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Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins.
A Sports Illustrated article by Jeffri Chadiha dealing with the Coles issue warrants some scrutiny here:
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.
"His time in DC" makes it sound as though he had been in prison, not collecting some $18 million for playing two seasons for an NFL team. It really gets good when Coles goes on to say that his complaint in Washington was Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs (emphasis added):
Coles' main complaint about Gibbs was the coach's inflexible nature. "I didn't feel respected as a player," Coles said. "I know everything changed [when Gibbs succeeded Spurrier] but when you feel like you're one of the best players at your position, you'd think you could talk to a coach about the play-calling. We didn't have that situation. He called the plays. We ran them. That's where things fell off with me. I realize it's a dictatorship but there's only so much you can take."
Coles sounds like Leon in the Bud commercials here, an egotistical, whiny jerk.
Let's see, how many Super Bowls have been won with Laveranues Coles calling the plays? Right, that would be none. And how many have been won with Joe Gibbs calling the plays? Let's see here, XVII + XXII + XXVI = three.
For that matter, what business would Coles have telling any head coach or any offensive coordinator, regardless of his record, what plays to run? Has new Jets offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger promised him partial control of the offense?
He often commiserated with Rod Gardner, another Redskins receiver in search of a trade. "We'd shake our heads and wonder where we fit in every time we saw a new game plan," said Coles, who became a Pro Bowl receiver while playing in Steve Spurrier's pass-happy system a year earlier. "People say we're leaving now because we're selfish, but how are you supposed to be happy as a receiver when you go from a passing offense to a running offense? This wasn't what I signed up for
Obviously, these guys weren't chatting on the way to Mensa meetings. One receiver Gibbs coached, Art Monk, has strong Hall of Fame credentials. Another, Gary Clark, had an outstanding career just short of Hall consideration. Ricky Sanders, Charlie Brown, Alvin Garrett and others also prospered under Gibbs' "conservative" offensive system. Gibbs' teams set a scoring record in 1983 and set a record for scoring margin in 1991. Monk was the first NFL player to catch over 100 passes in a season and retired as the career receptions leader.
Sorry, but if you're a receiver and you don't think that you can prosper under Joe Gibbs, you're just ignorant of history.
According to Coles, his main issue with Gibbs was a matter of trust.
When the season ended, Coles met twice with Gibbs in order to air grievances. Neither session led to any positive results. "We concluded that it was best to go our separate ways," Coles said. "I don't want to get into the details but he basically said he didn't trust me, and I said I didn't trust him."
Not everyone who played for Gibbs liked him; that can be said of every other player and every other coach who ever coached in any sport. A few have accused him of not being straight with them. Notably, Stan Humphries didn't feel as though he's been treated fairly by Gibbs when he was traded in 1992. But most players who have played for him, the overwhelming majority, have praised Gibbs as a trustworthy and honorable man to deal with.
Now, not having been a fly on the wall in all of the various interactions that took place between Gibbs and Coles over the past year, it's impossible judge if Gibbs said or did anything to warrant distrust. All you can do is look at Gibbs' record over the years and look at that of Coles. From the SI article:
Coles was bitter when New York didn't try harder to retain him as a free agent two years ago.
He blasted coach Herman Edwards on the way out the door then. When he was kicked off of the Florida State football team for shoplifting he expressed anger at Bobby Bowden. Fast forward two years and he's received another substantial bonus check, he's bitter, and he's taking pot shots at the coach on the way out the door.