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Irreconcilable differences

Many reasons why Coles, Redskins had messy divorce

Posted: Tuesday March 8, 2005 11:56AM; Updated: Tuesday March 8, 2005 12:52PM
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Laveranues Coles
Laveranues Coles never found the right connection with Joe Gibbs' offense in D.C.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

It all will be over soon for Laveranues Coles.

Once he passes a routine physical Wednesday, his trade from the Washington Redskins will be consummated and he'll officially be a New York Jets wide receiver again. Given how much we've heard about Coles' frustration this past season, there shouldn't be a more delighted player in the NFL. There's no question he lucked into the best opportunity he could find after his time in D.C.

Coles will be reunited with his close friend, quarterback Chad Pennington, while playing in an offense that should be far more aggressive with new coordinator Mike Heimerdinger calling the plays. He'll play with a better supporting cast on a playoff-caliber team. He also gets to be happy again. That's the biggest boon for a player who described every week of last season as a "miserable" experience and added that the most important lesson he learned while in Washington was "trust nobody."

If you want to know how badly Coles and the Redskins needed a divorce, consider this: Redskins owner Daniel Snyder threatened Coles when the receiver's refusal to accept the trade without a contract extension thwarted the deal last month. "He said that if I stayed in Washington, he would turn me into another Terry Glenn," Coles said. (Glenn, now with the Cowboys, missed most of the 2001 season with New England as his public feud with head coach Bill Belichick resulted in various fines, suspensions and ultimately Glenn's benching). "He said he would send a flat-screen television to my home because I'd be better off watching the games there. That was his way of saying I'd be sitting for the next couple years until they cut me."

Snyder didn't return phone calls about that comment but it's easy to understand his irritation. He gave Coles a then franchise-record $13 million signing bonus two years ago. He expected Coles to be an integral part of the offense for many years. Now Snyder was watching the same player call his shots on the way out of town -- Coles eventually secured a reported $15 million in guaranteed money over the next three years while forcing the Redskins to take a huge salary cap hit -- and it stung.

But Snyder wasn't the reason Coles wanted out of Washington. Joe Gibbs was. Coles never felt comfortable with the Hall of Fame head coach. He was wary of Gibbs as far back as training camp. Coles feared that the coach (who was traveling and couldn't be reached for comment) would favor a conservative, run-first offense featuring Clinton Portis -- and that's exactly what happened.

Though Coles caught a career-high 90 passes last season, he averaged a career-low 10.6 yards per reception and scored only one touchdown (which Portis threw to him on a halfback-option pass). Coles never publicly aired his bitterness but he privately bristled about Gibbs' strategies: the coach's unwillingness to move the receiver around in the offense, the lack of downfield passing and the predictable nature of the system.