The Broncos are represented in the annual AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in Honolulu by center Tom Nalen, running back Clinton Portis and linebacker Al Wilson
A FAMILIAR SEASON — AND OUTCOME
Off the field, the Broncos saw John Elway become the first player to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a Bronco. Elway ended his speech with a salute to the thousands of fans who trekked all the way to Canton, Ohio.
On the field, the Broncos’ record in 2004 and their playoff fate were exactly the same as the previous year: They went 10-6 and lost in a wild-card blowout at Indianapolis.
How they got there, however, was completely different.
The Broncos needed secondary help. They were confident in their ability to develop running backs, and that was justified; in the next three seasons, three different runners broke 1,000 yards: Reuben Droughns, Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell, taken with the second-round pick the Broncos got as part of the Bailey-for-Portis swap.
It was the rare trade that pleased both sides. Portis was effective and often dominant in Washington. But like many running backs, the collection of hits caused attrition, and he carried the football for the last time in 2010.
Bailey, meanwhile, was a perennial All-Pro and Pro Bowler. He played all the way until Super Bowl XLVIII, by which time his fellow 2004 offseason acquisition, safety John Lynch, had been retired for six seasons.
As Bailey and Lynch solidified the secondary, Jake Plummer continued to start at quarterback. He set what was then a Broncos single-season record for passing yardage, but also threw 20 interceptions, mostly in comeback situations, as the offense adjusted in the wake of the retirements of wide receiver Ed McCaffrey and tight end Shannon Sharpe.
But despite Plummer’s willingness to push the ball downfield and Bailey and Lynch’s work in the secondary, the season ended with a 49-24 wild-card throttling at Indianapolis. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning picked on rookie Roc Alexander, barely throwing in the directions of Lynch or Bailey, and the Broncos’ express derailed from there.