Welcome to the 51st edition of Tuesdays With Mitch, where we’re mourning a sad day in my career as a sports fan. Big post this week, starting with some free-flowing, meandering thoughts on the Champ Bailey situation. Get to it.
So this sucks.
I remember when the Broncos traded Clinton Portis, my favorite Bronco, for a cornerback on the Redskins. I didn’t like the trade at the time because I was a sophomore in high school and all high school sophomores are stupid. Anyway, I didn’t understand why my favorite team would trade a running back in his prime for a defensive back.
It didn’t take me long to come around.
Now, my all-time favorite athlete not named Helton has been shown the door against his will in an awfully depressing manner.
The best defensive player in franchise history will not retire as a Bronco. He will never win a Super Bowl in Denver.
Perhaps this situation bums me out so damn much because watching my favorite athletes retire or leave town hits close to home with the post-college quarter-life crises I’ve been in for a few years. If Champ Bailey and Todd Helton are considered old and unwanted, what does that mean for me? Sometimes I absolutely do not want the status quo to change. Having #24 shut down half of a football field was a staple in my life that I’m just not ready to give up, as natural as the Colorado sunshine or a night out with friends.
I really can’t understate how much I respect Champ Bailey and admire his career.
I mentioned Todd Helton earlier. There’s no debating who my favorite athlete ever is. (Read my Helton post here.) Bailey is a close second on my all-time list.
I know a lot of Bailey/Bronco fans don’t give a damn about Helton, but there are similarities in their careers that I’ve always noticed. Like Helton, Bailey didn’t do much talking but let his game speak for itself. Like Helton, Bailey’s career has been criminally underrated on a national level. Like Helton, Bailey’s quiet demeanor should not be confused for a lack of competitive fire. He might not say it, but I can guarantee you that not winning a Super Bowl in Denver kills Champ.
And that just sucks.
Also, it’s important that you people bury the Champ-Hasn’t-Been-Good-For-The-Past-Few-Years Narrative. This outlook is lazy. It’s garbage. It’s untrue. And it’s not fair to Champ.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. I pulled the following quote out of Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column from January 14 2013, two days after Champ got burned in the Broncos’ shocking loss to the Ravens. King used the in-depth analytics from the guys over at Pro Football Focus. Turns out Champ was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL all throughout 2013, (something I’ve been screaming at anti-Champers while banging on tables for a over a year now):
Each week, thanks to play-by-play game dissection by ProFootballFocus.com, I’ll look at one important matchup or individual performance metric from one of the weekend games. Reports PFF.com czar Neil Hornsby on the divisional round:
“The most surprising note of a great weekend of football? Denver cornerback Champ Bailey played his worst game in five years and really hurt the Broncos Saturday in their 38-35 loss to Baltimore… What led Denver coaches to believe that this was going to be a viable option?
“On the evidence of a full season of play. Bailey had gone one-on-one with the best receiver of nearly every team Denver had faced. And, until Saturday it had worked every time. Bailey had a superb season. We voted him our 2nd Team All-Pro corner (an honor that was replicated in the AP All-Pro team released on Saturday) because he stood out on tape and this was reflected in the numbers too.
“In terms of giving up first downs/touchdowns per coverage snap he was ranked fourth overall among corners, and of those above him, no one was given the same coverage responsibilities he had. On balls that traveled over 20 yards in the air he allowed only three to be completed all year, with none of these going for touchdowns. Covering the likes of Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Roddy White and Brandon Lloyd, Bailey gave up only 17 completions of more than 10 yards and a single touchdown all year.
Then there was the small matter of how great a job he did in Week 15 against the same Ravens team; allowing only three passes to be completed on 46 coverage snaps, for 26 yards…
“This wasn’t a risky gamble. It was made on the back of a whole season of evidence of him performing a similar role and doing it very well. Nothing is ever guaranteed in football.”
But for some reason fans get bored with greatness and need to find reasons to bash and disrespect Bailey, and the Champ-Hasn’t-Been-Good-For-The-Past-Few-Years Narrative was born, albeit without logic or reason.
Of course, the information above pertained to the year prior to the most recent season. This year Champ was hurt and never really recovered. He wasn’t himself. I thought he played very well in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots. But then he didn’t look good in the Super Bowl.
But who did? (The answer is nobody.)
Maybe I’m looking through orange colored glasses (see what I did there?) and am being unreasonably optimistic, but I’d be willing to chalk up Champ’s rough 2013 to a nagging injury that he couldn’t shake. If Champ can get healthy, I would not be the least bit surprised to see him come back and play at a high level like he did in 2012.
Also, I’m not a fan of the way the Broncos handled this situation. Bailey’s salary was too high, I’m not debating that. But it sounds like Champ was willing to restructure his contract or take a pay cut and the Broncos were flat out not interested. Just get the hell out Champ. You’re done. Oh hey, thanks for the ten years though that was cool. Oh and don’t worry, we’ll tweet out some tribute photo galleries, so it’s all good right?
The NFL is a business, blahblahblah. I get that. This whole situation just seems unnecessarily cold-blooded. I suppose I’m a little biased in this instance, but whatever.
Anyway, this is probably the defining moment of Champ’s career in Denver, and it’s awesome.
As wonderful as that moment was, when I look back at Champ’s days as a Bronco, I think I’ll remember the week-in, week-out excellence more than anything. Without hyperbole, I can say that for several years, Champ was, hands-down, the best football player on the field every single week.
I’ve never seen a cornerback that defended the run like Champ. He was the best cover corner in the game, but he was also the best tackler on the Broncos.
I remember Champ used to track the number of balls his receivers caught on him for a whole season. After an All-Pro year, Champ would lament that that number wasn’t zero. That’s a serious indication of greatness.
So here’s to Champ Bailey, who was just a pleasure to watch and root for over the course of ten seasons in Denver.
For my generation of Broncos fans, there will never be another Champ Bailey.
Off to the weekly departments, with a focus on the awesome end to the college basketball regular season (It’s March!)…
Stud(s) of the week:
We have three studs this week starting with CU coach Tad Boyle. I had some fairly unkind things to say about the CU program a few weeks ago. The Buffs went 1-1 on their Bay Area road trip last week, but the win at Stanford was probably all they needed to punch a ticket to the big dance. When Dinwiddie went down earlier in the year I thought the Buffs’ tournament hopes went down with it. I was wrong. They recovered nicely. And now I have to begrudgingly give them credit. Tad Boyle can really coach.
Stud number two is Nebraska coach Tim Miles. The former Colorado State head man got a huge win over Wisconsin on Sunday that should lock up the Huskers’ bid. I knew first hand that Miles could coach, but turning around a program like Nebraska in a conference like the Big 10 in only two years is just remarkable. Incredibly impressive job from Miles, who was named the B1G Coach of the Year yesterday. This other moment that came out of Lincoln on Sunday was also pretty awesome/studly:
Stud number three is Creighton senior Doug McDermott. Douggie McBuckets broke the 3,000 point mark with a career high 45 points on Senior Night in his last game in Omaha. It was an very special moment for one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. Only eight players have ever scored 3,000, and McBuckets is on pace to finish fourth all-time. This dude’s whole career has been wildly underrated. And I don’t give a damn what he does in the NBA; that should have no impact on his college legacy.
Douche of the week:
This was just weird:
Tweet(s) of the week:
Wichita State finished 34-0. This doesn’t need to turn into a debate about whether they deserve a 1-seed or what their record would be in a different conference. Just appreciate how rare it is to go undefeated. Quite an accomplishment.
Photo of the week:
That’s Hank, the former stray dog that the Brewers have officially adopted and made their team pet. Pretty heartwarming story.
Some other videos of note from the week:
Wyoming beat CSU on Saturday and… damn.
In other Mountain West news…
This is the definition of hard freaking core.
And finally, I don’t give the Avalanche nearly enough love on here. (I’ve been meaning to devote a post to them for a while, promise!) They have the Coach of the Year and the Rookie of the Year and a new music video thing that’s getting quite a bit of internet love.
Give them an “A” for effort, although I’m not sure I really see the connection or understand the point. Still pretty cool though.
Happy Tuesday everybody. Thanks for reading. See ya next week for the One Year Anniversary of your favorite blog.
Comment on any of this stuff below, or email me at email@example.com with post ideas, videos or other media I should know about. Subscribe at the top right of this page. Follow me on Twitter @MitchDHahn.