Chris Cooley came to the Washington Redskins as a relative unknown.
Although he led the nation in receptions by a tight end his senior year, he had achieved this feat at Utah State, a team with which most Redskins fans were barely familiar. Cooley was the Redskins’ third-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Yet, from those anonymous beginnings, Cooley quickly became an indispensable part of the Redskins’ offense—and one of the most popular players of his era.
Cooley saw playing time from the outset during his rookie year, but he wasn’t a significant part of Washington’s scheme until the second half of the season. In fact, Cooley recorded at least three catches during each of the final six games of 2004.
That success set the stage for a breakout season in 2005. Cooley started all 16 games as an H-back / tight end, hauling in 71 balls for 774 yards and seven touchdowns as the Redskins advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Most memorably, Cooley scored three touchdowns against the hated Cowboys in a crucial late-season game that the Redskins wound up winning 35-7.
Cooley followed his ‘05 success with another strong showing in 2006, gaining 734 yards and scoring six times. He got even better the next two years. Cooley made his first Pro Bowl in 2007, catching 66 passes for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. He duplicated the feat the next year, returning to the Pro Bowl after catching 83 passes for 849 yards, both career highs.
A broken ankle sidelined him for much of 2009, but he returned to post strong numbers again in 2010, with 77 receptions for 849 yards. However, Cooley had arthroscopic surgery on his knee after the season, and his recovery was more extensive than originally anticipated. He missed the preseason, then played five games, then had his knee re-examined. It was then that doctors said it would take another month to recover fully, at which point the Redskins decided to place Cooley on injured reserve.
That was effectively the end of Cooley’s NFL career, although he did return to the roster in 2012 after a season-ending injury to Fred Davis. He suited up for nine games for the Redskins that year, catching one pass for eight yards.
During his time as a player, Cooley was known for his sometimes-unwieldy hair and fun-loving personality. His popularity with fans helped him transition into television and radio broadcasting roles.
As a player, he’s a fairly clear-cut choice at #47, with several very good years, a couple of Pro Bowl appearances, and being a key part of two Redskins’ playoff teams. Cooley also holds the mark for most receptions by a tight end in franchise history, surpassing Jerry Smith.
Memorable, productive, popular, and always-entertaining, “Captain Chaos” takes his rightful place among the all-time Redskin greats.
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