Denver owner Pat Bowlen is a candidate for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s contributor category for 2018, and Broncos’ fans are impatient. They want him in Canton, and they want him in now.
Bowlen certainly is qualified, and he should be among the favorites. But it’s an uphill climb. First of all, there’s only one candidate for next year’s Hall-of-Fame class. Plus, it comes on the heels of one NFL owner (Jerry Jones) elected this year.
Nevertheless, Hall-of-Fame quarterback John Elway, who’s now the Broncos’ GM, made an impassioned plea on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast to put Bowlen into the Hall.
“Being able to play for him, he gave us every opportunity to be successful,” said Elway. “I mean, he was a competitive guy — he was a tri-athlete himself … and so, therefore, he brought all that to the business world and to his football team. And his main goal was to win a world championship and do everything you can to win with the resources possible to do that.
“He never pulled any punches on us, and with the resources he had to give us, he gave us. So as a player looking at an owner, you couldn’t ask for a better guy to play for.
“Now, when you look at Pat, and what he’s done for the league and his participation on all the committees he had at the league level … you look at the success and the jump that the NFL has made from 1984 to where it is right now … he has had a major impact with that and with all the different committees that he was on. Then, when you look at all the success of his football team from that period until now there’s no question those numbers put him in the Hall of Fame, in my mind.”
He’s right about that. No team has a better winning percentage the past 33 years than the Broncos (.612) under the direction of Pat Bowlen. No other NFL owner has more Super Bowl appearances that Bowlen, either. And only one franchise (New England) has won more division titles since 1984.
But Elway, who played 16 seasons for the Broncos, admitted that his admiration for Bowlen grew even more after joined the front office in 2011.
“As a player, I was very fortunate in the fact that I had a great relationship with him,” he said. “I was able to play golf (with him), so I got to know him as a person. Then I went to work for him as a general manager and got a chance to see how the inside (works) … because you really don’t get a chance to see how the insides of an organization work while you’re playing. And I’ve been able to see the importance that Pat put on football.
“Now that I work for him in the front office and see how the inner workings of the team work, number one, it’s about football and it’s about the football team. It’s about the football team, number one, and everything else is fourth or fifth. That mentality is what I saw as a player. I saw it even more as a general manager.
“I look at my job as a general manager, and I don’t know that there’s a better one in the league in this position because of the resources and the mentality that this organization takes when it comes to winning.”
Elway’s sentiments were echoed over the weekend by Hall-0f-Fame inductee Terrell Davis, who told a national TV audience Saturday night “let’s make sure the champion (Bowlen) is enshrined” when the contributor subcommittee meets Aug. 25. The subcommittee will nominate one candidate this year.
Davis was part of two Super Bowl victories with Elway, with each named Super Bowl MVP. Elway won his first league championship in 1997 after three previous tries, and, afterward, Bowlen raised the Lombardi Trophy and announced, “This one’s for John.” Elway said that was … and always will be … one of the most unforgettable moments of his professional career.
“It really was, and it was very unexpected,” he said. “That wasn’t something I knew was coming. That really meant something to me when he said that, especially knowing how important the rest of the football team was … That was probably the most meaningful moment of my career.”