Tight end Chris Cooley remains too valuable for the Washington Redskins to trade.
Not for an offensive lineman. Not for a safety. Not for any collection of spare parts the team needs. "Captain Chaos" should be a career Redskin.
The sports talk radio buzz after Redskins general manager Bruce Allen mentioned trade talks with Oakland on Monday immediately centered on Cooley. He's an aging No. 2 tight end with a big contract. Normally, a trade might be a reasonable move.
But Cooley has long been the team's fan favorite until quarterback Robert Griffin III's recent arrival. They're still cheering "Cooooley" during practices and his jersey is the most popular among current players. Fans long ago decided Cooley is the recent version of John Riggins -- a lovable playmaker.
Not that fans are a reason to keep a player who is no longer productive. At least, not for more than one year. But this franchise's future seems all in on Griffin, and if anything happens to him then Cooley fills a big public relations void.
Tight end Fred Davis is also one failed drug test away from a one-year suspension. Where would the Redskins be without any proven tight ends if Cooley was also gone? Maybe Cooley has slowed down after injuries and eight seasons, but he's still a playmaker.
But the real reason the Redskins should keep Cooley is steadying the team. That linebacker London Fletcher and Griffin have adjoining lockers in the middle of the locker room is nice, but teams rarely respond to summits during a crisis. By then it's too late.
Leadership comes within the ranks of veterans who learned to forsake personal goals for team success. They've enjoyed personal success and now care more about winning a Super Bowl. Many players give lip service to team goals, but a few players like Cooley are the key to shaping group dynamics.
"It's not about playing good football. It's about winning," he said. "I've been here long enough to know that playing good football doesn't do it for you. It's about winning. As a group, we have to take that attitude."
Cooley said it takes until nearly midseason to create needed bonds. When the optimism of summer fades, someone is needed to push teammates.
"When you really start to see how cohesive a team is once they blend into the season," Cooley said. "You get six, seven, eight games into the season and then you see who's healthy and who's playing together as a team. There are so many interchangeable parts. It has been since I've been here. If we're going to blend it would be good to do it early, but I think you're going to see once we start playing some games.
"There's always hope. There's always excitement in August, and that turns more to realism as you start getting into November."
That's how winning is made. That's why Cooley remains invaluable to the Redskins.