It’s always hard to tell if athletes are impacted by days, weeks, months of off-field drama, because they will always tell you that they’re not. Common sense, though, would indicate that probably they are, at least occasionally. It’s an unsolvable riddle, like the continued existence of Pizza Hut.
But Chris Cooley — less than a year removed from the Redskins locker room, and still in touch with many of his former teammates — talked about mayhem and madness on ESPN 980’s Monday Morning Quarterback show. And he sure seemed to indicate that it could impact real live athletes during real live games.
“All it takes is one person to know, and that news would have spread like wildfire on the sideline,” Cooley said, when asked about the now famous ESPN.com report about Mike Shanahan considering leaving last season. “To have that damning of a story at 10 a.m. before a game is almost unheard of. I mean, it was unbelievable news to me. Just another joke to the 2013 season.”
Later, Cooley was asked to piece through all the potential relationship scenarios.
“There’s just so many games going on inside that facility right now, between so many people, that I can’t put anyone ultimately to blame for all of this,” he said. “Because everyone’s at blame…
“I think it’s a mistake for any player to say anything besides, we support this team, the staff. And I think Robert should do the same,” he said later. “I think Robert should have endorsed Mike six weeks ago, six months ago, at all times. There are things behind the scenes that can happen, that can change whatever [Griffin] wants to change. But up front and in the media, he needs to portray that fun-loving, happy-go-lucky Robert who’s going to play his butt off every week. That’s what everyone wants to love. He’s going to be here, and he just needs to be the beloved quarterback in Washington, D.C. I think he’s learning how to handle that situation, but he could have done it a little differently.”
Cooley stressed several times that many of these issues might have been ignored had the team won more games than it lost. But it didn’t. And a season’s worth of off-field story lines, Cooley seemed to indicate, could take its toll on a locker room.
“Losing games brings out the worst in everybody, and brings out the best questions among the media, and they just were never on the same page with how to answer them,” Cooley said, speaking of the team’s leaders. “Everyone was misled in a hundred different directions. And when those questions are misled in the media and answered inappropriately, the players see those too, and the coaches. Everyone sees those questions and sees those answers, and it’s not just our fanbase. It’s our guys that see them as well. People calling them, their families calling them, their agents calling them, wondering what’s going on, what’s wrong. When you’re 100 percent committed to something as a player or as a coach, and you don’t truly understand what’s going on behind the scenes in the thing you’re committed to, then it’s tough to say, yeah, I buy in, I have faith. Because I don’t even know what’s going on.”