The silence of Champ Bailey
With a name like Champ one has to be destined for greatness. The child must have a high level of confidence at a very early age once learning their name is short for “champion.” Alas, Champ Bailey’s given name isn’t Champ, its Roland. That hasn’t stopped the Denver Broncos cornerback from compiling a career worthy of a champion. No matter what haters may say, Bailey has been and still is dominant in his NFL career totaling 11 Pro Bowl appearances.
Bailey was drafted in the seventh round of the 1999 draft by the Washington Redskins from the Georgia Dawgs and immediately started making an impact. Such an impact that an offensive mastermind coach named Mike Shannahan traded the potential of Clinton Portis (any back out of Denver at that time had potential. Mike Anderson, anyone?) for the lockdown talents of Bailey in 2004. In his first regular season game as a Bronco, Bailey made a great first impression with an interception and from there Denver has relied upon him to cover the biggest and fastest names in the NFL.
Herein lies the paradox that eventually plagues shut-down corners; opposing quarterbacks stop throwing the ball their way thus minimizing a corner’s defensive production. Defensive production appears to go down, picks aren’t seen, contracts run out and fans are disappointed. However, silence in the form of less picks coming from cornerbacks like Bailey is actually a testament to their value.
Some football fans may have heard that cornerbacks are just wide receivers that can’t catch. Opposing that school of thought is Bailey and he can catch with 52 career interceptions. In Bailey’s case, that’s averages out to almost an interception every four games. Another overlooked talent coming from the 34-year-old Bailey is he’s a superb tackler, even in the open field with 54 tackles so far this season. Bailey may not hit with the power of Steve Atwater or Brian Dawkins but he fundamentally wraps up players where they are to end offensive drives.
Some fans and analysts have started discounting Bailey citing his age and lack of highlights are making him a less than elite and boring corner. However, the best sign of a great cornerback may not be how many picks he has but how often quarterbacks don’t throw his direction. Perhaps John Elway knew this from his previous 16 years of quarterback experience when he resigned Bailey last year. After winning 8 in a row, the Broncos are showing that they have what it takes to play in the big dance in February and Champ Bailey is proving after 14 years that he belongs there.