FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Just like their play all season, the Jets had little in the way of answers on Monday morning as they cleared out their lockers following an 8-8 season that began with Super Bowl talk and expectations and ends now with an early vacation.
A number of players, perhaps predictably, avoided the media contingent at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Facility as they cleared out their lockers. Santonio Holmes exited without saying a word to reporters after failing to catch a ball in Sunday's 19-17 loss in Miami which saw him benched late in the game for what running back LaDainian Tomlinson cited as "demeanor" and "body language" that exhibited signs of him checking out of the game.
Holmes, who was driven out of Pittsburgh for his character shortcomings, was named a team captain prior to the start of the season. The Jets' failure to capably replace veteran leadership such as Kris Jenkins, Tony Richardson and Damien Woody, all of whom retired this past offseason, was an issue cited in the preseason as a concern by some in the media. The lack of core values and characters in what became a fragmented locker room came back to haunt them throughout a year of multiple losing streaks.
"I don't think it has too much to do with leadership, every guy can lead, but it's how you do it. Some guys by example lead, some by the words of their mouth," cornerback Antonio Cromartie told Yahoo! Sports. "I think at the end of the day, it's every guy being accountable to the guy next to him and make sure he's doing his job. If that guy's not doing his job, his [tail] don't need to be here. We're here for one reason and one reason only and that's to win games and win championships."
The Jets dodged questions about Holmes, who re-signed with the team last August in a five-year, $45 million deal that was supposed to elevate the offense to one of the best in the league. Cornerback Kyle Wilson said he "never had an issue" with Holmes, but the Jets took a big gamble when they brought in the player. Holmes came with baggage to the team, including having to sit out the first four games of last year due to a league-mandated suspension, but he was seen as a key playmaker who could continue to ignite the offense.
yahoo_rex_ryan4A league source tells Yahoo! Sports that the Jets felt like they did their due diligence prior to last spring's trade with Pittsburgh to acquire Holmes and they were confident that they got a player who was more misunderstood than a troublemaker.
By bringing in a player like Holmes and then elevating him to a leadership role, perhaps it was no surprise that the Jets fell apart this season by losing their final three games. It was part and parcel of a team that rarely showed backbone this year despite having a lineup riddled with Pro Bowl talent. The Jets forewent substance in place of flash and sizzle, and ended up getting burned.
"I think it's obvious. We ended up 8-8 and we talked about all year about how talented we were. It's not talent it's obviously all the intangibles and things like that. I'm not going to point out one guy, it was a lot of different issues," safety Jim Leonhard. "Things need to change and it will.
"It's hard to beat good football teams when you constantly hurt yourselves and we did that all season long. Whether it was giving up big drives when we couldn't give them up or turning the ball over offensively or on special teams. Our formula this season wasn't the right formula for beating good football teams."
To amend Leonhard's statement, the Jets just didn't beat teams period -- at least not "good" ones. All eight of their wins came against teams that finished the season with a record .500 or below. In a league as balanced as the NFL this season, that was a recipe for disaster and it is no surprise that the Jets couldn't turn their star power into actual results.
"One of the great things about the NFL, one of the tough things, is you don't get second chances," defensive end Aaron Maybin said. "You have to hang your hat and live and die by what you do on the field on Sunday.
"We didn't handle business this time around so that's very disappointing especially when you think about the amount of talent you have on this team," Maybin added. "At the end of the day all that's left is for us to get better this offseason, come back better next season."
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer