The next day, you’re cut. Someone younger, more athletic and cheaper takes your job. Happens every day in America, in professions that pay a pittance of what an elite athlete makes.
“I spent two years with this staff and was hurt for most of it,” Cooley said early Tuesday evening from his home, trying to take Coach Mike Shanahan and the Redskins off the hook for letting go the team’s longest-tenured player.
“It wasn’t their fault I wasn’t the player I wanted to be. Do I think I can be that player again? Of course I think that. But they have to do what they think is the best for them. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. I really had an awesome time.”
Still, a zeitgeist moment passed Tuesday for Washington football fans, when arguably their favorite player during Daniel Snyder’s time as owner announced he was no longer a Redskin.
“This organization has changed my life, in every way, for the better — and I appreciate it,” he had said earlier, his eyes misting during a makeshift news conference that lasted a few minutes at the team’s training complex in Ashburn. “It’s been a good ride. It’s been a pleasure.”
No, Chris, it was our pleasure. We got to see you catch more passes than any tight end in team history, more than Clint Didier and Donnie Warren combined. From 2004 on, you had more receptions than all but four players since the team was founded in 1932: Art Monk, Gary Clark, Charley Taylor, Santana Moss. That’s it. That’s the list.
Yes, Cooley was due $3.8 million this season on a team that suddenly had a logjam at his position. But the Redskins should have had the decency to release him weeks ago, when he would have had more than a sliver of time to catch on elsewhere.
It would have been the right and proper thing to do for the most responsible player on the roster during an irresponsible decade in franchise history.
For every bad move, every moment of utter chaos in Ashburn — for every Albert Haynesworth, Adam Archuleta and all the other bad actors, for every impulsive free agent buy, draft pick or Jim Zorn hire that Snyder regretted, for every tight end or offensive lineman suspended because of a positive drug test — Cooley became the one, true thing fans could rely on every Sunday.
Before he broke his foot during a game in 2009, he never missed a practice. Before Fred Davis took his job last season while Cooley was coming back from knee surgery, he started 101 straight games.