Parting Shots

Laveranues Coles never bought into the Joe Gibbs mystique. When he learned of Gibbs' hire a year ago, Coles admitted he didn't know much about his previous Redskins days. And this summer Coles was honest about how hard Gibbs worked them during camp, telling a reporter, ''We'll see if it pays off.''

During the season, it clearly didn't. Not for the Redskins nor for Coles. Though his catches were up, his yards per catch were down. And the Redskins' offense stalled.

Then, on the last day of the season, Coles met with Gibbs and expressed his disappointment. When he left, Coles wouldn't comment for the media, but the one thing he did say spoke volumes.

''If you want to know how I feel, call my agent,'' he said.

Immediately it became clear: Coles was unhappy. But to ask for his release? It's a little surprising. And it'll be surprising if the Redskins give it to him (they could release him any time after Feb. 22), unless he's willing to part with a lot of that $13 million signing bonus he received a year ago.

It's doubtful Coles, or his agent, will want to part with too much money. So the speculation now is that his agent, Roosevelt Barnes, put out word of a possible agreement on his release to pique the interest of another team, hoping to coax a trade. Maybe they could get a first-round pick for him. Maybe they could sign a free agent wideout to replace Coles, and Rod Gardner, who also was unhappy.

But the Redskins insist there was no agreement to release Coles. It may happen, but it's not imminent.

Coles began his Redskins career with a terrific first eight games, but that toe injury slowed him considerably. He didn't run past defenders for scores downfield. He wasn't a threat in the red zone. But he remained damn tough and played through injuries that would have sidelined others. Don't ever forget that.

The other thing that worries me on this is it forces yet another adjustment for quarterback Patrick Ramsey. Now he'll have to get used to two new starting receivers -- I'm not sold the Redskins have someone who can fill in for Coles. Taylor Jacobs has speed, works hard and runs good routes. Now we just need to see production. James Thrash is a third wideout. Darnerien McCants might not be back either.

Clearly the Redskins will have to address this need in free agency and the draft -- hello, Mike Williams?

But it's too bad that Coles wants out. In time, this offense probably would have evolved more to his liking. He shouldn't be upset with Gibbs; he should be upset with a line that wouldn't give the QBs time to throw downfield.

Gibbs, though, will try and find a way to accommodate Coles. Not because he's a nice guy, but because Gibbs is clear on this: If you don't want to be here, we don't want you here. That's as it should be, toughness or not.


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