Because Chris Cooley is at the Super Bowl as a crusading reporter for OCNN, he’s going to wind up doing a lot of interviews. This is because the near-infinite number of sportstalk programs emanating from Miami this week need a near-infinite number of guests to fill all that airtime, and Cooley — a funny, articulate Pro Bowl tight end on a major market team with a new head coach and new general manager — makes for a pretty good get.
One of those interviews yesterday was with The Scott Van Pelt Show, on ESPN Radio. Van Pelt is a proud Maryland alum and a DC-area sports fan, but his national show isn’t aired on ESPN980 which (quite rightly) devotes the afternoon block to actual local programming.
Cooley talked about his favorite tight ends in the NFL (Jason Witten and Dallas Clark) and about OCNN (he’s having fun), but perhaps the most entertaining AND interesting segment was when he explained his first meeting with new head coach Mike Shanahan.
“I was very impressed when I initially met Coach Shanahan,” Cooley said. “I was really excited to meet him — I grew up a Denver Broncos fan, and was so excited when they won the Super Bowl. I mean, it was a high point in my life, watching John Elway win the Super Bowl. But it took me three or four trips into Redskins Park before I met him. His office was always closed, and so I kind of felt like I was stalking him a little bit.”
Van Pelt was a little surprised by this, and asked, “Can’t you just knock on the door and be like, ‘I’m the guy that’s gonna catch the ball’?”
Co-host Ryan Rucillo added, “A bunch.”
“‘Listen” news for you,’” Cooley said, as if he were addressing Shanahan. “‘Hundred catches this year, Mike. You’re gonna make that happen.’ No, I didn’t. I kinda slinked around a little bit, and then about the fourth time the door was open. And there’s a coffee machine right next to the coach’s office, and I just went in and casually got some coffee and pretended like that’s what I was really — ‘Oh, hey, you’re here! I was just grabbing some coffee. Uh, I guess you wanna talk? Wanna sit down for a minute, me and you?’
“But he was great. He’s extremely organized. And it was neat: he got in and the first thing we sat down and he said was, ‘Hey, I’ve watched so much film, I feel like I know you because of the film I’ve watched on you.’ And I thought that was really neat. I felt good about it.
“But it’s cool to see that he’s already in there working as hard as he is. Definitely the type of guy who knows how to run an organization. The guy that you can trust. He did a great job in Denver for a long time, and we’re really excited to have him. We’re really excited about the possibility of stability as well, ’cause we’ve been all over the map.”
Later in the segment — after Cooley had noted “They told me I looked like a fat little kid when I left the [NFL Scouting] Combine” — Van Pelt returned to the topic of new management at Redskins Park, which also revealed Cooley’s first meeting with new general manager Bruce Allen. Eventually.
“Do you feel like literally that that cloud has lifted,” Van Pelt asked, “with not only Shanahan but a GM in Bruce Gilbert?”
Cooley either didn’t hear or chose to ignore the slip, and started to answer. “Well, I hope so. It’s very hard as a player–”
“Bruce Gilbert works in radio,” Van Pelt corrected himself. “It’s Bruce Allen. Excuse me.” (Gilbert is the CEO of ESPN980 here in D.C.; later in the show, Van Pelt would castigate himself further for this mix-up: “I mentioned a guy who doesn’t even have our show on in the city I grew up in.”)
“You know what,” Cooley said. “On that note, I called him Butch for the first two weeks.”
“Oh good,” Van Pelt said.
“I went into his office,” Cooley explained, “and I almost said Butch and I had to correct myself. ‘Hey, Butch Allen’s a great guy.’”
But, for those of you who are more interested in the future of the franchise than in amusing verbal slips, Van Pelt returned to the question. “Is that legitimate? I mean, can that happen? Because it hasn’t for a long time, stability.”
“Well, I think so,” Cooley said. “And I think when you bring in someone like Bruce, and Mike, they have expectations of what they want. They’re coming in to a team not just to take a job. There’s definitely some demand there that says, ‘Hey this is our team.’ I would definitely assume that there’s quite a bit different that goes on in the front office, and I would assume that it’s in a positive manner.”
And they also addressed the omnipresent question of quarterback Jason Campbell.
“Your quarterback Jason Campbell,” said Rucillo, “we constantly talk about he’s in this system, now he’s in that system, on and on and on. Is this ever gonna get to the point where he can just be accepted and be comfortable and maybe be a guy where you don’t have to spend all offseason updating Washington Redskins quarterback rumors? I mean, I feel bad for the guy.”
Cooley chuckled. “It’s been tough for Jason. I mean, just to deal with what he’s had to deal with. He’s really started to step up and play throughout last year. I mean, he just took so many hits.”
“The O-line was so torn up,” Van Pelt interjected.
“And that’s the first step we have to take,” Cooley said. “I think as a quarterback, I think the first thing is Jason has to decide what he really wants to do, because it’s been tough. The way he’s been, I guess, ‘treated’ and what’s happened … it’s a business, of course, but … obviously last year we were trying to get someone else. A lot of it’s gonna be on Jason’s shoulders and what happens with him this offseason.
“I know he’s a guy that we want and he’s our initial answer, and he can definitely be the answer. He has every talent that you could hope for in a quarterback. He’s exceptional as an athlete.”
“So,” Rucillo suggested, “you’d be willing to say right here on the Scott Van Pelt show that you’ll stay in and protect all next season, no routes for you?”
“No,” Cooley said, “the cool thing is we’ve developed a new tight end to do that. His name’s Fred Davis. Pass protection extraordinaire. I’m thinking about losing about 25 pounds and saying, ‘Guess what: slot receiver. No more blocking.’”
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