Said offensive coordinator Don Breaux: "I've been coaching in the NFL for 24 years, and receivers all want the ball more than they get it. And we want them to want the ball, and to score touchdowns. We would be foolish to not try to do everything we can to take advantage" of Coles.
Gardner has been on the trading block after a "mutual" decision.
Unhappy in Joe Gibbs's ball-control offense, Laveranues Coles averaged a career-low 10.6 yards per catch and caught one touchdown, an option pass from Clinton Portis.
(Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
Although Gibbs said he doesn't intend to overhaul the roster, Coles's situation means Washington almost certainly will have two new starting wideouts. Reserve wideouts Taylor Jacobs and James Thrash are expected to have increased roles next season, but Gibbs plans to address the team's needs mainly through free agency.
Pittsburgh's Plaxico Burress and Oakland's Jerry Porter headline an unspectacular pool of wideouts. The group could be bolstered by possible salary cap casualties such as St. Louis's Isaac Bruce, Carolina's Muhsin Muhammad and Tennessee's Derrick Mason. If released, Coles instantly would be one of the premier receivers available. And several teams -- including the Cowboys, Falcons and Ravens -- are expected to pursue wideouts.
The Redskins possess the ninth overall pick in April's NFL draft, providing an opportunity to select one of college's top two wideouts: Michigan's Braylon Edwards and USC's Mike Williams.
Last season, Gibbs was criticized for his conservative play-calling, with a passing unit that mustered only four completions of 40 yards or longer. (Coles caught one of them, for his season-high of 45 yards.) Following a four-day evaluation after the regular season, the Redskins plan to employ more of an attacking offense -- "Let it fly," Breaux said -- markedly increasing downfield passes.
Bugel conceded, "We didn't have enough 'explosion plays,' as we call 'em."
Nonetheless, the shift will not cause the club to try dissuading Coles, said two sources. Midway through the season, Coles stopped conducting interviews, apparently to avoid making any incendiary public statements. But Coles's displeasure was a little-kept secret in the locker room.
"Sometimes it seemed like he missed Spurrier," a top Redskins player, who joined the club last season, said yesterday. "I love Laveranues because he's a warrior. No one plays harder. But if he doesn't want to be here, then it's best to find another team."
Despite Coles's request to depart, his coaches and teammates praised his competitiveness and professionalism. "I tip my hat to him," Breaux said.
Coles played with an ailing right big toe throughout the season and an injured middle finger for the final 14 games. Known for being one of the NFL's most sure-handed receivers, he was plagued by dropped passes.
Last November, when a reporter told Coles he seemed disgruntled throughout the year, Coles responded sardonically: "You're very perceptive."