Pat Bowlen has been a contributor candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in each of the first four years of that committee’s existence. Listeners and readers of the Talk of Fame Network believe the fifth time will be the charm for the owner of the Denver Broncos.
The contributor candidate was the subject of our weekly poll and Bowlen won going away with 59 percent of the vote. Gil Brandt, the former personnel director of the Dallas Cowboys, and Steve Sabol, the creative genius of NFL Films, were a distant second at 16 percent.
Owners Bud Adams, Robert Kraft and Clint Murchison all received single-digit support, as did former Giants general manager George Young and former Patriots personnel director Bucko Kilroy.
“No disrespect to any of the candidates,” said Talk of Fame Network host Ron Borges, “but how is Bud Adams not atop the voting? Without Adams, there is no AFL . And if there is no AFL there is no AFL-NFL merger. And if there’s no merger much of what has happened since never happens. So my vote is for the two remaining ‘founding fathers’ of modern-day pro football.
“Sure, he flipped off fans and at times took some unusual positions. But he also built an AFL champion in Houston and a playoff team and AFC champion in Tennessee. Add to that the more important point: Without Bud Adams’ money, cooperation and faith Lamar Hunt would not have been successful in the AFL and if there was no AFL we would have a far different AFL today.”
Since Bowlen purchased the Broncos in 1984, Denver has qualified for the playoffs 18 times, won seven AFC titles and three Lombardi Trophies. The Broncos have won 327 games during the Bowlen era. Only the New England Patriots have won more (335). Bowlen has served on seven NFL committees and during his tenure as chairman of the NFL broadcasting committee, the league negotiated a record $18 billion contract with the networks.
Brandt is credited with bringing the NFL into the computer age with his scouting system for the Cowboys. His outside-the-box thinking brought Roger Staubach to the Cowboys despite a military commitment to the Navy and Herschel Walker despite a USFL commitment. The scouting net under his direction also found undrafted college free agents Cliff Harris, Drew Pearson and Everson Walls.