that.”
Of course, everybody is optimistic in early July (just look at all the Super Bowl predictions). We'll have a better idea of just how far the Jets' locker room has come after the first five weeks of the season, arguably the toughest part of New York's schedule.
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