“As he steps away from the game and a franchise that he was directly involved with day in and day out for over 30 years, we at South Stands thought it would be only right to honor him by reflecting on two of his greatest attributes: his coolness and his ability to win.”
Last week, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen stepped down from day-to-day operations of the team due to his somewhat private battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
As he steps away from the game and a franchise that he was directly involved with day in and day out for over 30 years, we at South Stands thought it would be only right to honor him by reflecting on two of his greatest attributes: his coolness and his ability to win.
When Bowlen and his family purchased the Broncos in 1984, he was 40 years old and poised to take the NFL by storm. He was shy and somewhat of an introvert therefore perceived by some to be arrogant, brash and somewhat aloof. Of course, it didn’t help that he rocked a fur coat on the sidelines to protect himself from those harsh Colorado elements. What people didn’t realize is that they were looking at who would become one of the most respected, humble and winningest owners in NFL history.
The Broncos won three AFC Championships with Bowlen’s first head coach Dan Reeves, (1986’, 87’ and 89’), another two with Mike Shanahan in 97’and 98’, and the last in 2013 with coach John Fox. Two of those resulted in Super Bowl victories in 1997 and 1998. In his tenure as owner of the Broncos, Bowlen’s teams have won 300 games, the most ever by an NFL owner.
Perhaps the most amazing of all the stats and geeky facts surrounding Bowlen’s time as owner of the Broncos is that they have only had five losing seasons in 30 years.
Five losing seasons.
With the nature of the NFL and the any given Sunday theory, that’s nearly impossible. Think about all the losing seasons teams like Tampa Bay, Detroit and Cleveland have endured in that time frame.
We could go on and on with the seemingly endless facts about all the positives that have occurred on Bowlen’s watch , like home games have been sold out for what seems like eternity and Denver has the most nationally televised games while Bowlen has been owner; however we’d like to focus on Pat Bowlen, the man.
Hearing the barrage of former Broncos telling their assorted tales and memories of Bowlen on sports radio last week, one thing was constant: his dedication to the athletes, their families and the amazing culture he created. He knew everybody’s name and made it a point to get involved in every aspect of the organization, without micromanaging his staff in the process. He let them do their jobs and trusted in the people he hired.
Bowlen worked out with the players, hung out in the training room and got to know each and every person involved with the team. In an era when most owners are perched high up in a luxury box, Bowlen was always a man of the people, and was great at it.
Some of the key decisions in his career were undoubtedly difficult ones, but were made for the greater good of the franchise. Letting go of Mike Shanahan in 2008, after failing to reach the playoffs for three straight seasons was a bold move and one that some owners would never have done. Firing a coach who allowed you to hoist up that Lombardi trophy two times was probably very difficult yet it was necessary to ensure the Broncos moved in the right direction. After his replacement coach Josh McDaniels turned out to be a horrific mistake, Bowlen admitted the error, righted his wrong, and replaced McDaniels with now head coach John Fox.
While everyone is singing the praises of Pat Bowlen and all the positive things he has done for Denver sports, it’s tough to ignore the glaringly opposite effect the Monfort brothers have had on the Mile High City in their tenure as owners of the Colorado Rockies. It seems that the priorities of these two ownerships are completely reversed. While Bowlen’s focus has always been on winning, the Monforts are more concerned about the depth of their pockets than whether the Rockies are involved in a pennant race.
Let’s hope that somehow this somber time of one of the greatest owners in sports history stepping down due to failing health, can perhaps motivate the Monforts to want to create a winning culture with the Rockies. Maybe, just maybe, Dick and Charlie are watching and reading all of Bowlen’s accolades and something just clicks. They decide, “Hey, perhaps we should try this winning thing, and spending money in order to improve our roster.”
Sadly, we all know that probably won’t be happening, however a gal can dream, right?
Until then, we all have the memories that Pat Bowlen’s Broncos have provided us for 30 years and the knowledge that the team has been left in good hands moving forward. We wish the Bowlen family all of our support when going through this difficult time and thanks for all that he and his family have done for the Mile High City.