The Denver Broncos’ longtime owner, Pat Bowlen, stepped down from the club’s day to day operations yesterday because of health issues. It was announced that Bowlen has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, as he first acknowledged that he had short-term memory loss in 2009.
Joe Ellis, President of the Broncos, will assume control of the club and will be assisted by General Manager John Elway. According to Mike Klis of The Denver Post, the Broncos will not be put up for sale. Ownership of the Broncos is being held in a trust until one of his seven children is able to run the club. Ellis also assumes the title of Chief Executive Officer and will have the final say on all club matters.
In addition to Ellis and Elway, commissioner Roger Goodell also voiced his sympathy for the family and the Denver Broncos organization. Denver sports radio stations were interviewing several players, past and present, and, to a man, they voiced their support and privilege to have worked for one of the true icons of the NFL.
Through his thirty-year ownership, Pat Bowlen led the Denver Broncos to six Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them. He steps down at a time when the team is once again a favorite to play for the NFL championship. He leaves a team that has been built for success. During the last few years the Broncos have been aggressive in signing star players, highlighted with the signing of Peyton Manning three years ago. This offseason the club signed several star players like Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, DeMarcus Ware and Emmanuel Sanders. These signings have, once again, made the Broncos an odds-on favorite to win the AFC championship and earn a return to the Super Bowl.
Pat Bowlen was a man who was not afraid to make hard decisions. He fired Mike Shanahan after announcing that he would be coach of the Broncos for life. He then hired Josh McDaniels, a first-time coach to also handle the general manager’s duties. When that move did not work out, he quickly fired McDaniels and hired John Elway to run the football operations.
One of Pat Bowlen’s greatest achievements was to reach the 300-victory plateau by his 30th season. He is the first owner to accomplish that feat. In the process, the Broncos have had only five losing seasons. He was also one of the NFL’s most respected and well-liked owners.
He served the NFL well, having a major impact on the sport itself. For ten years he was co-chairman of the NFL’s Labor Relations Committee. In addition, he served as chairman for the broadcasting and NFL Network committees.
At 70-years-old, Pat Bowlen will be sorely missed and John Elway had trouble holding back the tears during the Denver Bronco news conference announcing that the owner was stepping down. Pat Bowlen has left the Denver Broncos in capable hands and there is little doubt that the team will continue its success.
Commentary by Hans Benes