Things have certainly changed with the Denver Broncos, and not in a good way.
For many fans inside Broncos Country, being a fan of the team has always been a pleasure. Those fans have never shied away from declaring their favorite football team. Those fans have always proudly worn their orange and blue.
That is because, for many years, the Broncos were a top-notch organization.
The Broncos struggled through their AFL days in the 1960s but the formation of the Orange Crush defense in the late 1970s gave the team its identity and the Broncos made a Super Bowl appearance following the 1977 season.
In 1983 the Broncos made a trade for John Elway after the No. 1 overall pick refused to play for the team that drafted him, the Baltimore Colts. He would quickly become the face of the franchise and the following year, Pat Bowlen would purchase the team from Edgar Kaiser, Jr.
Bowlen paid $70 million and the Broncos were the highest-priced franchise in the league. They were also among the best ran organizations and the proudest.
Bowlen was one of the best owners in professional sports, there’s little debate about that. He turned the Broncos into a perennial Super Bowl contender and would eventually win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998.
Bowlen was later elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mr. B, as he was affectionately known, would never have put up with the disaster that has become of the once proud and mighty Broncos. The Broncos are now a team being laughed at and mocked by fans around the league and each week, it seems to get worse.
The team’s 23-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was certainly a low point.
So where did it all go wrong in Denver? It’s hard to point to one thing. But looking at this recent timeline, we can start to put things together.
The destruction of the Denver Broncos: The Pat Bowlen Trust
This is certainly when the cracks in the foundation seem to have started.
In July 2014, it was announced that due to his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease, Bowlen had relinquished control of the team to Joe Ellis.
Joe Ellis had various roles within the organization across many years before becoming team president and CEO. Ellis was part of a trust that was put in place to act in place of the ailing Bowlen.
Bowlen passed away in 2019, leaving many questions and plenty of uncertainty regarding the future of the Broncos. The trust seemed to only muddy those waters and it seemed to become clearer with each passing day that the league wanted the team under permanent ownership as soon as possible.
The trust never seemed to do a good job of facilitating such a process.
The team was trying to put a consistent, successful product on the field despite all of the inner turmoil that started in the front office with Bowlen out of the picture.
Elway was a part of many of those decisions and though he showed himself to be a tremendous general manager at times, he made some incredibly bad decisions at others.
Because most Broncos fans still see Elway as their childhood hero, it was hard to want to shove him out the door. But each year, his decisions both in the draft and in free agency seemed to bring the team down another notch.