Welcome our newest writer, Rich Wilhelm, with his first piece right here.
The date is February 1st, 2009 there is less than a minute left on the clock in the biggest game of his career. He lines up with his heart in his throat, palms sweating, hoping to be the hero. Running to the corner of the end zone he reaches up hoping to control the ball and his toes at the same time while fighting off three Arizona Cardinals. He falls to the ground with the ball tightly gripped and waits for the official’s signal. Touchdown! The stadium erupts and with 35 seconds left in the game Santonio Holmes is not only the hero but also the most valuable player holding the Lombardi trophy. That was 2009 and seems so long ago. It is 2013 and the question is which Santonio Holmes will be playing wide receiver for the New York Jets?
When Santonio Holmes came to the Jets on April 11, 2010 it seemed liked a great fit for such a low price of a 5th round pick even though he would be suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. His first two years with Mark Sanchez were not the greatest, but he made the best of it and was a key factor in the back to back AFC Championship game appearances. His late game heroics included scoring the winning touchdown against the Browns November 14, 2010 with 22 seconds left and then repeated the same feat the very next week against the Texans. When the Jets joyride ended after the 2010 season the effort of Holmes seemed to go down with it. This included benching himself against the Miami Dolphins after getting into an argument with then offensive tackle Wayne Hunter. On top of that he ended the season with the lowest receiving yards in his career by far up to that point.
The relationship between Sanchez and Holmes started off very shaky and only recently has it been unified including an endorsement from Holmes wishing Sanchez to start at quarterback. The odd thing is it seems the closer they become the worse they perform together. Last season it was evident that Santonio Holmes gave up on plays and his fear of contact went far beyond Sanchez’s subpar quarterback performance. The man who won games on big play heroics simply was not there. The biggest example of him giving up on a play would be the game he got injured. Santonio seemed to completely forget NFL rules and simply gave the ball to the San Francisco 49ers. With a team with diminished talent such as the Jets this cannot happen especially with offensive points hard to come by.
Holmes is a born leader outside of the league with his work raising money for sickle-cell anemia called Santonio Holmes III and Long Foundation. The problem is he is not doing the same on the field even when the Jets are desperate for a leader. Sanchez tries to be a leader but half the team is against him it seems so it has to be another player. Santonio Holmes took a pay cut this year to cement his place on the team so hopefully that is a step in the right direction. Many would argue he was not getting cut regardless and even if he did he could not double dip on a contract from another team. When optimism is at an all-time low it would be nice to feel optimistic about something.
Although Santonio Holmes is not a leader yet or maybe ever, he always seems to form unity with his ever-changing wide receiver squad. He took Stephen Hill under his wing in training last year and helped for the original “flight boys” which included Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. His loyalties seem to lie with his fellow receivers and now Mark Sanchez which is a start. Hopefully for the sake of the team Santonio’s growing bond with Sanchez can resonate to the rest of the roster like what they did with Jets West. Due to the fact that he missed voluntary workouts starting on April 15th things are not starting off good, injured or not. Even if Sanchez does not start Santonio needs to step up and support Geno Smith or even David Garrard.
The fact that the Jets did not draft a wide receiver this year was very surprising. Fan consensus does not view Santonio Holmes as a viable number one receiver. The main reason he is in the position he has is due to the fact that he has had no solid competition up until this point. Giving up on plays would no longer be acceptable with a replacement in his rear view mirror. Santonio Holmes has two real options; either play like an MVP and possibly salvage one last contract from the Jets, or play like a number two receiver and he off the roster the second this season ends. Will the real Santonio Holmes please stand up?