Since the beginning of time, there has always been a lack of appreciation for the tight end position. Almost every aspect of their game, besides the receiving aspect, goes overlooked. Tight ends must be proficient at not only receiving but blocking as well. Can you imagine having to block the Demarcus Ware or Michael Strahan in their primes?
There were a few All-Pro tight ends in the early-middle 2000s that were playing at an All-Pro level. The Kansas City Chiefs Tony Gonzalez was at the top of the tight end ladder. After Gonzalez, there were Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey, Alge Crumpler, Dallas Clark and the Ravens Todd Heap to name a few. While Shockey was also a spectacle to watch play football, Gonzalez was without a doubt the best pass catching tight end of the early to mid 2000s.
The ageless Jason Witten was the best blocking tight end of that era. Ironically, he is still very proficient at blocking in 2016. It takes a lot of grit and willpower when your job is to block men who run as fast or faster than you do and they weigh 260 plus at the same time. While tight ends are finally getting the appreciation that they deserve, that was definitely not the case in the early-middle 2000s. While quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers get all of the attention, the men who played the tight end position often went overlooked.
But, there was one tight end who stood out from the rest. One tight end who had the ability to both block and catch the ball at a proficient level. There was one tight end who had the craziest swag in the NFL. A skilled tight end who went by a nickname like “Captain Chaos.” There was one tight end who continuously showed his loyalty for the Redskins time after time. That one tight end was none other than the great Chris Cooley.
Where It All Began
Chris Cooley played college ball for Utah State for three seasons (01-03). During his 2003 senior season, he totaled 62 receptions for 723 yards and six touchdowns. Cooley was also named second-team All-American by the NFL Draft Report, first-team All-Sun Belt Conference, a finalist for the Mackey Award (given to the nation’s top TE), offensive MVP and the team captain in his final year at Utah State. He was then drafted 81st overall in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
Cooley came to the Redskins at a time where the franchise was in transition mode. The team was fresh off the firing of “The Old Ball Coach” Steve Spurrier after he led the franchise to a terrible 5-11 record during the 2003 NFL season. To make things worse, the Redskins went into the draft with only four draft picks. This year was also the first year of the second Joe Gibbs stint with the Redskins so the 2004 draft was pivotal. With their first round pick the Washington Redskins chose Sean Taylor out of the University of Miami. Then came the third round, and with their pick, the Redskins chose Chris Cooley. Although he did have impressive stats coming out of college no one really knew what the Redskins had in Cooley.
“While Cooley was never the biggest, the strongest or the fastest player on the field he was without a doubt always the most prepared player on it.”
While Cooley was never the biggest, the strongest or the fastest player on the field, he was without a doubt always the most prepared player on it. Cooley was a very solid tight end who his quarterback’s could always go to when they were in a jam. He had amazing hands and his balance while running with the football was like that of a H3 Hummer. Defenders would just bounce off of him and it was definitely a sight to see.
In his first two seasons in the NFL, Cooley compiled a total of 108 receptions for 1,088 yards and 13 touchdowns. But, what made Cooley so popular with fans was not only his reliability. His willingness to do anything for the team also stood out. The Redskins brought in former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders prior to the 2006 season. Cooley was then forced to play the “H-Back” position. Which is a hybrid between both the tight end and the fullback position.
Cooley was so productive that he turned the H-back position into a surprisingly versatile role for the football world. He finished his legendary Redskins career with 429 receptions for 4,711 yards and 33 touchdowns. Not only was Cooley a focal point on the field. He was also one of the most popular Redskins off of it. Cooley had a personality that lit up every room that he walked into. Every real Redskin fan can vividly remember Cooley practicing in John Stockton like shorts. The league had never seen such a flamboyant free spirited tight end like Cooley. As a matter of fact, the league will never ever see another tight end quite like him as well.
One thing that cannot be questioned is the loyalty that Chris Cooley has shown for the Redskins franchise. He retired after the 2013 season after dealing with issues with his knee. Yet, his journey with the team did not stop there. He continued his great legacy with the Redskins by co-hosting “Cooley & Kevin,” which is a early morning time sports show on ESPN980 in D.C., with Kevin Sheehan. During this show, Cooley and Sheehan break down everything that has to do with the Redskins. Cooley stated he was in contact with other broadcast outlets before signing on to work with the Redskins. Accordingly, he chose to continue his association with the Redskins. “I had other opportunities,” he said. “I had other offers. This is the only job I wanted. The Redskins have been great to me and this is a perfect situation for me.”
There was one player who had FedEx Field chanting “Cooooleyyy” after every catch. There was one player whose loyalty could and still to this day can never be questioned. That one player is none other than the great Chris Cooley.