What Chris Cooley Meant to Me as a Redskins Fan
This post is going to be all about football, so most of you won’t care. It’s also going to be about the Redskins, meaning still less of you will give a shit. In fact, it’s going to be about one particular Redskin, so that’ll reduce the potential audience for this post to about one. I don’t give a shit. Some things need to be said.
I’ve been conscious of being a Redskins fan for 35 years. In that time I’ve had heroes, from good days and bad: Joe Theismann, John Riggins, Darrell Green, Dave Butz, Dexter Manley, Art Monk, Downtown Charlie Brown, Joe Jacoby – hell, I could go on forever. But it’s been a long time since the Glory Days of the Hogs and Gibbs and the Pearl Harbor Crew and the Posse and Fun Bunch and all the rest. In fact, for 20 years now, being a Redskins fan hasn’t been all that fun. There was fleeting success during the Norv era, but that didn’t last, and then came the Bataan March of coaching. Schottenheimer, Spurrier, Gibbs 2.0 (and the last glimpse of success), Zorn (Jesus Christ, I still can’t believe there was a Zorn Era), and now Shanahan. I have hopes for the current coaching staff, I really do. Hope is pretty much the only thing Redskins fans have had to hang their hat on for 20 years. Hope that this year the line can stay healthy. Hope that a quarterback could emerge from the pile and become an NFL-caliber star. Hope that the defense would finally stop giving up 65% of 3rd down conversions. Hope that the young guys could do something.
For 8 years, though, there was one position that I, as a fan, didn’t have to feel hope about. It simply wasn’t necessary, because for this one area, there was certainty. At tight end, for the Washington Redskins, Chris Cooley was going to give everything he had on every play. He was a bright spot, an anchor, one guy we could count on every play even when we were certain nothing else would go right. On the field he was a beast, even if he never got the pimpage from ESPN that others like Witten or Clark or Gonzalez got. Didn’t matter. We, the Redskins fans, knew how awesome he was and how special it was to have him in the burgundy and gold. He was Our Guy.
As great as he was on the field, he was just as spectacular off of it. He was accessible, doing his own blog, appearing on others, doing little shows and events that he definitely didn’t need to. He let the masses into his life, letting us see how awesomely crazy and totally relatable the guy was. He accidentally posted a picture of his dong on the Internet and it was just Cooley being Cooley. He refused to have a negative outlook on anything the Redskins did and helped give the rest of us hope that it wasn’t all going to end in the shitty mess that it almost always did. He wanted to win, as a Redskin. He took delight in the choking tendencies of Tony Romo, just like the rest of us. He was one of us, only he suited up and actually got to play and try to make a difference. He was Us, and we loved him.
I remember the day he became my Favorite Current Redskin. December 18th, 2005. Against the Cowboys. Captain Chaos scored three touchdowns in the first half of a 35-7 destruction that made me scream and terrify my dogs and wife as I carried on like Conan. I’ve never seen a football team quit so completely in a National Football League game as the Cowboys did during and after Cooley’s third TD, a 30-yarder that he just flat blasted through a bunch of half-assed pussy tackling that is the Cowboys’ forte. It’s still one of my favorite games ever, and that includes the Super Bowl wins and playoff success of years gone by.
The last couple of years things started to turn. In 2009, he broke his ankle mid-season. He came back strong in 2010, though, posting numbers as good or better than his earlier seasons. He had knee surgery in the offseason, though, and never really came back after that in 2011. Age had caught up, whispered the conventional wisdom, and his salary number was big for a guy who had knee issues and a younger guy fighting for his job. I still figured he’d make the team, though. He’s Chris Cooley, Captain Chaos, master of the short-shorts and True Redskin. He’d still be there.
Yesterday, he announced that the team had let him go. I get it. I understand. We got dicked out of salary cap dollars this season and next (go fuck yourself, Mara and Goodell) and had a couple of young guys who were faster and it’s a business and all that shit. I understand. But it was Chris Cooley, a guy that you honestly feel you could have a beer with and laugh at some crazy shit and enjoy yourself. He was Us. And now he’s gone.
He was let go by his team, the only one he’d known, and said this:
“I want to express, finally, that the fans in this area deserve a team that wins. They deserve this team to be a playoff team and a Super Bowl team. The fans genuinely care. I wanted this team to be a playoff team. I wanted to be part of this team that won. My goal isn’t just to win a Super Bowl. I have no interest in going somewhere just because they’re going to win football games. My goal in my career — my final goal — was to win with the Washington Redskins. So that’s the only real disappointment of my career is that I could never win here.”
As far as I am concerned, you did. You won here. You won the hearts and minds of the fans, the ones you cared about. You gave us hope, and when that’s all we had to sustain ourselves, it meant the world to us. So thank you.
And even now, I still have hope, hope that I’ll see a headline or something that says “Redskins resign Cooley” and I can smile and enjoy him for a little while longer. He was the best tight end the Redskins have ever had, and one of the greatest players a fan could root for. I’ve still got my hope.
Other articles/posts about Cooley, all recommended if you’re into that sort of thing: