DENVER (CBS4) – Pat Bowlen has left an indelible mark on the Broncos, certainly. But his presence and success in the NFL transformed the Denver community, too.
The litany of triumphs is long: two Super Bowl victories, six AFC championships, long-time dominance of the AFC West, the construction of a new stadium and, less tangible but still resonant, an organization run with professionalism and class.
Here’s a look at the many highlights, which far outweigh the small setbacks, for Bowlen, who has stepped aside as the team’s CEO because of his battle with Alzheimer’s.
He bought the Broncos when he was 40.
“It took me about five seconds to make up my mind and about 10 minutes to arrive at a deal,” Bowlen said about purchasing the team in 1984.
Bowlen’s father made a fortune in oil in Alberta, Canada, and Pat Bowlen was a successful real estate developer in Edmonton.
But after he bought the Broncos, he moved to Denver full-time for a high-profile job.
“The thing that I’m least looking forward to in Denver or at least being in the National Football League is the publicity that surrounds it,” he said at the time.
And there was a lot, including some missteps and difficulties during his leadership: four Super Bowl blowout losses, Mike Shanahan’s firing and Josh McDaniels’ hiring. The firing of Shanahan, who coach the Broncos to their two championships, was perhaps the most stinging.
“This is not because of one loss or because of one season. This is because I think it’s time to make a change,” Bowlen said when he announced Shanahan would no longer coach the team.
But, on par, the Broncos under Bowlen found success more often than most franchises.
From a business perspective, his most crowning accomplishment was undeniably convincing voters in 1998 to approve a penny-per-$10 retail tax hike to build Invesco Field at Mile High, since renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
After the Broncos stumbled in tapping McDaniels to replace Shanahan, the team rebounded to make the playoffs the last three seasons. Hiring John Elway to manage football decisions helped.
“I can’t think of a better job and a better guy to do that job than John Elway,” Bowlen said.
When a new legend arrived in quarterback Peyton Manning, Bowlen’s public comments had become less frequent.
“This is a great day for me personally and for our organization. Our city and our fans, so I’m going to bring Peyton up here and let him have a shot at it,” he said.
QBs aside, Bowlen has always lauded the Broncos’ fans for the team’s success.
“I said that this wasn’t possible without the fans,” he said. “And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you.”
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