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Palladino: Classlessness Catches Up With Jets

'From the Pressbox'
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Ernie is the author of "Lombardi and Landry." He'll be covering football throughout the season.

Want to know the difference between the Giants and Jets?

Well, for one, the Giants are in the playoffs.

They're also classy, for the most part. The Jets? Rex Ryan installed Santonio Holmes as a captain. Yes, that same Holmes who started an on-field battle royale with his teammates in the final minutes of a horrible 19-17 loss that sealed the Jets' 8-8, non-playoff season. Who got called for a stupid, look-at-me touchdown celebration as the Jets trailed Philadelphia by 18 points. Who ripped his quarterback in a player's only meeting last week.

If you thought Holmes' actions were reprehensible during the game, you should have heard what happened at the Florham Park camp as Ryan's failed team packed up for a long offseason.

You had a coach begging, in tears, for team unity, a little bit too late after his so-called captain earlier got into it with the offensive line, and then had to be pulled out of the final game because he had become the ultimate disruptive force in the huddle. This is what the Jets committed $45 million for?

The fact that any of it happened goes on Rex Ryan. He's the guy who installed a career-long head case as a team leader, a job Holmes predictably mistook as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement. And Monday, in a further showing of his bleached out colors, Holmes stormed out of the clubhouse, escorted (guarded?) by the team's public relations director.

Add linebacker Bart Scott to the list, too, though showing off his middle finger (on an otherwise ringless hand) is not uncommon these days. Remember, Brandon Jacobs wished reporters and photogs a happy offseason in a rather unorthodox manner last season. But the point is, Scott was just another example of the classlessness Ryan has fostered.

Lack of class eventually translates into lack of production. For this, we compare Mark Sanchez and Eli Manning. As the Cowboys came back from 21-0 in the second half, and the heat came hot and heavy on Manning, he stepped and spun his way out of a couple of sure sacks, eyes always downfield, and found Victor Cruz.

Sanchez threw three interceptions.

While the Giants came together and figured out how to stop the bleeding, the Jets bled out, stuck as much by Holmes' shiv of discontent as Sanchez' inability to handle the tight spot.

Some players said it was evident Holmes had checked out three weeks ago, when the Jets still had their playoff hopes in their hands. It could have had something to do with Sanchez' last three flops, in which he threw seven of his season's 18 interceptions.

If Sanchez is any kind of leader, he'll lobby Ryan to launch Holmes, the sooner the better. If Ryan is any kind of true leader, he'll stop crying and get rid of Holmes himself.

And then he'll start rebuilding his team, starting with his own persona. He needs to become humbler, quieter. He needs to be the head coach, not biggest mouth on this Island of Misfit Toys he's created.

He needs a new offensive coordinator (Norv Turner, assuming San Diego fires him?). General manager Mike Tannenbaum needs to get him a young, viable backup quarterback that has more use than a concocted practice-snap spur to his starter.

Do all that, and add a few pieces who truly believe in a team-first mentality, and perhaps the Jets won't go into a prolonged non-playoff swoon. Ryan may even get to keep his job after next year.

But it all starts with class, a quality that didn't exist this year.

Instead, Ryan let a me-first guy like Holmes slime all over the captain's C.

There are a lot of decisions to be made starting Tuesday. Ryan and Tannenbaum need to think very, very hard about fixing the mess they've created.

Start with class. That's the easiest thing. Do that, and the rest can fall into place.

Will the Jets be able to change their culture with Ryan at the helm?  Sound off in the comments below...

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