The pivotal moment for Laveranues Coles occurred during the regular season finale, when the Washington Redskins defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 21-18, at FedEx Field. During the season, the Redskins wide receiver had expressed displeasure to Coach Joe Gibbs about Washington's conservative offense, and the two met near the midway point of the season to try to work things out. But Coles felt that little had changed in Gibbs's system the rest of the way. And with the Redskins eliminated from the playoffs, and tailback Clinton Portis out with an injury, Coles searched for a sign that things would change for next season.
Against the Vikings, however, Coles finished with three catches for 37 yards as Gibbs called 31 rushes, mostly for reserve tailback Ladell Betts. Despite the victory, Coles felt that Gibbs's play-calling indicated that he had no future in Washington.
"That was the final nail in the coffin," Coles, who was traded to the New York Jets last weekend for wide receiver Santana Moss, said yesterday. "He [Gibbs] wasn't flexible. We didn't see eye to eye. I just felt like it [the offense] wasn't for me. He knew that. I knew that. So we felt that it was best that we both go our separate ways."
After the season, Gibbs and Coles attempted to reconcile at Redskins Park during two extended meetings.
On Jan. 3, the day after the season finale, Gibbs instructed an assistant to get Coles for a meeting. But Coles left Redskins Park without talking to Gibbs. Coles said he returned to the facility later to meet with Gibbs. "I was wrong for walking out," Coles said. "I admit that, but I went back."
Gibbs initially broached the matter of Coles's right big toe injury, which has bothered him the past two seasons. But the discussion eventually turned to Coles's desire to leave. According to Coles, Gibbs said that his departure could be worked out if Coles forfeited some money. "He said: 'The other option is you might have to stay here,' " Coles recalled. " 'I know you don't want to do that because it wouldn't be comfortable for either of us.' "
After the meeting, Coles said that he left it up to his agent, Roosevelt Barnes, to work out a departure. Coles said that being released was initially Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's idea. In return, Coles would forfeit the final payment of his signing bonus: $5 million due April 1.
"It went from: 'Okay,' to 'We never shook on it,' " Coles said, "to 'We never even said it.' When me and Gibbs talked about it first, it seemed like that's what was going to happen."
Gibbs, in meetings most of yesterday, did not return a call seeking comment. Snyder's spokesman, Karl Swanson, did not return voice messages seeking comment.
Gibbs has said that both sides never made such an agreement. Barnes didn't return several calls yesterday. Coles said later that Gibbs told him in a telephone conversation that such an agreement was never finalized.
Indeed in the final meeting in mid-February, Gibbs tried to reconcile with his disgruntled player, Coles said. Gibbs explained he planned to open up the offense. Coles said he apologized if he had been a locker-room distraction.
Coles said he took notes during the meeting. "It went great," Coles said. "After that, he thought we might be able to work things out."
However, Coles said that the situation disintegrated after a Feb. 21 article in the Washington Post that described his unhappiness with the Redskins and reported that the two sides had reached an oral agreement that would likely lead to his release. The Redskins and Coles accused each other of disclosing private information, Coles said, and disagreed on a solution.
"We agreed to keep everything out of the media," Coles said. "But once everything hit the fan and came out, they just went ballistic. They started talking nasty and everything went south. It went from night to day.