Good morning, Broncos Country!
In our push to remind Hall of Fame voters that Steve Atwater is beyond deserving of a Hall of Fame selection in the Class of 2019, we don’t want to overlook the cornerback dominance that was Champ Bailey.
Because he was good.
People forget how good Champ Bailey was.— Jon Heath (@ByJonHeath) January 18, 2019
Entering the league in 1999 as the seventh overall draft pick for the Washington Redskins, Bailey turned in four Pro Bowl seasons in his first five years in the league before a blockbuster trade to the Broncos in 2004 in exchange for Denver’s star running back Clinton Portis.
With a $63 million contract, Bailey assured Broncos fans he would be worth the trade.
“I won’t be a disappointment,” he said at the time. “I can guarantee that.”
Although it “sucked” for both fans and Bailey when Broncos cut the future Hall-of-Famer in March 2014, the cornerback “retired” a Bronco eight months later to a great celebration of an amazing football career.
Turning in eight more Pro Bowl seasons in Denver plus three first team All-Pro designations 2004-06, Bailey wasn’t kidding.
HIs 10 interceptions in 2006 were No. 1 in the NFL as were his 162 yards off takeaways that season. Those 10 interceptions in a single season rank second in Broncos history, and his 34 career interceptions as a Bronco are fourth in team history.
But the accolades could go on and on.
In 2002, Bailey led the league in passes defensed with 24, and his career total of 203 still ranks No. 1. He was Top 10 in that category four seasons - 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006.
In 2005, Bailey was second in the league for both pick sixes and non-offensive touchdowns with two. And no Broncos fan will forget his 100-yard, near pick-six interception of Tom Brady in the 2005 AFC divisional playoffs.
No. 24 was Player of the Week three times in his career and Player of the Month two times. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s and Pro Football References 1st Team All 2000s teams.
But aside from his Hall-of-Fame statistics, Bailey had all the intangibles - showing up big in big games, making clutch plays and being a leader in the locker room as well as on the field.
“I just hope they say I played with everything I had, played hard, played smart, played tough and I was a great teammate,” Bailey said at the time of his retirement in 2014. “That’s all that matters.”
John Elway never got to play with Bailey but was responsible for keeping him a Bronco when No. 24’s contract was up in 2011. The current GM noted the mess the Broncos were in when he came to the Front Office that same year.
”We needed some help. We needed a pillar to build around and Champ was that guy,” Elway said, thanking Champ at his retirement celebration for agreeing to stay. “He ended up leading us to three AFC West championships, something we had never done before. But also the loyalty that he showed to the Denver Broncos. It showed what the Denver Broncos meant to him and what kind of guy he was and the character that he possessed.”
For all those same reasons, NFL Films designated Bailey the No. 4 Bronco of all-time.
Although Bailey told Brian Howell back in 2012 that his ultimate goal would be a Super Bowl ring over a Hall-of-Fame induction, I’m sure the cornerback will relish what he more than deserves. Last fall on NFL Network, he certainly made his case for the Hall when Jim Trotter asked him why he was deserving.
“I was a complete corner. When I stepped up to the plate and when I had challenges in front of me, I took advantage of the opportunities I had,” Bailey said. “I played man coverage, I tackled. I did everything you ask a football player to do. I wanted to be great at everything and I focused on that every day. The results speak for themselves. I feel like the work is done and I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the ride.”
And it should be a relatively easy ride to the Hall of Fame, as former Broncos beat reporter Alex Marvez noted earlier this week.
“I mean, he was the quintessential cornerback of his generation. He was a team leader. He did everything right on the field. They tell us not to judge things off the field, but his record was impeccable there, as well,” said Marvez, also a Hall-of-Fame voter. “He was just an incredibly gifted player who could’ve excelled in any era and will be regarded as one of the very best to play the position. I think the odds are pretty darn high that he’s going to get in.”
Billy Thompson once said if he had to choose between Louis Wright or Champ Bailey as the best corner in Broncos history, he couldn’t choose. Can you?
This poll is closed
Yes, Champ all the way.
Yes, before there was ‘24’ there was ‘20’
"Whorfin" - they are both the best.
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