- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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Kris Jenkins gave a harsh critique of his former Jets team and teammates after they fell out of the playoffs with a three-game losing streak to end the season. There was not enough leadership in the locker room, Jenkins said, and self-doubting quarterback Mark Sanchez never stepped into the role tailor-made for him and doesn’t seem like he will.
As for wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who did not play in the last two minutes of a still-winnable Miami game?
Jenkins, who still has strong connections in the Jets locker room, retired last season after sustaining consecutive season-ending knee injuries. He is an analyst for SNY and made his comments on The Mike Lupica Show on ESPN New York 1050 on Thursday afternoon.
What has sparked the most recent conflagration surrounding the Jets was a short comment backup quarterback Greg McElroy made on an Alabama radio station, saying the Jets locker room was “corrupt” with selfish players.
Jenkins liked McElroy’s frankness, and wished that Sanchez had the same kind of willingness to stand up.
“(McElroy) loves his craft he loves what he does and he felt it was what needed to be said,” Jenkins said. “The No. 1 QB should have said that a long time ago. It would have been all a part of the process of him growing a pair and standing up and being a man. But the thing is he lost it, because he got caught up in the wash that is New York, in the spotlight and taking pictures in the magazine and doing all that stuff.”
Jenkins said that he didn’t see Sanchez as the Jets quarterback for another two years. He said that Sanchez had the raw materials to be a good quarterback, but the visible self-doubt in games undermines his talent. He also said Sanchez didn’t seem to have the temperament for what the true requirement of his position is, which is leadership in a locker room filled with strong personalities.
“He’s always trying to be the crowd pleaser,” Jenkins said. “He’s always trying to be nice, he wants the leadership but he’s not willing to take it and as a quarterback this is your league this is your game, you gotta take it.”
Jenkins said that he loved playing for coach Rex Ryan. That the less restrictive atmosphere was refreshing. Not every player is able to handle the freedom and go out and embarrass themselves, Jenkins said. He added that in Ryan’s first two season, leaders in the locker room -- Damien Woody, Shaun Ellis, Tony Richardson and himself -- would keep things in check.
With few stepping into the leadership void, it became a problem.
“It leaves a lot of opportunity for guys to do a lot of things that might be a hindrance to the team and to the locker room,” Jenkins said. “Guys can talk and say what they want to say, act certain ways and do that -- and the leash isn’t as tight. Everyone is given that same courtesy but not everybody knows how to handle it.”
Ryan named captains this year, most notably Holmes. The wide receiver was gotten for a fifth-round draft pick from Pittsburgh before the 2010 season. He had to serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but at the end of the year the Jets gave him a $45 million contract.
Yesterday, Jenkins said that Holmes had to go.
“Santonio is a captain, so guess what -- if anybody is supposed to be the guy to get things in order when things go a little bit shaky it’s supposed to be him,” Jenkins said. “He can’t be the cause of the problem. If you’re a captain you have to make sure that you’re encouraging somebody the right way. For the betterment of the team, not just for your own personal stats not just for your catches. That’s selfish.”
Jenkins praised McElroy for his candor, and former teammates TE Dustin Keller and RB Shonn Greene for their performance, but the overall picture he painted was one of discord and chaos. Jenkins still believes in Ryan, but this season should give the head coach pause as well.
“He’s going to have to learn some things himself.” Jenkins said.
Kris Jenkins gave a harsh critique of his former Jets team and teammates after they fell out of the playoffs with a three-game losing streak to end the season.