Two years ago, ESPN 980 (owned by Dan Snyder’s Red Zebra Broadcasting) shook up its daily lineup in a big way by adding Chris Cooley to their roster on a new afternoon drive show called “The Drive”.
The move would split long time co hosts Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin, as Czaban stayed with “The Drive”, while Pollin and “The Sports Reporters” show would be moved to a 6-9am time slot on a sister station.
Pollin is a sports radio lifer, having spent several years at WFAN in New York and is a guy who is synonymous with 980. In my opinion, Pollin is one of the all time greats in sports radio and is an institution in DC sports media. The shake up to bring in Cooley was a big one as 980 aimed to keep up with rival 106.7 The Fan; the newer kid on the block who overtook 980 in the ratings.
“The Drive” just celebrated it’s 2nd birthday; Cooley has gotten more comfortable behind the microphone and 980 has made him a large part of their marketing campaign with this brand new ad running constantly on the DC airwaves:
Cooley also provides color commentary in the Redskins game day radio booth and is even slated to work the TV booth of a random game on FOX this year. His media career is budding.
It’s with this backdrop that Cooley dropped the bombshell this week that he’s aggressively seeking an opportunity for an NFL comeback and is willing to make several concessions to the Redskins specifically if they are willing to give him a shot.
On Monday’s show, Cooley said he’s “literally begging” for a chance to play for the Redskins again. He dismissed the signing of two other tight ends by the Redskins with unmistakable arrogance, claiming he’s better than both players. Czaban, a bit perplexed, pushed him on issues such as physical condition, age, etc.
Cooley went on to detail the internal decision making process of the Redskins regarding a potential signing, as well as the specifics of the contract his agent proposed to the team, the details of which are in Dan Sternberg’s DC Sports Bog piece.
After all of this, Cooley claimed “I’m going to play somewhere” this season and stated he 100% has another opportunity that’s nearly a done deal.
So to recap, a former Redskin player who is now an employee of the Redskins on game day and works a day job at Redskins Park on the highest profile show of a radio station owned by the Redskins owner is now using that platform to publicly lobby for a job playing for the Redskins after being out of football for two years.
Just when you thought the Redskins couldn’t get any more Redskin-y.
The following day (Tuesday), Cooley faced a barrage of backlash from Redskins fans calling him everything from pompous to delusional to a distraction that is detrimental to the team. To his credit, he took on all the negativity head on in a Jimmy Kimmel-esque “Mean Tweets” segment, where he gave rebuttals to each specific critique of the way he handled himself on Monday’s show.
On top of all this, one of the most famous segments of “The Drive” occurs during football season, when Cooley breaks down the film of the previous weeks Redskins game and gives a letter grade to every single player on the team.
It’s terrific radio because Cooley really knows his football and runs through each position group with great acumen and ease. He’s also brutally honest and is not afraid to give extremely harsh criticism.
Griffin hasn’t been the only Redskin in the cross hairs, setting up what could be a very contentious locker room with the addition of Cooley.
The cynic in me immediately thought this was all a publicity stunt cooked up for radio ratings. Former 980 station manager Chuck Sapienza had a different theory:
— Chuck Sapienza (@chucksapienza) August 12, 2015
Czaban claims it’s not a stunt and that Cooley is sincere in his desire to play pro football again. Personally, I don’t mind Cooley doing everything in his power to get another shot on a team if he is in fact serious about it. But taking shots at other players and using a media platform to market himself while discussing the intricate workings of his proposed contract seems both tacky and self-important.
It would also seem like an odd career move to bail on a burgeoning media career for a chance to maybe play some more snaps in an NFL game, but having never played in an NFL game it would be naive of me to question someone who wants to have that experience again.
And hey, if he ends up on the Redskins, he’ll have the best quarterback in the league throwing him passes.
Just make sure Griffin doesn’t read his report card after the game.