The news broke on Twitter, as these things do nowadays, late yesterday: Chris Cooley was released by the Redskins. Reactions were almost universally negative, and some were pretty despondent. I must say, loathe the Redskins though I do, I always had a soft spot for Cooley.
He was the kind of hard-working player you could only love. His eight seasons with the Redskins have him atop the leader board with 428 receptions as a tight end, and fifth overall in franchise history, and he’s on the all-time depth chart in touchdowns and yards. He has been a solid presence at tight end, a leader on and off the field, and if I had to pick one player that epitomizes the good that remains at the heart of the Redskins while surrounded by Dan Snyder and Mike Shanahan and the rest of the less-than-likable
His goodbye press conference yesterday is the sort of gut-punch you never want to see in sports, not to anyone, but especially not to someone as special as Cooley. Cooley deserves better than to be cut in pre-season by the team he’s never done anything but love, from draft day all the way forward to his last practice. His goofball routine was charming, especially when contrasted with his serious-as-nails play on the gridiron. His 3-touchdown game against the Cowboys in 2005 sealed the Redskins’ last post-season appearance.
But more than that, he was the kind of human being you’d want to hang around with. This wasn’t the sort of pro-athlete always in the news for the wrong reasons – except once, where an honest mistake resulted in pictures of his wang on the Internet – but rather this was the sort of guy you loved to watch. Dan Steinberg of the Post cataloged his seven favorite Cooley moments, and all of them are the sort of laid back goofballism you would expect from Captain Chaos.
Here’s to you, Chris Cooley, who could make this die-hard NFC West/49ers fan cheer on the Redskins, just a little bit. Godspeed, and don’t stay gone too long.