Former Broncos CB Champ Bailey is signing with the New Orleans Saints, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 4, 2014
I'd like the be the first person to congratulate you on your signing. It does come with a tinge of pain though, mainly because I wanted to see you finish your career in a Denver Broncos uniform. I'd like this article to turn into a Champ Bailey Tribute type article, so please, lets all take a moment to reflect on what Champ meant to not only the team, but the city and community of Denver.
We all know that Champ Bailey was traded to the Denver Broncos in 2004 for Clinton Portis. This was a semi-polarizing move byat the time though, and only with revisionist's history can we now proclaim that move as a slam dunk for the Broncos. Remember, Portis was our shiny new toy, a back to back 1,500 yard rusher and the future of our franchise that was still trying to stop the bleeding from Terrell Davis retiring. How in the world could Shanahan trade away the person who would help bring another Lombardi trophy to Denver the way that TD did?
I remember being in Kansas at the time of the trade. My roommate (best friend) hated the Broncos even though he was born and raised in Colorado. He told me that it was a horrible move for Denver because Terrell Davis was the only reason the Broncos won the Super Bowl. Needless to say that I fought the urge to agree with him and instead proclaimed that, "In Shanahan I trust." I was hoping that if I repeated that enough times, I'd genuinely believe it.
We all remember what Portis did in his first game as a Redskin right? He ripped off an 80 yard TD on his very first rushing attempt. My heart sank and my trust in Shanahan wavered for a bit, but I recovered after I saw Champ make play after play. I was starting to really believe in my above statement about Shanahan. The Broncos starting 5-1 didn't hurt either.
The hard part for people who don't watch players play is that a cornerback like Champ won't have amazing stats to compare to other players (or to assess who won in the trade) because a player like Champ doesn't get tested. Think about this for a moment: The lack of stats is in and of itself the true stat of a cornerback. Why do I say this? Simple. It is because Champ was so good that he wouldn't get tested. He would go through multiple game stretches without a single pass thrown his way. What stat shows that? There is no passes defensed, interceptions, or forced fumbles. There is a whopping goose egg in all statistical categories (except tackles because Champ is, was, and always will be the best tackling cornerback the NFL has ever seen). But back to the topic, Champ would have literally no stats for many games. This was the ultimate sign of greatness and respect for the leagues best CB since Deion Sanders.
When quarterbacks were reckless and stupid enough to actually throw at Champ, he usually met that lapse in judgement with a pick six or knockdown. We must never forget that our 2005 season was going nowhere until a Mr. Champ Bailey opened the second half of the San Diego Charger's blowout (in Mile High Stadium) with a pick six. The comeback was on and so was the Broncos confidence and momentum as a whole. A single play by Champ is what propelled the Broncos towards a 13-3 record, and a single play by Champ Bailey against the New England Patriots and Tom Brady is what propelled the Broncos to an AFC Championship Game berth.
Between 2004 and 2010, Champ was without question the NFL's best cornerback. He has gone to 12 pro-bowls (NFL record for CB's and ties overall NFL record). He held the amazing Larry Fitzgerald to 3 catches for 19 yards in 2010. Champ was on top of his game as recently as 2012 when he routinely shut down receiver after receiver even though he started showing signs of aging. Some may remember 2012 as the year Champ got beat by the Ravens, but everyone should remember 2012 as the year that Champ Bailey dominated the NFL in every game but one.
But Champ's on field performance is only half of the story. The other half is Champ Bailey the person. You see, Champ wasn't boisterous. He never opened his mouth and inserted his foot. That wasn't Champ's style. Champ is probably the only person in the NFL that can rival Peyton Manning for the moniker "he is class personified." Champ let his play do his talking. When it was time for Champ to negotiate a new contract, he did it the way it should be done; Outside of the media. Sure, a few nuggets were dropped with his 2011 contract negotiation via putting his house up for sale, but for the most part, he did everything behind the scenes.
You see, Broncos fans never had to hang their heads down because Champ did something off the field that he shouldn't have. The media today loves to report the bad things and not the good things. You never see a report or read an article headlined "Champ Bailey didn't get in any trouble for the 15th consecutive year." You won't hear about Champ Bailey pulling aside a youngster behind closed doors and mentoring him and teaching him how to be a pro. Those things aren't polarizing enough. Those things won't generate page clicks or viewing ratings. Champ isn't in a gang, he hasn't been arrested for murder, and he isn't so desperate for branding that he's willing to make a fool of himself. I have it on good authority that he has never slipped on McDonalds bags, ran over a police officer, or killed someone while drunk driving either.
Well, I'm here to say "Thank You" to Champ. Thank you for always being classy. Thank you for always shining a spotlight for all the right reasons on the Broncos. Thank you for always keeping out of the police blotter. Thank you for always taking the time to sign autographs, and thank you for mentoring players like Chris Harris and Wesley Woodyard. Your on the field play will land you into the Hall of Fame exactly five years after you retire, but it is your off the field actions that have already landed you in the most important Hall of Fame imaginable: In the hearts of your fans.
Thank you for your time here Champ. There will never be another one like you. I sincerely wish you luck with the Saints, so much so that I'll even root for you if we play you and I won't be upset if you pick off Manning a time or two. Your attitude, laughter, and smile will be greatly missed in Colorado. Here's to your success with your new team. All I ask is that you remember us during your Hall of Fame speech, and if you ever find yourself in Denver, allow us fans to buy you a drink. First round's on me.