Jets need to do more than not name captains

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New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan answering

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan answering questions during press conference at the Jets practice facility in Florham Park, N.J. (Feb, 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

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Bob Glauber Newsday columnist Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets and


There are months of big decisions ahead for the Jets, but Rex Ryan didn't need 24 hours to figure out one thing he'll do differently in an effort to prevent the sort of collapse that left the Jets at 8-8 and on the outside looking in at the NFL playoffs.

A day after Ryan watched his team fizzle in a 19-17 loss to the Dolphins, he decided to ditch the idea of team captains.

Admitting he didn't have his finger on the pulse of his team and realizing that one of his captains, Santonio Holmes, had become a divisive figure whose self-centered shenanigans helped blow apart team chemistry, Ryan will go back to the approach he took in his first two years with the team. No captains.

"The issue right now is building this football team and getting it back to where you're playing against 53 of us," Ryan said Monday at his wrap-up news conference. "That's taking away the individual, but what makes us strong is that football team. I don't think we were as close as we were in the past."

Ryan believed that making Holmes a team captain shortly after he was signed to a five-year, $45-million contract would prompt him to become a better leader. Instead, Holmes was at the center of a problem that festered most of the season and exploded in Sunday's finale. Holmes was benched by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer because he'd gotten into a shouting match in the huddle.

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Ryan should have issued a public rebuke to Holmes but chose not to Monday, instead handling his petulant receiver with kid gloves and saying he simply "made a mistake."

Sorry, Rex. This has been a pattern with one of your best players, not just a mistake.

Rather than simply remove the captaincy from Holmes and appoint another more reliable leader, Ryan decided to do away with the idea of captains altogether. I can understand his desire to have better team chemistry, but eliminating captains alone doesn't strengthen unity. Choosing the right ones does, and Rex chose wrong with Holmes. Very wrong.

Ryan also conceded he didn't have the right feel for this team the way he did the previous two years.

"Normally I'm a guy that has the pulse of his team," Ryan said. "I don't think I had the pulse of our team the way I've done in the past. When I met with players [Monday], I think that became clear to me."

But Ryan's concerns about chemistry shouldn't mask other problems that contributed to an 8-8 season. There are many issues that need fixing:

Mark Sanchez took a major step back. Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum say he'll be back as the starter, but why not bring in a veteran such as Kyle Orton to compete with him, and replace him if necessary?

Right tackle Wayne Hunter is a serious liability. He contributed to Sanchez's getting sacked 39 times this season.

Ryan said he's retaining offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who is a candidate for the head-coaching job in Jacksonville. If he returns, he will deal with an offense that regressed significantly on his watch in 2011. The feeling here is that line coach Bill Callahan, a veteran play-caller, should be elevated.

Plaxico Burress wasn't the consistent deep threat the Jets had hoped for, and they'll need to bring in another veteran or draft a receiver in April.

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Holmes is coming back, according to the Jets, but he needs a serious attitude adjustment. If he continues to pout, he needs to be disciplined -- or traded.

Linebacker Bart Scott is likely on the way out. And the Jets need help with the pass rush.

Shonn Greene had his first 1,000-yard season, but the Jets need to see if there's a better alternative in the draft or the free-agent market.

And the Jets need an upgrade at safety, especially if Jim Leonhard can't get back to form after a second straight season-ending injury. Eric Smith was a huge liability in pass coverage.

Throw in the chemistry issues, and there is a long way to go for this team to be in position to back up Ryan's incessant Super Bowl predictions.

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He said after the Miami loss that he believes "we'll win the Super Bowl and will believe it for the next 15 years."

But with all the problems facing his team, Ryan's words are starting to ring hollow.

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