The guy who feels the most gratified is one of the most accomplished, the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions for a tight end. A guy who has caught just one pass this season. Why does Chris Cooley feel so good? Because he almost missed out.
Cut before the season started and re-signed to the veteran minimum salary after Fred Davis was lost to injury, the former Pro Bowl tight end nearly had to watch this entire surreal season from his couch in Leesburg.
“Honestly, this is the most special thing ever for me because I was so close to not being a part of this,” Cooley said. “I could see it happening the last year. You could see a team with a spark for the first time in a while, not, ‘We’re trying to get to 3-1, playing kinda good football.’ I’d be dying right now if I was somewhere else. I’d be dying if I was at home.”
If Shanahan gets credit for Griffin and Alfred Morris and plucking a perfect Kai Forbath off the waived-kicker scrap heap, he gets credit here, too. He has turned the roster upside down, building a foundation, clearing out the old to make room for the new. But he couldn’t bring himself to jettison any of the Surviving Seven for good. Heck, he even brought Wilson back after a year away and Cooley back after the tight end’s emotional news conference the day of his release before the season started.
When asked why, Shanahan replied, “Because they are great football players, great people and when you’re talking about building a football team, what I tried to do over the first couple of years is see how people practice, how they played, how important football was to them — especially in the second half of the season.”
What Shanahan found out: “Guys that give you everything should be on this football team and that’s what those guys are. Guys that are still here from the first two years are guys that you want in your foxhole, they give you everything they got.”
After the team is sure to unveil its Young Guns marketing campaign next season — and the filming of RGIII and Morris folding their arms defiantly is over — here’s hoping that the production crew makes time for an Old Warriors promo, too. One in which Fletcher walks through a cloud of smoke, trailed by the six other veterans.
If nothing else, those players would have good back-in-the-day stories to share, bonding over all the bad times, how those days suddenly became these days.
“Winning is good,” Alexander said, simply. “I love winning. What, we’ve been 8-8, which is an all right year. But 5-11, 4-12, 6-10, 5-11 . . . just never competitive. So it’s finally fun to be a part of the talk and legitimate. Even if it’s like going out to the events to meet the fans. They used to always say ‘Go Redskins,’ but you feel like it’s forced. I mean, we’re 4-12. Why would you even cheer for us? But now . . .”
Added Moss, “Everybody that’s been here and been through it, I know they appreciate it the way I appreciate it. You appreciate it that much more. It’s much sweeter when you have the opportunity.”