On Tuesday, the Washington Redskins cut Chris Cooley, despite Cooley being one of the most loved members of the team. Like many, many other Redskins fans, I cried as Cooley, choking back tears, said goodbye to the fans whose cheers of “Cooooooooooley” have rocked FedEx Stadium.
In saying goodbye, Cooley displayed great class and provides a great example for others who face disappointment, particularly job loss. Four major themes that echoed through his farewell speech were gratitude, lack of bitterness, best wishes for those who let him go, and a hope that he might one day return.
1) Be grateful for the opportunity. Cooley had a rare opportunity to play football in the NFL. Many boys dream of that but few make it. Cooley expressed his thanks to the team, the media and his friends. He recognized that, “This organization has changed my life in every way for the better, and I appreciate it.”
2) Allow no bitterness or hard feelings to cloud your feelings. Cooley made it clear that while he was very disappointed in the team’s decision, he is not bitter about it. He recognized that the coaches had to make the best decision they could for the team. He expressed that as, “There’s really no hard feelings from me….I’ve trusted everything that they’ve done and everything that they want to do, and even though I’m not a part of that today, I still do believe in what they’re doing.”
3) Wish your former employers all the best. Cooley has been the heart of the Redskins for the past 8 years and his passions for the ‘Skins will not end just because he is no longer playing for them. He expressed his good wishes by saying, “I can’t tell you how much I think of this staff and the players on this team. I’m thrilled for what they can accomplish and I wish everyone here the best.”
4) Leave the door open for a future relationship. Right now, it appears likely that Chris Cooley will never again play for the Washington Redskins. However, the future is not certain. Football is a sport where trades abound and cut players are re-signed when another player is injured or fails to live up to expectations. Cooley left the door open to return by not burning his bridges. He also expressed the hope that he might return, when he said “so today, for the time being, will be my last day as a Redskin.”
My husband faced a similar situation four years ago when he was laid off from his job. He too acted with great class. He thanked his employer for the opportunity to work for him for five years, he was never bitter toward his former boss, he hoped and prayed for his boss’s success, and he let his boss know that he was open to returning to work there when the company’s situation improved. Consequently, he was rehired more than three years later.
I don’t know what is in store for Chris Cooley. I can only hope and pray that one day the Redskins will realize they still need Cooley. I long to hear the chants of “Coooooooley” from the faithful fans of the ‘Skins. In the meantime, I wish Cooley great success on whatever team picks him up. And after his football days are over, I wish him continued success. Chris Cooley is a class act and we would be wise to follow his example when we are faced with disappointment.
For those who would like to read Chris Cooley’s farewell speech, the full text follows:
“The Washington Redskins are releasing me today, so today, for the time being, will be my last day as a Redskin. It’s been awesome. I’ve been very, very fortunate to play for a franchise that has embraced me and for a fan base that has embraced me the way that they have. This organization has changed my life in every way for the better, and I appreciate it. I’ve loved every minute of playing here, and it’s been a good run. It’s been a pleasure. I guess, for me, I’ll take some time and decide what I want to do moving forward. I have every belief that I can play football. I have every belief that I can be not only a productive player but a starter in this league. I’m very confident in my abilities to continue to play the game. It would be a tough decision for me to put on another jersey. It’s something that I really never had to imagine, so for now, I’ll take some time and make sure what I do in the future is exactly what I want to do.
“Again, it’s been a pleasure to be a part of this team. I’m so excited for the group of guys and the coaches that are here this year. I think that there’s a lot in store for the Redskins. I think the future’s awesome. [His phone rings – “Now I feel bad.”] I can’t tell you how much I think of this staff and the players on this team. I’m thrilled for what they can accomplish and I wish everyone here the best.
“There’s really no hard feelings from me. I’ve had good talks with Bruce Allen. It’s been – he’s been great. I talked to all the coaches, and it’s OK that – it’s OK with me the direction they’re moving. Since Bruce and Mike have been here, I’ve trusted everything that they’ve done and everything that they want to do, and even though I’m not a part of that today, I still do believe in what they’re doing.
“I want to thank all you guys. Our media has been so, so good to me. I appreciate everything. [Chokes back tears] I’m sorry. I’m a baby. I appreciate everything you guys have done for me. I guess, finally, just to say thank you to our fans [voice wavering] … it’s been great. Thank you.”