FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- In his first extensive interview since the Jets flamed out at 8-8, owner Woody Johnson said Thursday that Santonio Holmes is coming back and will be able to coexist with Mark Sanchez -- and also didn't rule out the possibility of pursuing a quarterback such as Peyton Manning.
Johnson made it clear that Holmes is going to be around in 2012 despite the feud that developed between the quarterback and the wide receiver toward the end of the season, an ongoing quarrel that LaDainian Tomlinson described as the worst he's ever been around. Citing a "gut" feeling, Johnson said he is convinced that Holmes and Sanchez can get along.
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Johnson said several times that Sanchez is his guy and, barring anything unforeseen, that he'll be back under center for the Jets next season. But he also said, "There's no such thing as 100 percent" and didn't discount bringing in someone with an outstanding resume like Manning's, although he never referred to him by name.
"My job is to take this team to the very top level," Johnson said. "I have a lot of confidence we can do it. We are going to look at everything. We are going to look at every possibility, and that's what you want us to do."
But as of now, Sanchez is the quarterback. That's why it's imperative that the differences between Sanchez and Holmes be reconciled, something Johnson believes can be achieved even if it is worrisome at the moment.
"Absolutely I'm concerned, but I'm confident that it can be [done]," he said. "They've won a lot of games together and one is good for the other. Santonio makes the quarterback a lot better and vice versa. So they have a good reason to iron this thing out and I think they can do it."
Johnson added: "I have a high degree of confidence knowing Santonio -- I know him pretty well -- and Mark and the team will get back on the right page. I really believe that."
Asked if Holmes is returning strictly because of the massive salary-cap hit (more than $12 million) the Jets would take if they released him, Johnson said: "No, he may be one of the best players we've ever had here. I think you could look at his talent level as extraordinarily talented."
But Johnson said he's troubled that many players thought Holmes quit on them in the season-ending loss at Miami.
"That's not a typical Jet mentality, even that perception," Johnson said. "That's not what we are all about here."
Nor, Johnson said, is "coddling" Sanchez. In a report last week, an unnamed Jets player said he believes the organization gives the quarterback preferential treatment, and former Jets tackle and current ESPN analyst Damien Woody agreed. Johnson disputed that.
"You always try to take care of your quarterback," he said. "They probably coddled Tom Brady and all the other great quarterbacks in the league as well. Do we overprotect Mark or coddle? I don't think we do . . . He's obviously a critical part of the team, so if you spent time with him, is that coddling?"
Johnson said his faith in Sanchez hasn't wavered. The Jets are even going to tailor the offense to Sanchez's style, likely returning to a run-first approach with play-action mixed in.
Still, having a veteran backup quarterback to push Sanchez could be a good thing as he enters his fourth season.
"You could argue that," said Johnson, who said he won't raise ticket prices in 2012. "Yeah, he's got to have somebody breathing down his back."
After getting called out by his own teammates, Sanchez might have to win over players in a locker room that Tomlinson said was loaded with tension.
"I didn't feel a toxicity in the locker room," Johnson said. "I hear what LaDainian [is saying]. I respect LaDainian at the highest level, but I don't think the whole locker room was toxic. I think there were clearly a few players that had conflicts . . . You've got 53 individuals in that locker room and at any given time, there are going to be arguments and altercations and so on.
"Would you love to have total harmony? Maybe. But maybe it's good to have a little bit of disharmony also."