Bowlen gets his deserved moment at Hall of Fame
Pat did it right
I suppose this is where we would break down the epic confrontation that was the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons as both engaged in the mortal combat known as a preseason game on Thursday.
Except I barely recognized anyone in the game.
Joe Flacco looked good on the sideline. If you’re wondering, he is only the fifth Bronco to wear No. 5, according to pro-football-reference.com, the most noteworthy previously being Matt Prater from 2007-13. This is the sort of insight one gets from such a spectacle of sport.
I don’t think Garett Bolles got called for holding. (Progress, people.) Fellow offensive lineman Dalton Risner debuted. Drew Lock looked very much like a rookie. New tight-end Noah Fant dropped a ball, but one understands that he was gorked out of his mind playing in the NFL for the first time.
And the game didn’t go overtime, a plus. Why preseason games have overtime is beyond me.
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Heck, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were interviewing Hall of Fame guests and ignoring the actual game for most of the second half, and with good reason.
As much as we’ve given John Elway — as a general manager — grief in this space, it was nice to hear him talk about former owner Pat Bowlen, who will be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame today.
A steward of a trust
The Broncos are the flagship sports team of the state of Colorado. Yes, the Rockies, Nuggets, Avalanche and CU (football, in particular) have had their moments, but nothing motivates everyone from Grand Junction to the eastern plains like the orange and blue. (I still want them to wear the orange jerseys with the powder-blue helmets.)
But, let’s face it the Broncos were terrible in the 1960s AFL days, and nearly moved out of town, while the 70s weren’t much better with the exception of the Orange Crush uptick.
Of course, it helped that Dan Reeves was the coach and quarterback Elway demanded a trade from the then-Baltimore Colts before Bowlen bought the team in 1984, but the Broncos B.P. and A.P. ( before and after Pat) were different franchises.
Owners don’t win Super Bowls — sorry, Jerry Jones. They are stewards of public trust. Yes, there’s the financial side — Bowlen bought the franchise for $70 million — and he and his family have done well. Good on them.
There’s been very little drama off the field with the team. As the Colts, Cardinals, Browns, Oilers, Rams (twice) and Raiders (thrice) have extorted communities for new stadia and broken hearts, the Broncos have become synonymous with Denver and Colorado.
The old Mile High Stadium, built originally as a baseball complex for the Denver Bears in 1948, had served out its usefulness by the late 1990s. Yes, Denver-metro area voters financed most of it, but there was no serious threat the Broncos were leaving.
Broncos Stadium at Mile High has two levels of skyboxes and club seating, financial necessities for the modern era, but is not an outrageous palace, like Jerry World — officially AT&T Stadium — in Dallas.
Broncos fans continue to pack the place — the franchise has sold out every non-strike game since joining the NFL in 1970 — and the stadium situation should be stable for years.
Again, owners don’t win Super Bowls. Sometimes, they lose them, though. Why did Jones ever fire Jimmy Johnson? The Cowboys of the 90s should have won more Super Bowls than three. (Yes, Jerry’s a convenient target.) Every fan should be grateful that their team’s owner isn’t Daniel Snyder. The Redskins are never winning under that guy.
Before Bowlen, the Broncos made the playoffs four times (1977-79 and 1983, Elway’s rookie year) from 1960-1983. From 1984-2018, 18 playoff appearances, 13 AFC West titles, seven AFC championships, and three Super Bowl wins.
The Broncos were better for having Bowlen at the helm. And, of course, he produced the signature moment for the franchise after the Broncos finally won the Super Bowl in January 1998.
It was Bowlen’s first Super Bowl, too, but he rightly ceded the moment, carving himself into franchise history.
The Broncos can only be so lucky to have such an owner for the next 35 years.