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The final word on the Champ Bailey trade

Sorry Washington.

For all the contributions Mike Shanahan made to the Denver Broncos, few will choose to remember him for his genius personnel decisions. With train-wreck acquisitions like Daryl Gardner, Dale Carter, Willie Middlebrooks, and Maurice Clarett (among others), there’s a broad swath of poor player choices for which to criticize Shanahan. However, the 2004 trade that sent Clinton Portis to Washington in exchange for Champ Bailey isn’t one of them.

First of all, it wasn’t a straight up, player-for-player trade. What most Broncos fans have forgotten was that in addition to Champ Bailey, Washington sent a 2nd round pick to Denver in exchange for Portis. That second round pick turned out to be running back Tatum Bell who ended up playing four seasons in Denver.

At the time, Broncos fans, already enamored with Clinton Portis, were concerned about sending their stud running back to Washington for a corner who wasn’t as well known. To quote his wikipedia page:

Portis rushed for over 1,500 yards in each of his first two seasons with the Broncos, averaging 5.5 yards per carry in that span. The latter is an NFL record for a running back’s first two seasons. On December 15, 2002, Portis became the youngest player (21 years, 105 days) to score 4 touchdowns in a game in a 31-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The very next season on December 7, 2003, Portis became the youngest player (22 years, 97 days) to score 5 touchdowns in a game in a 45-27 victory, which also happened against Kansas City.

Drafted by the Redskins in 1999, Champ notched Pro Bowl appearances in four of his five seasons and was selected 2nd Team All Pro in 2000. At the time, Broncos Country had every right to be suspicious of the trade.

Of course, concerns were quickly put to rest with Champ’s play on the field. In his first game as a Bronco, Champ hauled in his first interception during the Monday Night Football opener against the Chiefs. The rest, as they say is history.

As a Denver Bronco, Champ went to eight more pro bowls (2004-2007 and 2009-2012), was selected first team all pro three times (2004-2006), selected second team all pro two more times (2007, 2012), was the NFL interceptions leader in 2006, was selected to the all-NFL 2000’s team, selected to the Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary team, and, just a few months ago, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and will be enshrined forever in Canton in August. Champ will join the Broncos ring of fame this October during the Titans game in Denver. He was a fan favorite, a perennial pro, and rightfully has gone down as the greatest corner in Denver Broncos history.

These accolades aren’t to diminish Clinton Portis’ career in Washington. As Champ was beloved in Denver, Portis and his colorful characters he portrayed at press conferences were embraced by Redskins fans. Portis was selected 2nd team all pro and given a pro bowl nod in 2008. At his retirement, it was was announced that he was selected to an elite group of 80 Greatest Redskins. He ended up just 77-yards short of 10,000 all time.

Who cares who “won” the trade. Portis was a great Bronco while he was in Denver, but Champ was an all-timer the likes of which doesn’t come around all that often. Broncos Country was lucky to have him and fans should feel especially proud when Champ stands on that stage in Canton and unveils the bust that will represent him in the hall for the rest of time.


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