For the Jets' Coles, It's Usually Stop and Go

Laveranues Coles kept defenses at an arm's length this season while setting a franchise record with 91 catches.
Laveranues Coles kept defenses at an arm's length this season while setting a franchise record with 91 catches. (By Doug Benc -- Getty Images)
By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 7, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On the day before his team clinched a playoff berth, Laveranues Coles packed in his travel bag a black T-shirt with Pink Panther on the front and a pink sports coat that looked as if it had come from a thrift shop. He wore both of these the next afternoon, pulling them on in the celebration and drawing more than a few stares.

"I'm just trying to mix it up," he said. Coles always has been a hard one to understand, never knowing whether he was happy or sad, angry or elated. He has teased with his talent, put together wonderful statistical years and yet never seemed quite able to thrust himself into the elite -- always a step away from the highest tier. It was hard to tell whether he was truly happy with this as well.

"He doesn't speak about personal things," says teammate Jerricho Cotchery, who, like Coles, is a wide receiver. "He keeps that to himself."

And last Sunday afternoon, as Jets players whooped and shouted around him, celebrating their 23-3 victory over Oakland, he stood near his locker in his pink jacket and Pink Panther T-shirt, alternately smiling and playing with the handle on his rolling suitcase. He looked ready to leave, yet never stepped away. He said he didn't want to talk about himself and yet he did just that for 15 minutes, alternately comfortable and evasive.

He was going back to the playoffs again, for the first time in four years and yet he was unhappy. Angry, in fact. It bothered him to read before the year that the Jets did not have the best group of wide receivers in the NFL. He saw this in a preseason magazine, and five months later he was standing in a victorious locker room as everyone around him savored a trip to the playoffs.

"We were in the bottom five" of rated wide receivers in the NFL, said Coles, 29. "I know that's something I didn't like. It didn't say much about me and it didn't say much about the other receivers that we have. So again, when I look at those things I have to tell myself not to give too much credit to the people who rate us because we came out and had an awesome year. All the receivers played well, everybody contributed and made play after play to help the ballclub get to this point."

Then as quickly as his eyes darkened, they danced again.

Someone had asked him about this season he just had -- 91 catches for 1,098 yards and an average of 12.1 yards per catch -- and he seemed happy for himself. But the joy soon went away, because he also seems to hate to talk about these things. For instance, he barely acknowledges the fact his 91 catches set a club record. His real elation, he said, came from the fact that someone asked about the blocks he had early in the game -- one on a reverse to help clear room for wide receiver Brad Smith and another on a touchdown run by Leon Washington.

"I think that exemplifies me totally," Coles said. "I mean I can go out and make all the catches in the world but the thing is, I like doing the little things. I take more pride in blocking and scoring and watching guys scoring and stuff like that. I get more excited watching other guys score than myself. For me those were my two best plays today -- blocking for Leon and blocking for Brad on the reverse.

"You people ask me about catches and stuff like that? I don't remember that stuff. The most important thing I do is block for other guys and I'd really like to be known for that."

Ask what has gotten him here, to the playoffs, and he hands the credit to the team's offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer. Something changed when Schottenheimer arrived, something came alive and it made Coles a better player than ever.

"He listens, and the relationship that I've built with him has pretty much helped me make it through this year," Coles said. "Sometimes coordinators don't listen to their players and hear what they're thinking or take their input. But he makes sure he listens. He'll come and ask me what I think about this or what I want to do with this. He's really a coordinator who values your input. And then when you see something on the field -- dial it up.

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