It was announced today in Cincinnati that the Bengals and former New York Jet receiver Laveranues Coles agreed to a four-year contract worth $28 million. The Bengals will have a formal press conference tomorrow to introduce Coles, who is expected to replace Pro Bowl receiver T. J. Houshmandzadeh after having just recently signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks.
Being a Floridian who now lives in Cincinnati, I found this recent acquisition somewhat interesting. Just over 10 years ago, I vividly remember Coles as a receiver for the Florida State Seminoles--playing in the shadow of his buddy and superstar, Peter Warrick. In 1999, Coles and Warrick were infamously caught and charged with petty theft in Tallahassee for stealing clothes in a local mall. The major story was Warrick's role in the crime, since he was a Heisman Trophy candidate and All-American, whereas Coles was the relatively unknown accomplice. Coles, who had a previous record for battery, was kicked off the team, while Warrick was only suspended for a few games.
In the 2000 draft, the Cincinnati Bengals took Warrick with their first draft pick (and fourth overall selection). This was the second of three consecutive bad selections in the first round for the Bengals, as the year before they took quarterback Akili Smith with the third overall pick, and in 2001 took defensive end Justin Smith with the fourth overall pick.
None of these players turned out to be worthy of first-round picks (and Smith is recognized by many to be one of the worst first-round picks in the history of the NFL draft), and it was these wasted picks that many attribute to the Bengals' futility in the early part of the decade.
Warrick eventually was released from the Bengals a mere four years after being drafted and replaced in the starting lineup by none other than T. J. Houshmandzadeh. After the Bengals, Warrick was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks (T. J.'s new team!), but he failed to make an impact in Seattle and went on to struggle in the Canadian Football League.
Warrick remains out of football today, although I understand he was just recently signed by the Bloomington Extreme of the Indoor Football League... my how the mighty have fallen!
On the other hand, Laveranues Coles proved to be a better professional wide receiver than Warrick, as Coles has a Pro Bowl under his belt and has been a consistent, top-tier receiver in the NFL.
And with Coles now coming to the Bengals to replace Houshmandzadeh, this means that Coles will replace the replacement for his ex-partner in crime for a team that is better known for their players' off-the-field antics moreso than on-field performance (ie. Chris Henry, Odell Thurman, Chad Johnson, Johnathan Joseph, etc...).
I just hope that the team environment in Cincinnati doesn't bring out the Tallahassee Criminole behavior that was once within Coles. No reason to believe that it will, since Coles' professional career has been without major off-field incidents—but if any team can bring out the bad in you, it's the Bengals!
There's a strange feeling of cyclical symmetry with the Coles announcement today—but not sure if it will bode well in the long run for either the Bengals or Coles.
What do you think?