Former cornerback Champ Bailey is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019, and he’s made it clear that “I objectively think I should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.” At least that’s what he said when he appeared on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.
But he also understands it’s out of his hands and that sooner or later — with the smart money on sooner, as in almost immediately — he makes it to Canton. So we wanted to know: When he gets there, which wide receiver will he say gave him the most trouble in his 15-year career with Washington and Denver?
“Wow,” Bailey answered, “I could really go on and on about who was tough. But I’ve got to give respect the guys who don’t get mentioned or get talked about a lot … (like) Jimmy Smith, Eric Moulds, Chad Johnson … I mean, all these guys were tough.
“But what really made these guys tough for me were the quarterbacks. Marvin Harrison having Peyton Manning … the toughest matchup I’ve ever had. That was easily the one that stands out because Peyton was so accurate, and if you’re all over Marvin, Peyton knows to throw the ball away from you.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for my receivers, but there were so many that were so tough. (But) it was the quarterback that really separated them.”
Harrison was chosen to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, while two more receivers — Randy Moss and Terrell Owens — were elected this year. All three were members of the 2000s’ all-decade team that included Bailey as a first-team cornerback.
So, the logical follow-up: How does Bailey compare and contrast the three?
“What’s crazy,” he said, “is they’re all different. When you look at Marvin he was the quicker, more precise, route runner. I mean, he was tough to deal with because he was smart, he played outside the numbers 90 percent of the time and you knew where he was going to be … and he was still hard to stop.
“The thing about T.O. is you know he worked hard all week because there’s no way to get out there and runs those routes as good as he does and break tackles. I mean, he’s a beast. He was Brandon Marshall and all these big receivers before any of them had a name for themselves. That’s what T.O. was.
“Now, Randy, one of a kind; freak athlete. Fortunate enough for me every time I covered him he didn’t have a great quarterback to throw him the ball. The year when he was with Brady (when Denver played the Patriots in 2008), Brady got hurt that season, and they had (Matt) Cassel when we came. And then I got hurt in that game.
“(So) I never really had to worry about Moss with a great quarterback. Fortunate enough for me I passed all the tests when it came to covering Moss. But we all know what Moss was and how he dominated when he had somebody get him the ball.”