Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was known for exclaiming, “The Champ is here.”
He was one of the greatest boxers of all time, if not the greatest.
For the Denver Broncos, “The Champ is not here.” For the first time in over a decade, Champ Bailey will not be wearing a Broncos uniform in 2014.
He was one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time, if not the greatest.
However, I don’t think many Broncos fans are up in arms with Mr. Elway’s business decision of cutting Champ. So goes life in the NFL.
Champ can still play football at a high level. But I don’t think there is any doubt that his skills are regressing and Father Time is catching up to this first ballot Hall of Famer. He was due to receive $10 million – too big of a paycheck for a defender past his prime.
The beginning of the end for Champ was when Torrey Smith burned him crispy in the 2013 playoff loss to the Ravens. It was a shame because people forget that he actually had an outstanding season that year. He made the Pro Bowl for gosh sakes.
But the negative energy from the Ravens game carried over into a preseason injury. He barely saw the field all season, and when he did, he didn’t look the same. Was it old age? Was it a nagging injury? Was it both? We really will never know. But we all saw him get toasted by Doug Baldwin in the Super Bowl and we all thought the same thing: Champ is done.
Was it fair to judge him based off that one play? Absolutely not. But it was perhaps a snapshot of things to come, which made Bailey a $10 million risk heading into 2014.
It is what it is in the NFL and when you are a big money player not making big money plays anymore, it’s easy to be sacrificed. Sometimes life in the NFL is ruthless, and veterans get the unceremonious boot. He was an outstanding player year after year, and the instant he became a question mark, he was cut.
Let’s remember the good times though.
Champ was a rock in the Broncos secondary for 10 seasons. A bona-fide shut-down corner. It was comforting to know he was on the field. Reliable in any situation, speed to track down any opposing receiver, the guts to tackle any opposing player, and the intelligence to outfox any opposing quarterback.
His stats are staggering. Almost 1,000 career tackles (920). Over 50 interceptions (52). More than 200 passes defended (203). Nine forced fumbles and four touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler 12 times! That’s legit. The only real blemish is that Champ was never a champ, but he got oh so close, and can say that he participated in a Super Bowl.
Not only did Champ compile a ridiculous resume, he was also a consummate leader. Not because he was hooting and hollering and getting in teammates faces, but because he stoically led by example; showing up to work every day and carrying himself with unequivocal class.
I’m going to miss Mr. Bailey, and although I understand the reason for his departure, I’m still sad The Champ is not here.
Check more of Zach’s writing out at www.thecohnzone.com.
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