Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Chris Cooley, Heads on Pikes, and Being a Redskin Fan at this Point
So after an embarrassing three week run into rampant regression, of course an already vitriolic Redskin fanbase is clamoring for heads on pikes - the heads of Kyle Shanahan or maybe Jim Haslet or maybe DeAngelo Hall or Danny Smith or Brandon Banks or really anybody, to show that our concerns are being heard. And, of course, Redskins team players are trotting out the company line that I predicted in the metasciences recap on Monday, that we have to hold course and allow Mike Shanahan the Great Mind of Football continue to build his team according to his vision. Chris Cooley - the ultimate fan favorite - was on the sports radios today saying such a thing, pointing out how the fans raise a ruckus about what a dumbass Dan Snyder is for always changing the players and switching coaches, and then they turn around after a bad week against Buffalo and demand he do exactly that. And when it's laid out in such a simple way, yes, we fans do look hypocritical as fuck.
But you know what? Cooley's speaking out of turn, and dare I say this, may very well be part of the problem. And let me say up front, I love Cooley, wish he had had more support over the years, wish we had drafted even three more guys as good a guy and as good a player as he has been, who will do whatever's asked of him (this is the dude who was happily playing fullback earlier this year with a swolled up gimp knee). I wish every draft had one Cooley in it. And if every draft had had one Cooley in it, maybe we wouldn't be where we are today, where we are clamoring for heads on pikes. But only one draft has had a Cooley in it, and that was eight years ago, and there's a lot of dead weight on this roster. And unfortunately, do to the circumstances of both the NFL as well as his straight ahead playing style, Chris Cooley is not the roster heavyweight he once was.
[Actually, allow me a personal aside not related to vitriol towards the Redskins for a minute... I wish there could be some sort of collective bargaining loophole for fan favorites, meaning guys who have been on the same team's roster for over five years or even seven years or more, to where a certain percentage of their salary did not count against the cap, so that teams could keep a guy like a Chris Cooley, even when his on-field value may not match his salary cap value, so that all those jerseys us fans buy don't become obsolete so fast, and we can have a couple guys per team who actually play out their career in the same city, and become faces of the franchise. Remember those types? Guys who hang out afterwards and do radio and have local call-in shows, and can express opinions about the Redskins that come from an adult lifetime in the trenches? I'd like Chris Cooley to be that guy, because I couldn't think of a better dude to be that type of guy. But the business of the NFL doesn't allow for that type of sentimentality anymore. That's sad, because - like Cooley pointed out - I'm expected as a fan to be sentimental towards my team regardless of how shitty a business it ends up being. Doesn't seem fair on my end.]
But his point is, fans should remain patient, like they've begged Snyder to do for years, and let Mike Shanahan's grand vision come together. Except there's two problems with this... The first is, after two offseasons of rebuilding this roster, it's hard to see where holes in the foundation have been shored up, or point to some grand successes. Even this past spring's draft, which was exciting because the team actually used their draft picks on kids coming out of college instead of trading them all off to some other team for a magic football card from 1999, has kind of lost it's luster as the season has wore on. If Jarvis Jenkins had not gone down for the year, we might look at it differently, but really, beyond the #1 pick of Ryan Kerrigan - who should be good as a #1 pick - I'm not sure I'm feeling the same excitement I did at first. Guys like Roy Helu and Leonard Hankerson who had me geeked up have not delivered like you'd hope rookie sensations to deliver. But sure, give them time. But at the same time, it's that whole "give them time" mantra that probably reminds a lot of fans of Vinny Cerrato's wonderful draft of Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, and Fred Davis. We've given that one plenty of time, and you know what we got for it? A pretty decent TE. Usually, most well run teams don't have to spend three 2nd round picks, let them incubate for three years to develop a pretty decent TE.
The second problem with the whole wait for it to develop mantra is Kyle Shanahan. He is very clearly not so great at coordinating an offense. That cannot be denied. In any normal circumstance, a guy in his position would be catching holy hell right about now, for mastering a shitty offense two years in a row, and for laying a fucking 0 on the scoreboard, against a good by hardly elite Buffalo Bills team. But Kyle Shanahan is the coach's son, and it's hard to tell if the father can release the son. It's also hard not to assume, as a Redskin fan, that they are a package deal, which is probably a big part of why so many people are saying, "Fuck the Shanahans" right about now. Because if there is no change in what we've been seeing, and it continues to get worse, like it has been trending recently, Kyle Shanahan does not deserve to keep his job.
Now does that mean we fire him this weekend? Of course not. Give the dude the rest of the season, see how he adjusts to injuries, to lack of depth on the talent he's had a hand in building for like a year and a half, and see what happens. I'm not saying I expect the Redskins to be throwing 49 on the Patriots by the end of the year (though that would be tight), but give me some fucking signs of life. Show me some improvement, somewhere. That's all I'm asking.
And I'll give Chris Cooley this with his defense of the team - fans are fucking stupid. I do not go to Redskins message boards, though I have dipped my eyeballs into them recently in the false hopes of bringing more attention to Armchair Linebacker. But football fans when immersed in their own converted choirs, can be a cesspool devoid of logic and intelligence. Something about the closed confines of the interwebs causes that blow up exponentially. So I keep my Redskins fandom crazy thoughts to email with three or four real life friends, and we talk each other down or up or sideways and often times back and forth. We keep each grounded, and inevitably our conversations will end with something comedic about Dexter Manley or John Riggins to make us feel better about what we are seeing now. And at least we have an era of Super Bowls with John Riggins and Dexter Manley to keep us at bay.
Chris Cooley has not played with a Dexter Manley or John Riggins in his time. He's played with Mark Brunells and Albert Haynesworths and Reed Doughtys and Donovan McNabbs and Adam Archuletas and so on and so forth. No real continuity has been built, on either side of the ball, for a long long time. We as fans understand the need for this, and that's why we've been bitching about it for so long. But we also haven't seen much to give us the ability to build faith in this franchise that it's doing the right thing, to give credit where we're automatically like, "Hey, we looked like shit against the Bills, but you know what? That's probably an aberration, because overall our roster is getting thicker and stronger and faster and better, and we've been really competitive and looked sharp at times in all our other games, so let's just chill out. We know this isn't a playoff year, so we'll see what Herr Shanahan has for us next year." Nothing that's come out of Ashburn since like 1997 has really allowed us to have faith good things are fermenting.
And honestly, when this season started, I was saying, "Hey, this is year two and it takes three years to rebuild, so this year means nothing. Wait until next year." I was saying that even when this team was 3-1 and retarded ass Redskins fans were like, "PLAYOFFS!" using the very illogic and delusions that Chris Cooley is speaking of. I didn't hear him on the radio then being like, "Yo yo yo, we should chill out on the playoff talk, because you know what, we're still building a team here. If we make the playoffs, great, but really we're a year away." He wasn't beating that drum three weeks ago.
But the fact of the matter is, even in a rebuilding process, there should be noticeable improvement in the second year. Things should start trending upwards, even if it doesn't result in victories. Offenses should look competent and NFL-ready. Defenses should be able to sometimes stop dudes from plowing through them for 150 yards. Special teams should not be getting field goals blocked every other game. I mean, maybe that's just me and Chris Cooley is right and this is some tricky master plan by Mike Shanahan to have the team look absolutely terrible before he unveils some cyborg clones he bred in a laboratory from Mark Schlereth's sweat and we'll chop block our way to a Super Bowl next year. But I somehow doubt it.
So to you Chris Cooley, I say I love you bro. You are my favorite player of the past decade, and the only good homegrown player we've had other than Sean Taylor since I've been an adult (and I'm 38). But you cash checks from Dan Snyder, so I expect you to protect the team. Thing is, Dan Snyder collects cash from fans, and we've gotten kind of fed up with this shit. And sure it seems contradictory we'd be like, "Stop firing people you dumbass!" and then turn around and go "Fire these people you dumbass!" But the key here is the dude is a dumbass, and he's shown that time and time again, and it's hard to trust he's going to do the right thing. Ever. Mike Shanahan might hire his fucking daughter to be the defensive coordinator next year for all I know.
And to you fellow Redskins fans, who are calling for heads on pikes, check it out: we are already into this shit storm of a season. It was gonna be ugly, but it got pretty early, which was a false pretty, and now it's uglier than it probably should be, but we're not even halfway through the season. Let the anus mouth head coaching genius and his dimwit son have the rest of the year to show their competence. If the dimwit is as dimwitted and over-his-head as he seems to be thus far, he should go, regardless of bloodlines to the head coach. And if the head coach can't do that, then I guess they're holding us hostage. I feel bad for Jim Haslet most of all because this is getting set up now for him to take the fall. Even Shanahan the Elder spending extra time with the defense after the Carolina loss, only to have the offense score a whopping ZERO points the following week - it is suggesting there are problems on defense that are overwhelming the offense. I don't see it that way. Sure, the defense ain't great, but the offense has done nothing. But I'm talking in a circle again.
Just stop sucking. I don't care if you win, but at least let me think you have the ability to win. I don't care if you make the playoffs, but at least show me you're trying hard and you can actually compete to do so. We've started strong many seasons the past decade, only to succumb to Failure Demons over and over, who come calling in late October/early November and render January irrelevant in the greater D.C. area in regards to football. It has happened too many times to trust that the crappy performances we are seeing in all facets of the game right now is somehow building towards changing that. So we demand a head on a pike, because that's really all we can do as fans. We can drunkenly boo at games and bitch on the internet. We don't own the team, we don't make the choices in personnel, and we don't lose the games. We just have to live with it, without complaint I guess, and suffer our hopelessly frustrating fate in silence, in order to show support to the team.
And sure enough, some hack is already recounting what Cooley said on ESPN blogs and saying it's the gospel truth and that fans are stupid. You know who else is stupid? Hacks who write shitty blogs at ESPN. People who blindly support something that has not given them reason to have blind faith for well over a decade. And players whose jersey is peppered throughout a disgruntled fanbase telling that fanbase to stop bitching. Cooley, dude, wake up bro. You're a Redskins fan too it seems like. This shit is embarrassing man. It's ugly and embarrassing and it's been going on for a long time. We may not know how to fix it, and yeah, maybe being patient might help. Maybe not being patient might help. Maybe blowing the whole thing up and starting over might help. Maybe Dan Snyder giving the team to a homeless guy in a wacky Trading Places remake might help. But something's got to change. I don't know what exactly should change, but something's broke, and all the fixing that's been tried publicly hasn't worked, so sure, we are angry and want to smash it. Sometimes that works too. I guess. I don't know. I don't care.
And that's the end result... we won't care. Don't fire anybody. Fire all sorts of anybodies. Get Andrew Luck. Sign the ghost of Red Grange. Do whatever you want to do O' Supreme Overlords of Redskins Things, whether you be Michael J. Shanahan or Daniel J. Snyder. But until it looks like somebody actually knows the deal, for more than like three weeks in a row, we are going to be dissatisfied. And nobody's given us anything in 20 years to not be dissatisfied about. So if you want to shut us up, win. Win consistently and win convincingly, not in peeter-patters of last minute field goal backwards triumphs, or occasional flares of three quarter greatness that is good enough to hold off those fourth quarter blahs. Win some goddamn games, and we'll shut up about heads on pikes and getting something new started. Because the good times have gotten so far into the olden times that I can't even remember why I root for you fuckers anymore.
But hey, the wife and kids are happy, because we'll probably spend a lot of Sundays going hiking in the mountains in the coming weeks. And I'll get in the minivan and cut on the AM radio, and it'll be Sam Huff talking about how the defense looks lost, and Sonny will correct Sam on something and then pretend that Mike Shanahan knows what he's doing still (Sonny Jurgensen has become a huge homer for Dan Snyder, and not so much for the Redskins anymore), and then the other guy will go, "Timeout on the field... 49ers 31 Redskins 3" and my family will laugh at me, and my kids will mockingly go, "It's okay Daddy, they can't be bad forever," even though my oldest kid is almost 13 and they have been bad her entire life, and I'll cut the game off and drive home, knowing football - in the form of the Redskins - has no love for me anymore. And therefore I have no love for football - in the form of the Redskins - anymore.