Bowlen: The Key To Broncos Fan Pride


In a press conference following the hiring of current head coach Hue Jackson, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis spent time discussing the fines he levied against former coach Tom Cable as well as other issues he had. It was eerily reminiscent of Davis’ press conference when he hired Cable after the release of Lane Kiffin, where David took the opportunity to openly air out his issues with Kiffin, focusing on the past instead of the future.

Could any Broncos fan see owner Pat Bowlen doing this? My guess is no.

Bowlen is the face of a classy organization, one he has worked hard to build up for years. Even after a difficult 2010 season, it is easy for Broncos fans to hold their heads high. They know that the difficulties of this year are the exception, not the rule, and that Bowlen is working hard and dedicating himself to getting the Broncos back to greatness.

Bowlen’s 27 years as owner of the Broncos are characterized with highlights of greatness. In the same year Bowlen took over, the Broncos received legendary quarterback John Elway in a trade with the Baltimore Colts. Elway won two Super Bowls for the Broncos, got to three additional Super Bowls and became the face of the Broncos’ success before his retirement. Elway has returned to the Broncos’ Football Operations group to revitalize the team after a difficult season.

Elway wasn’t Bowlen’s only great move. Broncos’ Ring of Fame players Karl Mecklenburg, Gary Zimmerman, Steve Atwater, Terrell Davis and Shannon Sharpe were all brought on with the Broncos under Bowlen’s regime.

Perhaps one of the best personnel decisions by Bowlen was the hiring of Mike Shanahan. Shanahan’s success with the Broncos was astounding: he finished with more wins (138), playoff wins (8) and Super Bowl wins (2) than any other Broncos head coach. Shanahan’s eye for talented running backs, or at least making running backs look talented, was also amazing: Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Rueben Droughns, and Tatum Bell are just some of the running backs that thrived under Shanahan.

The moment that stands out to every Broncos fan as a moment reflective of what a truly great owner Bowlen has proven to be was when the Broncos released Shanahan. At a teary press conference, Bowlen described the release as “…as tough as it gets.” He and Shanahan had developed a close relationship over the 14 years Shanahan was in place as head coach, and while the business decision of moving on needed to be made for both the Broncos and Shanahan, it was not made easily or with anger from either side.

And that truly is a representation of what makes Bowlen a great owner and, as a result, the Broncos a great franchise. Bowlen builds the organization like a family but operates it like a business. In listening to the press conference, Bowlen barely reference his own feelings, instead discussing how “the team” moves forward and what is best for “the team”. A decision regarding the Broncos was a decision Bowlen took to heart. Bowlen has and continues to reach out to fans, showing them how he is working towards the team’s success and the future of the team. It’s a business that Bowlen has filled with his family.

Most NFL organizations aren’t built the way the Broncos are. How many times do owners well up when releasing a coach? How many owners dedicated Super Bowls won by the team to a player, shifting the focus away from himself? It is difficult to think of any owners beyond Bowlen who are that dedicated to a team.

Ultimately, no matter how tough the season, every Broncos fan knows that a man of class and integrity that is Pat Bowlen is standing behind the program, working towards the future and success. It is why every Broncos fan can always be proud.

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