With all the excitement Peyton Manning has brought to Broncos Country in shattering Brett Favre's touchdown record on Sunday, the Broncos latest nod to its legacy of greatness could easily get lost in the back of the sports pages. Last Saturday, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was immortalized in the Broncos Ring of Fame Plaza with a statue and accompanying plaques.
"Pat is a friend and a mentor and is somebody that has clearly made a profound impact not only on the Denver Broncos but the NFL," Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said Saturday. "I’m very pleased that tonight he is getting the kind of recognition that he so deserves but has never sought out."
"It’s very humbling for our family to have Pat receive this recognition for what he has, and continues to mean, to the Denver Broncos," Bowlen's wife, Annabel, said Saturday.
The Bowlen family poses in front of Pat Bowlen's statue Saturday night. (Eric Lars Bakke/Denver Broncos)
This statue reminded us at MHR that it is never a bad time to pause and reflect on Bowlen's career as Broncos owner. Let's take a short trip down memory lane, shall we?
How do you acquire an NFL franchise?
That's not the question. The question at the time was, "How does one get rid of one?" At least that's what it seemed like from this 2008 article by Tim Lynch. In between Ring of Fame owner Gerald Phipps and our beloved Pat Bowlen, there was a brief two year stint of ownership by a man named Edgar Kaiser.
...after posting a $6 million profit in 1983 and also selling his [Kaiser's] Minority Interest in the team to Bob Adams, a long time friend of Dan Reeves, for another $10 million, the Broncos were nearing bankruptcy.... Bowlen offered Kaiser an NFL record $51 million (which included assumption of $25 million in debt!) for Majority Interest in the team... Bob Adams then demanded to be bought out at the same share price which cost Bowlen an additional $20 million.
All told, Bowlen would pay $71 million to own the NFL's Denver franchise. It should be noted that Kaiser's stewardship of the Broncos wasn't a total disaster. It was his diligent finessing that convinced Baltimore Colt's owner Bob Irsay to trade John Elway to the Broncos for, essentially, a song. Where would the Broncos be today had that not happened?
Check out that article here.
Give me the highlights.
In March of 2011 KaptainKirk (HORN!) bullet-pointed this overview of Bowlen's ownership. At the time, it was just what MHR readers needed. The Broncos had just had wrapped up the 2010 season with a 4-12 record, the worst finish in Broncos history. Denver had just fired their coach for incompetence, insolence, and worst of all, cheating. At quarterback, things were uncertain with Kyle Orton riding the bench in favor of a certain quarterback who um... elicits strong feelings.... finishing the 2010 season under center.
At that time, Broncos Country needed to be reminded of our greatness. We needed to be reminded that the man in charge knew what he was doing. We needed that glimmer of hope that Bowlen's recent hire of John Elway would usher in a new era of Broncos-Brand 'Awesome.'
While the statistical information is out of date due to Denver's recent successes, there's some great information in this article not limited to what's below.
- The Broncos have the best home record 163-58 (.738) in pro football over the past 26 years. [1984-2011]
- Denver was the only AFC franchise to make three Super Bowl appearances in the 1980s.
- The Broncos won an NFL-record seven postseason games in a two-year period (1997-1998).
- The Broncos had an NFL-record 46 wins over a three-year period (1996-1998), the most in football history.
- Their best regular season record was in 1998, when the Broncos were 14-2 and repeated as World Champions.
- Legend has it, that Mr. Bowlen celebrated his becoming majority owner of the Denver Broncos from March 17th through his press conference on the 23rd, and that's why we now have St. Patrick's day.
What's so great about Pat Bowlen?
When I visited the Denver Broncos official website for Bowlen's bio, I was hit with a wall of text that outlined each of his and the team's accolades over the past thirty-one years. It's nearly impossible to read and fully comprehend in one sitting because the list literally goes on and on... and on. So what do we do with this information? Or rather, what did MHR's Brian Shrout do with this information? Prior to our 2013 Super Bowl appearance, Shrout deftly broke it all down using charts (everybody loves charts). If you want to know how Bowlen's Broncos....
- Have stacked up against the AFC West...
- Have achieved (ranked) in comparison to other elite NFL franchises...
- Have fared in hiring coaches...
- Have fared with starting quarterbacks...
- Have fared with running backs...
- Have been awarded All-Pro honors...
- Have been elected to the Pro Bowl...
- Have been awarded prestigious awards...
...then click here for that article. It's still a fantastic read.
Thirty years is an incredible amount of time to sum up in one article and it's just not fair to even try. There are other articles here on Mile High Report that have celebrated Mr. B. If you want to read about achieving the franchise's 300th win under his ownership, click here. To read about his stepping down as head of the Broncos, click here. However, there is one last event that I'd like to highlight.
Bowlen the man
When my good friend Chad woke me up with a call the morning of January 1st, 2007, I knew it wasn't good news. Darrent Williams had been shot to death in his limo after an altercation at a nightclub in Denver. He died in wide receiver Javon Walker's arms. There had been no arrests at the time. Broncos Country was in mourning.
Five days after Williams' death, MHR's John Bena published quotes from the funeral, including Mr. Bowlen's.
I can't find anything in our history ... that would even come close to what happened to Darrent, it's something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Looking back at Darrent's career, the thing that's really disturbing me is that we had a great young player and a player that was not only a great player on the field, he was a great guy off the field. And he was not just liked, but he was loved by his teammates.
...I told Rosalind Williams the best way to honor her son was to go out and win Super Bowl XLII.
What's amazing is that Bowlen would put himself out there like that. The man believed in the Broncos and knew they would do everything in their power to excel in Darrent's memory. At Williams' funeral, he said what Broncos Country needed to hear. That we would fight for Darrent the only way we knew how... on the football field. He spoke not as the boss, but as one of us helpless fans. Despite his money and power, there was nothing he could do.
Running back Damien Nash would die suddenly on a basketball court nearly two months later. The emotional stresses on the team, Javon Walker especially, and a lack of focus/talent would be too much to overcome. Needless to say, the Broncos did not win Super Bowl XLII, but that's not the story. The story of Pat Bowlen is his heart. His unwavering commitment to winning on the football field. That's why we will walk past his statue from now on as we enter the stadium. That's why our kids will stop to read the plaques that accompany it. That's why Pat Bowlen will forever look upon Broncos Country.
Here's to you Mr. B!