Thursday, March 6, 2014 8:05am
On Wednesday, John Fox and John Elway informed Champ Bailey the team was moving on without his services. Just like that, the career of arguably the best defensive player in Broncos franchise history is over. Where do we even begin in trying to encapsulate the greatness that was Bailey’s Broncos career?
In Champ’s 10 seasons in Denver, the Broncos went 93-67. There were 4 playoff wins. There were 8 trips to the Pro Bowl. There were 34 interceptions. And there were countless throws forced to the other side of the field, with Bailey’s mere presence inducing fear into opposing quarterbacks.
Champ’s Broncos career featured 10 great seasons, but there was no season in which he was more prolific than the 13-3 campaign of 2005. His pick six against Drew Brees and San Diego in week 2 seemingly turned around the season for an 0-1 team. And a 100 yard interception return against Tom Brady in the divisional round basically put the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
Yes, Champ Bailey is an all-time great Bronco. But Wednesday’s news also just further illustrates the icy cold reality of the NFL. Of the many platitudes repeatedly stated and drilled into my head by one of this town’s all-time great talk show hosts, Jim Armstrong, I feel as though this one really applies today: “Pro football is a young man’s game.” Father Time cries for no man in the NFL, and his ruthlessness is further on display in bringing the all-too abrupt end of Champ’s tenure in Denver.
While Denver celebrated the thrill of seeing one of this town’s all-time greats finally get his shot at the Lombardi Trophy in his 15th season in the league, the Seattle Seahawks treated Bailey with no reverence at all. Champ was a step slow at MetLife Stadium, just as he had been a year earlier in the divisional round against Baltimore. Age and injury plagued Bailey throughout his final season, appearing in just 5 games, and all too often, he was chasing plays others were making rather than making plays himself.
The Broncos were right to not pay Champ $10 million this season, that much is sure. Whether the organization wanted to even float the idea of Champ playing at a reduced rate is a moot point, as they reportedly did not even bother to do that. Against the Seahawks, the Broncos secondary looked overmatched, missing tackles and flailing their way through the embarrassing defeat. That was enough for Fox and Elway to know that the cute idea of moving Champ to safety was not even worth exploring. The Broncos’ defensive backfield needs to get faster and younger. At the age of 35, Champ is 0 for 2 in those categories.
The greatness of Champ Bailey needs to be celebrated, and in at least five years from now, his name will go in the Ring of Fame. But the eye in the sky does not lie, and the tape reveals that the sun has set on the brilliance of Champ. In the name of younger, faster, and cheaper, the NFL proves once again there is no room for nostalgia on the 53 man roster.