Chris Cooley, in his first year out of uniform and in the Redskins Radio Network broadcast booth, has made no secret of his rooting interests. He’s led the team’s radio crew in post-touchdown choruses of ‘Hail to the Redskins.’ He is friends with many members of the current roster. He has repeatedly spoken highly of both Shanahans and of Robert Griffin III, and he turned down other media offers to work for the team’s radio network because “this is the only job I wanted.”
So bear all that in mind when reading some of Cooley’s thoughts about Mike Shanahan’s Monday press conference this week.
Specifically, Cooley — on his ESPN 980 afternoon drive program — was responding to Shanahan’s answer when asked whether he deserves any share of the blame for Sunday’s loss.
“Yeah,” Shanahan said. “I mean, that’s what coaching’s about. You try to put your football team in a situation that gives them the best chance to be successful. And when you fall short of that, you always go back and you look at everything. You look at your offensive gameplan, defense, special teams. We did a lot of good things in that game. We fell a little bit short. I was pleased with the way our defense came back in the second half, some of the plays that they made, and I was proud of our football team, the way they fought in the fourth quarter. All of the sudden you tie it up in the fourth quarter, you find a way to win when you’re 24 points down, that doesn’t happen very often in the National Football League. So two games in a row we fell short in the fourth quarter, and disappointed that we did lose those games, but I also try to explain to the team that if we would have won those games, now everybody would be talking the other direction. So it’s a fine line.”
Then Shanahan was asked about the bigger picture, and whether he still feels the overall direction for the franchise is positive.
“I really do,” he said. “I really do. And I think you’ve got to take a look at a number of things when you take a look at the direction of the football team. You take a look at the offensive numbers, and that just doesn’t happen naturally with a lot of new players. We talk about it last year, we had six new players on our team, and putting up the numbers that we’re putting up are pretty impressive, especially with losing the $36 million salary cap over those two years. You don’t have the type of depth, but you’re able to put a very solid football team together. And in the future, we’ll get better, because we have the ability to get more depth, the ability to add some players on both sides of the football, and that gives you a chance to get better as a football team.”
In a subsequent discussion with co-hosts Steve Czaban and Al Galdi, Cooley responded like this.
“Ok, please stop soliciting me,” he said. “I’m gonna put a little sign on our radio door that says no soliciting. You don’t have to sell me anything. You have nothing to sell, ok? You’re selling junk to me right now. Don’t sell me the fact that you can do something offensively with a lot of new players that came in here last year. You have the exact same group of players that were here, that executed your offense at a high level. Literally, the exact same group of players. To think that you’re not better doesn’t, to me, say that it’s on the players. I’m sorry. They can do what they can do, so put them in position to do that. And then you’ve got a $36 million cap hit; where’d you lose depth? Can anyone explain to me where we lost depth from last year’s team? You lost Lorenzo Alexander….
“I mean, quit selling me something,” Cooley continued. “She asked a question — do you take blame? — and you gave an answer of well, you know we look hard at everything. Just say you do, because you’re the one that’s gonna take the blame. You’re the one. Ultimately, you’re the captain. You’re the guy that put the team together, you built the ship, you’re gonna go down with it. And the ship’s going down right now.”
Later, Cooley returned to the topic of the salary cap hit and the lack of depth, referencing the benched Fred Davis and the benched Joshua Morgan.
“You can’t take two players who’ve played at the top of this game in the NFL and say, hmm, you’re probably not even good enough for us,” Cooley said. ” Because that gives a guy a lot of confidence to continue to work and continue to play and care about a staff and care about a team. You’ve got to give him an opportunity. Josh Morgan dropped one pass early in the year, and it’s picked off, and they’re like ha, you’re done….Mike brought up the cap hit, and how he had no depth. He has depth. It’s sitting on his roster right now.”
Still later, someone raised the topic of Shanahan’s lack of animated emotions in some situations.
“He doesn’t have to show emotion,” Cooley said. “He can be joyless to whatever extent helps him do his job. But when you come back in front of the media, just don’t try to sell me anything. You leave me feeling dirty when I get done listening to your press conferences. I feel like I’ve been lied to. I feel like you’ve omitted any [negative] fact, and you’ve turned them into whatever fact you wanted to give me. A question was asked, and you avoided the answer over and over and over again.
“I like Mike as a person,” Cooley stressed. “I think he’s a very good guy. I liked Jim Zorn as a person. I thought he was a great guy. Jim was ok in the media. But be yourself. Just give me something. Kyle actually will give you something in the media: Kyle will come out and say what he thinks he did wrong, what he could do better. I appreciate Kyle in the media. But Mike could do a better job keeping fans of this team, and letting them be a part of this team and be a fan of this team. But he disassociates the coaching staff, the players and the rest of the fan base and the organization.
“I believe in a lot of the things he does,” Cooley said. “I do. But I think he leaves too many people cold and too many people without answers. They’re very good at leaving people without answers….You need someone to sit with him and say here, please just say exactly this. People will actually feel for you. They will actually understand what’s going on. But you have to explain it in a way that they’re going to understand, not in a way where you just turned it to seem like everything’s great, you’re right.”
As I said, Cooley also emphasized how much he likes Shanahan, and how much he wants the team to succeed.