MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Shortly after the Jets lost last year's AFC Championship Game to the Steelers, they targeted wide receiver Santonio Holmes as their biggest offseason priority. They re-signed him to a five-year, $45-million contract in late July and were delighted to have their big-play wide receiver through the 2015 season.
But as the Jets' season sputtered to an ignominious end Sunday afternoon in a 19-17 loss to Miami, Holmes was on the bench for the team's final series.
He was summoned to the sideline after he had a shouting match in the huddle and after some Jets noted that his body language during the game showed intense frustration -- even the suggestion that he appeared to be quitting on his team.
Holmes, selected as a team captain before the season by coach Rex Ryan, said he was pulled off the field around the two-minute warning after being told to leave the huddle by wide receiver Patrick Turner. Holmes was targeted only once and left without a single catch, the first time in his six-year NFL career he finished a game without a reception.
"Patrick tapped me on the shoulder and told me to come off, and I went on to the sidelines," Holmes said. "It was the coach's call. It happened."
It actually was offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's call; Ryan said he had nothing to do with it. "I looked out there and was wondering why [Holmes] wasn't out there myself," Ryan said. "So I did not bench Santonio. You'll have to ask him . . . I'm trying to follow the play and I noticed he wasn't in there. Somebody told me that he was on the bench."
It was Turner who caught the Jets' final touchdown pass -- a 10-yarder that made it 19-17 with 1:15 to play.
Holmes declined to get into specifics about his behavior in the huddle, and it was uncertain which teammate he was arguing with.
"What happened on the field is between us players and not for anybody else to know about," he said. "It was a heated exchange. Emotions run high on the field between two guys on the same team."
Future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson offered a harsh rebuke about Holmes' behavior, especially because of Holmes' standing as a captain.
"The worst thing that can happen -- and I've played a lot of football -- is when your teammates start to question your passion for the game," Tomlinson said. "In the huddle, that's what you saw. When guys looked in [Holmes'] eyes and he didn't have that fire, guys were turned off about that. The demeanor is, 'I quit,' or whatever that may be. When that happens, it's tough for guys to follow you.''
Asked if he was embarrassed about the incident because he is a captain, Holmes replied: "It happened. First time being a captain, first time it's ever happened."
Holmes suggested that perhaps his failure to quickly get back to the huddle on some plays might have been an issue.
"If it was my jogging back to the huddle . . . for some reason, referees were taking their time looking at plays, so I shouldn't have to rush myself," Holmes said. But he added that no teammate had brought that up to him.
Asked his reaction to having no catches for the first time in his career, Holmes replied: "It's Week 17. Shouldn't happen."
Holmes, who has had his differences with Schottenheimer and was upset with him about his playing time after last season's playoff loss to the Steelers, declined to say whether he was in favor of the offensive coordinator's return next season.
"Right now," he said, "let's hope for the best. It's not my decision to make."
Asked if Holmes himself wants to be back with the team next season, he declined to answer the question, walked off a podium in the postgame interview room and said, "OK, thank you, guys."