“Today, for the time being, is my last day as a Redskin.” ~former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, 28 August 2012
There was not a more loaded and unexpected statement uttered in the DC metropolitan area on Tuesday. Given the fact that the Redskins would play their final pre-season game the very next day, no one expected the team to announce it had released tight end Chris Cooley.
Cooley, the franchise leader in receptions by a tight end, only played in five games during the 2011 season following a knee injury, and off-season decisions and preseason play indicated that his role would have been drastically different than prior years. The Redskins had placed the franchise tag on tight end Fred Davis, transitioned Niles Paul from wide receiver to tight end, and asked Cooley to play as a fullback in three preseason games. There were plenty of conversations in the off-season about whether the team would retain Cooley, so the decision to release him is not altogether surprising. However, the announcement’s timing could not have been more poorly planned for and disrespectful to Cooley.
By releasing him during the final week of preseason play, there is simply no time for teams to evaluate Cooley in the same manner they could have during the off-season, and there is scant money available for team’s to offer Cooley little more than league minimum. Coach Mike Shanahan stated in Tuesday’s press conference that releasing Cooley allowed him the opportunity to find a starting job, a disingenuous statement of monumental proportions. There exists no standard methodology for teams to readjust and recalibrate for a player such as Cooley so late in the preseason because they could never have expected him to be available. At this point, teams have locked their starting line-ups and are focused on making final decisions about fringe players.
No doubt, the NFL is a business, but as with all places of employment, the manner in which managers and leaders treat their people (particularly their most loyal) speaks volumes to others in that organization. Cooley had earned and deserved better treatment from this franchise. By conducting business in this manner, former Redskins player LaVar Arrington believes that no one “can expect the culture of the organization to take positive steps forward.” The only way the decision’s timing makes ANY sense is if the Redskins hope to resign Cooley with a contract paying him the league minimum or a similar salary.
Regardless of how Cooley decides to move forward as a professional, he will remain a beloved Redskin. He was the quintessential blue-collar player who played in a manner reminiscent of the great Redskins teams of the past. His professionalism was never more evident in the dignified manner he thanked Redskins fans, teammates, coaches, management, and the city on his final day as a Washington Redskin…for the time being.