"Why should I?"
That was Santonio Holmes' answer when asked Monday if he had any regrets over the way he comported himself at the end of last season, when the Jets -- his Jets -- lost their last three games and missed the playoffs.
You remember that stretch. Starting with a 26-point loss to Philadelphia, the Jets disintegrated, in part, because the locker room fractured. Holmes, a supposed captain, was a huge part of the problem. He pouted. He disrespected his quarterback. He got into a fight with teammates in the season finale at Miami. Holmes so dogged it in that last game against the Dolphins -- a game the Jets had to win in order to have a faint hope of reaching the postseason -- that then-offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer benched Holmes for what turned out to be New York's final drive.
When the Jets scored to pull within 19-17, Holmes sat emotionless by himself. A captain, a playmaker, a star receiver, alone on the bench, a nonfactor.
But regrets? Nope. Holmes has none. Not only does Holmes not have any regrets, he doesn't have a clue why he should have any regrets. He doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that acting like a churl is harmful to the team's ultimate goal. He doesn't understand that backstabbing and fighting with teammates is counterproductive. He doesn't understand that it isn't all about him.
Holmes is clueless about how to be a captain, a leader and a winner.
If Holmes doesn't have any regrets, if he doesn't see that his behavior was harmful to the Jets' success, then there is no reason to think he won't act the same way again this season. That would be a big problem.
The Jets have an array of issues and coach Rex Ryan can push his message that 2011 was 2011 and it won't affect 2012, but his words aren't going to mean anything unless his players, Holmes prime among them, learned from 2011.
Why should Holmes have regrets?
First of all, his team finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. A team that had been to consecutive AFC title games and had made going to the Super Bowl priority No. 1 didn't win anything. Not its division. Not a playoff game. Not a conference championship. Not even a game against New England. Nothing.
In 16 games, Holmes had 51 catches, his lowest total since his rookie year, when he had 49 receptions with Pittsburgh. He didn't have a single 100-yard receiving game. Against Miami, he didn't make a single catch for the first time in his career.
Instead of taking responsibility for any of it, Holmes pointed his finger. At QB Mark Sanchez. At Schottenheimer. At tackle Wayne Hunter. Holmes' lack of production was someone else's fault, not his. The balls Sanchez threw him were too high. They were too low. They weren't in the same area code.
Not my problem.
Have any regrets? Why should I?
You should because you say you are a leader. After it all blew up in his face last year, Ryan did away with captains for this season, but that didn't deter Holmes, who on Monday tweeted a picture of himself wearing a white shirt with the word "captain" in cursive.
If you want to be a captain, you have to act like a captain. Be a big boy. Own up to your mistakes. Vow to correct them. Apologize. Put the team first. Dedicate yourself. Stand up for your quarterback. Be accountable.
Don't say, "Why should I?" when asked if you have any regrets about a season that went off the rails.
Say what you will about Sanchez, but he at least acted like a leader and has tried to remedy the situation with Holmes. He tried last season, too, to no avail. But Sanchez hasn't given up. He went to Florida recently to work out with Holmes and several other teammates, at Holmes' request.
Sanchez isn't stupid. He needs Holmes, now more than ever. He needs Holmes to be a team player, mentally engaged and happy, so that Holmes will give maximum effort and be an asset, not a deterrent.
The Jets will have a hard time winning if Holmes is disengaged, and if the Jets don't win, Sanchez won't be under center.
With Tim Tebow in the wings, the potential is there for things to get very messy. Under the best of circumstances, it is going to be tricky to blend two separate offenses for two very different players and tell Sanchez he has to come off the field, thus disrupting his rhythm, so that Tebow can take some snaps. What happens if Sanchez struggles and Tebow, in whatever role he is asked to play, thrives?
New York fans are neither stupid nor patient. They will call for Tebow. What will Holmes do? He has turned on Sanchez before. What is there to think he won't do it again?
"Why should I?" could turn into "Why shouldn't I?" Neither question would be a good one for the Jets.