Who else would members of this Jets team turn to during these rough times but wide receiver Laveranues Coles?
After dropping their sixth game of the season at Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, Coles in his postgame news conference announced that he will willingly take the reins of this disheartened team.
"Me being who I am, I'll make sure it goes into a positive direction," Coles said of the remaining months of the Jets' 2007 season. "I'm not going to let it go one way or the other. I'm going to take that upon my shoulders as one of the players in this locker room that goes out and works hard and leads by example so that guys can have that example to follow."
Coles, whose mental and physical toughness has been endlessly praised by both coaches and teammates, did all a wide receiver could do on the field to help stop the Jets from sliding to their fourth straight loss. Now the challenge lies within getting it done off of the field as well.
"You don't ever lay down," Coles said. "You continue to fight regardless of the situation you're in."
Although his gallant efforts were unable to lift the Jets to their first win in a month, Coles ended the day with a game-high and season-high 133 receiving yards. LC also cracked the 100-yard plateau for the first time this season and his eight catches tied a personal season high.
Coles shined early and often at Paul Brown Stadium. On just the Jets' third offensive play of the game, he and quarterback Chad Pennington connected for the club's longest pass play of the year — a 57-yard completion for the first touchdown of the game.
The Green & White then went back to Coles three possessions later and the results were just as successful. Following the Bengals' first touchdown of the afternoon late in the first half, the Jets offense faced a third-and-4 from the Bengals' 36 with 59 seconds remaining.
Coles, lining up in the left slot, cut across the line of scrimmage, secured a short pass from Pennington and proceeded to leave two Bengals defensive backs in the dust. Both Johnathan Joseph and Deltha O'Neal fell victim to Coles' strength and quickness, and their missed tackles allowed him to sprint in for his sixth touchdown of the season.
That score gave Coles the sixth multi-touchdown game of his career and his second of the season. Pennington and Coles have now connected for 18 touchdowns, the most of any receiver among Pennington's 80 touchdown throws.
The fruitful afternoon was unfortunately overshadowed by the 38-31 loss. Despite another dark outcome, Coles wants his teammates to come together and break through to brighter days.
"You're going to get an opportunity to learn about the guys in the locker room with you," he said. "It can go one of two ways. You can let the thing really get bad and get a locker room to explode, or the guys come closer together. And I think that's one of the great things about the guys that we have. Hopefully we can build off of it and get closer as a team.
"We know the work we put in — the hours, the time, the sweat and the tears," he added. "For us to come this far and continue to lose is disheartening and the main thing is to bottle it up and use it in a positive way. Right now what we have is each other, so we need to stick together and find a way to try to turn things around."