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DMN: Jets take on another problem

In Holmes, Ryan gets a talented but potentially troublesome player. Michael Lombardi

Print This April 12, 2010, 10:30 AM EST

QUOTE: “To live in the presence of great truths and eternal laws, to be led by permanent ideals -- that is what keeps a man patient when the world ignores him, and calm and unspoiled when the world praises him.” -- Honore De Balzac, French novelist

The Jets make more news

“In Rex we trust” must be the new motto of the Jets. Since the offseason began, the Jets, a final eight team, have used trades to improve their team — which is very creative, but each time, they’ve taken another team’s problem and made it their own. On Sunday, in their second trade of the offseason, they acquired Pittsburgh wide receiver Santonio Holmes for only a fifth-round pick in this draft. The Steelers clearly want to get away from all the off-the-field problems facing Holmes, and as a four-game suspension looms, the Jets felt the player’s talent far outweighed the risks. As they did earlier in trading for Antonio Cromartie, formerly of the Chargers, the Jets ignored Holmes’ issues, believing that their head coach, Rex Ryan, can handle any player.

In the case of both Holmes and Cromartie, these issues off the field at times have affected their on-the-field performance. And with both, their former teams felt uncomfortable with their work ethic, their behavior and their ability to be solid teammates, as these concerns were reasons both teams were unwilling to extend their contracts after their final years. So the Jets shopped in the discount racks and with each trade filled two of their most pressing needs entering the offseason. They have made their team better on paper, but have they made their team better in the locker room?

Holmes is coming off his best season, having caught 79 passes as the “go-to” wide receiver for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Holmes clearly has the talent to combine with Braylon Edwards and give the Jets another playmaker in their passing game, which will be improved in quarterback Mark Sanchez’ second season. And Cromartie is coming off a below-average season but has the skills and talent to play in the Jets’ defensive system. But are they going to be reliable teammates, reliable people, reliable workers? Along with talent, reliability is the key component of championship teams — just read the words of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, or watch Butler play the game, or examine the changes of the New Orleans Saints from 2008 to 2009.

The Jets under Ryan are not concerned with off-the-field issues or work habits, feeling they can create a culture in the locker room that will promote work habits, chemistry and teamwork. That’s bold thinking, but I wonder, would they have been thinking this boldly had the Colts kept playing their starters in their first game? My sense is yes -- win or lose, Rex Ryan never has seen a talented player he can’t convert or a team he can’t control.

The Steelers were tired of dealing with Holmes, who had issues that run deeper than just a four-game suspension. The Jets appeared to be the only team willing to take the risk, and they now must manage Holmes. They’ll ask, what’s the risk? For just a fifth, this is a no-brainer kind of deal. But in reality, this deal lets the league, and every Jets player, know that Ryan is not worried about any peripheral issues. The risk for the Jets runs deeper than just a fifth round pick — but in Ryan, the Jets trust he can handle any problem.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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