In his almost 30 years of leading the Denver Broncos, Pat Bowlen has provided the professional sports world with the blueprint for what a perfect owner looks like. Not only did Bowlen lead the Broncos into becoming one of the most successful and storied franchises in NFL history, but without his contributions, the NFL would not be the billion-dollar juggernaut it has become today. The Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee needs to do the right thing and waive the five-year waiting period and give Bowlen his place among the games best right now.
The outpouring of support for Bowlen from former and current players, employees, colleagues and executives around the league sends a clear message about just how well respected and incomparable he was as an owner. In today’s NFL, many owners are unwilling and unable to hand over power to their employees. Bowlen wasn’t one of them. He demanded accountability, but still empowered and trusted his employees to do their jobs without him getting in the way. He was confident enough to admit he was wrong and do whatever was necessary to fix the situation. Just look at the Josh McDaniels situation. Bowlen knew he made a mistake, fired McDaniels, and hired John Elway to turn things around. If his players needed something, as soon as Bowlen found out about it, it was as good as done.
He was instrumental in bringing a new stadium to Denver. His $150 million and the remaining tax dollars that were necessary built what is now named Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Unlike a couple of other owners in Denver with a stadium on 20th and Blake Street that was built on taxpayer dollars, Bowlen has always made fans and taxpayers know just how much he was committed to winning. Whether is was green-lighting the signing of Peyton Manning to a massive contract, sinking $40 million into a new training facility, or anything else that could help the Broncos win, Bowlen didn’t hesitate to open up his checkbook.
Prior to Mr. Bowlen taking over ownership of the team in 1984, Denver had made one Super Bowl appearance. Since then, the Broncos have made it to six Super Bowls, winning two, and have only had six losing seasons during his tenure. Their franchise winning percentage over his 30 years trails only the San Francisco 49ers and he is the only owner in NFL history to win 300 games in his first 30 years as owner.
Unbeknownst to some, Bowlen’s other sports ownership ventures resulted in highly successful franchises as well. He partnered with Elway and Stan Kroenke as owners of the Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League. The Crush went from bottom-feeders to eventual league champions. His lacrosse team, the Denver Outlaws, are surprisingly the most successful franchise he owns. They own a regular season winning percentage of 0.700 and have made the Major League Lacrosse playoffs in every year of their existence.
In addition to his contributions in Denver, Bowlen deserves a great deal of gratitude from the entire NFL organization. He was largely involved in negotiating the current television contracts that are bringing in billions of dollars for the NFL and had a hand in developing the NFL Network. He served as co-chairman of the NFL’s Labor Committee and co-chair of the NFL Management Council Committee, as well as holding a chair on the NFL Broadcasting and NFL Network committees. As if that wasn’t enough, he also served on the NFL Competition Committee and Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee. While all of his contributions have helped the league reach the levels it has, it is his work negotiating television contracts that will have the NFL forever in his debt.
For a man who has been a model owner, an NFL ambassador, and an all-around great asset to the NFL shield, it only seems right that, given his current state, everything is done to show him the respect and appreciation he deserves before his health further deteriorates. The time is now for Bowlen to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.