In a first for the Denver Broncos, they will have a double celebration in 2019 with owner Pat Bowlen finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame alongside former cornerback Champ Bailey.
With former Broncos players and personnel often snubbed, it will be the first time the Broncos have two candidates enshrined in the same class, increasing the likelihood that the club will participate in the Hall of Fame game in Canton on August 1.
Bowlen and Bailey will be joined in the class of 2019 by former center Kevin Mawae, former cornerback Ty Law, former safety Ed Reed, former tight end Tony Gonzalez, safety Johnny Robinson, and former Dallas vice president of player personnel Gil Brandt.
Bowlen is one of two contributors to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019 for his contributions to the NFL and the Broncos over three decades, while Bailey will become the Broncos’ first defensive player enshrined.
Among the many accolades in Bailey’s career, he was named to 12 Pro Bowls in his career — the most by a cornerback — and recorded 10 of his 52 career interceptions in 2006.
He also tallied 908 tackles, 203 passes defended, seven forced fumbles, four pick-sixes, and was named First-Team All-Pro three times, and All-Pro -All-Decade Team (
While he didn’t win a Super Bowl, the Georgia native was one of the best to do it.
While excited for his fellow Broncos, there was yet more disappointment for Broncos legend Steve Atwater, who failed to survive the final cut.
Such is Atwater’s standing in the game, first-ballot nominee and fellow safety Ed Reed even offered to give up his place if selected so Atwater could take his place.
Unfortunately for Atwater fans, the Hall does not have a policy in place that would allow a nominee to decline his enshrinement in favor of another candidate, no matter how deserving that person might be.
Perhaps it should.
The problem in trying to get Atwater, and former safety and six-time Hall of Fame finalist John Lynch, inducted this year was the caliber of first-ballot candidates: former Kansas City and Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, former Baltimore safety Ed Reed, and Bailey.
That all three were elected should come as no surprise.
It won’t get any easier in 2020 with former Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, former Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne and former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis among the first-time eligible candidates, while 2021 will see the first-time candidates headlined by former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, former Green Bay and Oakland defensive back Charles Woodson, and Peyton Manning.
There will be arguments that Atwater should be in the Hall ahead of former cornerback Ty “I am a Patriot for Life” Law, another member of the 2019 class.
Law, who settled on Denver for his final year in the league in 2009 despite wanting to go back to New England, did have a great career in the NFL and won more Super Bowls than Atwater, but the underlying numbers suggest it wasn’t as good as Atwater’s career.
Steve Atwater:— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) February 2, 2019
8 Pro Bowls
2 first-team All-Pro nods
1 second-team All-Pro selection
5 Pro Bowls
2 first-team All-Pro selections
Law has a very good resume. Atwater has a better one. https://t.co/eed6ONzvJi
For Broncos Country, the campaign to honor #27 goes on for at least another year.
You can bet your mortgage that it will be as vociferous as the celebrations for Mr. B and Champ.