By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I’d rather see more than Santonio Holmes catching rockets down field from Geno Smith.
The question is, will we ever get that opportunity?
I ask because it’s impossible to predict if those two will ever be on the field for the Jets at the same time. Holmes’ foot injury ended up being a lot worse than everyone imagined and Smith is locked in a quarterback battle in training camp that at this point is too close to call and likely won’t be resolved until after the third preseason game.
But if you are looking for a flight connection that can help carry the Jets out of the stone age of their ineptitude and into something more closely resembling an actual modern day offense, the Smith-Holmes express jet out of Newark is the answer. That tandem could very well get this team to its desired destinations a hell of a lot faster than Mark Sanchez piloting Headband One, an aircraft that almost always takes to the skies without the necessary number of parachutes
The Jets need the few playmakers they have to shine and aside from a healthy Chris Ivory running wild, the best chance they’ll have of producing a quick-strike offense is if their best wide receiver and only quarterback capable of making big plays are on the field at the same time.
Maybe that will happen by Week 5. Maybe it won’t until later. Either way, it needs to happen.
I’m not going to say Holmes gets a bad rap. He has time and again proven to be his own worst enemy in the court of public opinion. But games are not won in the court of public opinion and I defy anyone who says this guy’s apparent me-first attitude is all about a singular selfishness.
The dude wants to win. It’s that simple. And if he doesn’t fit into your ideal description of what a player should be it’s because you’re not supposed to like every player personally. What’s important is his track record for getting the job done speaks for itself. In an age when so many receivers are more concerned with style points than simply scoring points, Holmes if often viewed as self-involved, as a player who’s more concerned about making a name for himself rather than helping his teammates, collectively, become all they can be.
It’s simply not the case.
Sure, would you have liked him to handle certain situations better? The nightclub hijinks? The out of left field tweets? The public declarations that he must have the ball more? Do you wish the Miami huddle incident in late 2011 never happened? Of course you do.
But I’m of the belief that Holmes’ lack of maturity really has no bearing on what he’s capable of producing on a weekly basis. And I also believe the old adage is true: with age comes wisdom. I’ve never expected Holmes to become the model Jet overnight, but I know that he knows he’s getting older. And now having suffered the type of injury that can in effect end a career he’s likely going to come back whenever he does come back a somewhat humbled 29-year-old, with less time to worry about his message and more time to get in tune with the team’s charge.
Obviously it’s hard to compare the character traits of individual players, but what Antonio Cromartie is now could end up being what Holmes becomes. Cromartie took a beating from media and fans alike for being surly and at times silly during his first few years with the Jets. But he’s since developed into not just a very good cover corner, but also a leader. I’m not saying he’s an altar boy. He’s still totally capable of saying the wrong things at absolutely the wrong times, but there’s no doubt we’re seeing a much more contrite and responsible Cromartie these days.
Again, with age comes wisdom.
I think Holmes could go through the same type of metamorphosis. While he may never be a team spokesman or the face of the Jets — and to each is own as to what that actually means — I have no doubt he’s been humbled over the last year and is probably thinking now is the right time to put aside the nonsense and concentrate on solidifying his legacy with this franchise.
As it stands right now, Holmes is already one of the best Jets to ever wear a number between 80 and 89, and that’s without a single 1,000-yard season. That might be an indictment on the franchise overall, considering just how badly it has fumbled the quarterback position since Joe Namath, but the fact remains Holmes has been by far the Jets’ best playmaker since Rex Ryan took over this team prior to the 2009 season.
And without him on the field, the Jets are not the same team. There’s really no debating it.
Holmes is not about the stats. He’s never been about the stats. He’s about the moment. And when the Jets were really good back in 2010, it was his countless moments that put them in a position to possibly shock the world. I don’t know about you, but I’ll have that tightrope TD catch against the Patriots in the playoffs seared into my brain until the day I can no longer remember my name.
When Holmes returns the Jets will be largely defined by his moments. You can make an argument they might have made the playoffs last season had he not gotten hurt in Week 4 against San Francisco, a brutal injury that ruined his season and, ironically, came the week after probably his best statistical game as a Jet, a nine-catch, 147-yard effort in an overtime win in Miami.
A lot has been made of the Jets’ apparent lack of skill out wide. I for one don’t see it that way and have had the battles on Twitter to prove it. Jeremy Kerley would be an asset on any NFL team. Braylon Edwards, for all his problems getting any other team to appreciate his value, has always fit into the Jets’ scheme, regardless of the situation. Stephen Hill bucked a trend last year. He didn’t take the NFL by storm as so many receivers often do out of college, but that doesn’t mean he’s not talented. Just look at him physically. Worse players than Hill have struggled through a rookie season with drops and ended up as very good receivers in this league.
Throw Holmes into that mix, a player with know-how and a reputation for making the seemingly impossible possible and suddenly the Jets targets look a hell of a lot better than they did previously. Obviously a quarterback will have to take it from there, but this notion that either Smith or Sanchez will “have no one to throw the ball to,” a statement I see repeatedly from people that reeks more of frustration than it does any common sense, will look more and more asinine.
Like it or not, Holmes is your guy. He’s just the right amount of crazy glue to hold this offense together. When he’s shooting across the middle it’s a different game.
The moments have proven it time and again. And a somewhat humbled Holmes with a reason to endure might be exactly what the Jets need to exceed expectations and show everyone that nothing is lost in August — no matter how many people say and write otherwise.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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