In an excellent report from Jenny Vrentas covering the New York Jets' final game and ultimate move to 8-8 on the season, the descriptions from teammates about team captain -- yes, team captain -- and star wide receiver Santonio Holmes aren't flattering. Vrentas found players willing to tell her that Holmes quit on the team and that he was "moping." LaDanian Tomlinson even went on record.
"The worst thing that can happen, the worst thing, is when your teammates start to question your passion for the game," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "That’s the worst thing. And I think in that huddle, that’s what you saw. When guys looked in his eyes, and he didn’t have that fire in his eyes, guys were turned off about that."
Holmes went without a catch for the first time on Sunday in six seasons. On a team that Rex Ryan continually espouses is a Super Bowl worthy team, the Jets collapsed again and again, and the character of their team showed today when Holmes (team captain, remember?) quit on everyone else in the huddle. If Holmes has somehow missed just how much the New York City spotlight shines on troublemakers, whiners and quitters, well, he's in for a nice surprise all this week.
Herein lies another example of the diva wide receiver. It's such a stock character in today's NFL that it gave Cameron Crowe enough material to work with to construct Rod Tidwell for the movie Jerry McGuire. "Show me the money," shouts Cuba Gooding, Jr. in an Oscar winning role (that led to future success like Snow Dogs or What Dreams May Come). It's diva talk from a diva player.
The player who demands something on the field is the player who should be shown the way off of the field. Vrenas describes the same when she writes, "One veteran player approached him before he was yanked by the coaches and told him to get off the field if he wasn't going to help the team."
There's no place on the field for the diva. If there were concerns about what Dwayne Bowe would become for the Kansas City Chiefs, those issues were quickly taken care of when former head coach Todd Haley came to town. Bowe became a model citizen and, consequently, the team's offensive MVP.
Teams cannot count on high risk/high reward players anymore. The entire offense can collapse under the weight of a player who is not giving their all. Notice how not a single team gave Terrell Owens a second look this year even though his agent was publicly begging for anyone and everyone to come and check him out. And Owens was even productive just last season. It's just that no team wanted to import a sideshow or worry about individual needs in midseason.
The NFL is a game of inches, Al Pacino will yell to you during Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday. It's true. The margin of victory (or error) is too close. There's no give. There's no cushion. When one player slouches, the other team gains an advantage. When a player pouts or whines or complains or makes a demand, the other team is likely going to win each and every time. The reason: football demands the entire team's effort or else the entire team is automatically going to lose.
Santonio Holmes would be perfect for the NBA. It's a diva's league filled with dozens of them and the team players are often relegated to finer print of the boxscore. It's in the NBA that you make your decision on national television based on where you want to play. It's in the NBA that you demand that you're not getting the ball enough and force a trade out of town. In the NBA, Holmes would simply be par for the course. In the NFL, he's a cancer on a team that cannot get rid of him fast enough.
Holmes is signed through 2015. Don't bet on him making it past March 15. Rex Ryan says a lot of dumb things, but he knows enough to realize a diva has no place on a winning team.