Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen established Broncos Country and the way we know it today. Here are five incredible moments during his time as owner.
Thank you, Pat Bowlen.
How can this be the end?
The legendary Denver Broncos owner and one of the most influential, impactful, and innovative owners in NFL history has passed away at the age of 75, and I can't believe this day has come.
Bowlen's legacy with the Denver Broncos will be everlasting. He implemented and instilled a DNA in Broncos Country that cannot be removed or replaced. Bowlen cared about winning, but he cared about people more.
That's certainly felt and hopefully reciprocated among Broncos Country all over the world. People mattered to Pat and he provided all of us fans with one of the greatest joys in life -- a football team committed to excellence, no matter what.
Mr. Bowlen's expectations of excellence led to some of the greatest moments any of us will ever experience as sports fans. Some of these events happened before I was born. Some of them happened when I was a kid.
Others happened for me as an adult, when I needed them the most.
Football is more than an escape from reality for people -- it's a true source of joy and passion. Bowlen understood the perspective of his coaches, his players, and the fans of his team. He understood the business side of things but what made him so great was an understanding of the people he worked with. He understood that winning is fun, and he had a passion for it.
So what were some of the best moments? Let's take a trip down memory lane and remember some of the good times.
Broncos sign QB Peyton Manning
"Starting with Mr. Bowlen, I can tell this organization is committed to winning."
Those words from Peyton Manning set the tone for his introductory press conference with the Denver Broncos.
When the Broncos experienced the lowest of the lows under head coach Josh McDaniels, Bowlen hit the reset button on the organization and hired John Elway to run the show from the front office.
After all, Bowlen entrusted Elway with the team for the majority of his playing career, why not give him a shot as an executive?
Bowlen hired Elway, helped resolve the NFL's most recent labor dispute, and the Broncos made the playoffs for the first time since the Mike Shanahan era. After the 2011 season, Peyton Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts, and after being recruited by a handful of NFL teams, he chose the Broncos.
This move will go down as one of the greatest free agent signings any professional sports franchise could make.
Elway and Bowlen were huge reasons for Manning signing with the Denver Broncos, a moment fans will certainly not soon forget.
The Drive/The fur coat
Bowlen famously wore a fur coat on the sideline for the Broncos' epic comeback win against the Cleveland Browns in the 1986 AFC Championship game.
This moment is undoubtedly one of the greatest in team history and one of Bowlen's most iconic moments.
As Bowlen cheered on his star QB from the sideline, John Elway orchestrated one of the great comebacks in NFL history, driving the team all the way down the field against the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Championship game.
Even watching the highlights now, you can't help but bite your nails and watch with anticipation of how the story would unfold.
For many in Broncos Country, this is a drive you can name every play in order and describe this game in vivid detail.
Back-to-back champs in Elway's final NFL game
The last game of John Elway's NFL career as a player was arguably one of his best ever.
Elway had a near-perfect quarterback rating under pressure in this game, and played like he'd been there before.
Because he literally had the year prior.
Repeating as Super Bowl Champions is borderline impossible in today's NFL, but the Broncos did it in the late 90s and were truly one of the best teams ever assembled in the NFL.
Elway and the Broncos dominated the Atlanta Falcons to close out the quarterback's Hall of Fame career.
It was a storybook ending for Elway's career and an emotional end to an incredibly successful era of Denver Broncos football.
"This one's for John."
Bowlen purchased the Denver Broncos in 1984, the year after the team acquired John Elway in a draft day trade with the Baltimore Colts.
With Elway at QB and Bowlen running the organization, the Broncos went to three Super Bowls in four years in the late 80s and early 90s.
After three crushing defeats, they would not return to the Super Bowl until the 1997 season. At this point, many were probably wondering if it was ever going to happen, but the Broncos did it. Despite being pretty big underdogs against the Green Bay Packers, they did it.
They won their first title, and as easy as it would have been for Bowlen to take the credit, he dedicated the team's first championship to his QB, Elway.
This moment is one of Broncos Country's all-time favorites, and rightly so.
"This one's for Pat."
In recent Broncos history, there's no moment more memorable than the Denver Broncos winning Super Bowl 50 and John Elway paying back the owner who once dedicated a championship to him as a player.
When Elway got his opportunity with the trophy in hand, he triumphantly declared, "This one's for Pat," as the owner was unable to be with the team due to his health condition at the time.
It was an incredible moment in Broncos history as the team carried on Bowlen's expectation of excellence by winning a title in his absence.
There are so many other incredible moments throughout Bowlen's history as an owner, but these ones certainly stand out.