6-0 Broncos, and their fans, can thank Pat Bowlen
With the Broncos’ convincing 34-23 Monday Night Football victory over their division arch-rivals in San Diego, much of the national attention will focus on Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton.
Many of the doubters who questioned McDaniels’ (and GM Brian Xanders’) ushering of petulant Jay Cutler to Chicago for Kyle Orton, and his game of chicken with Brandon Marshall, have become believers. Phrases such as “This is a good football team” and “These guys are for real” have finally been embraced across the national media landscape. Certainly, it’s a complete turnaround from most of the preseason sentiment, which had the Broncos finishing barely above .500 by nearly every observer, including most in Denver.
Those same media “experts” are already touting Orton for the Pro Bowl and McDaniels as coach of the year. And while those predictions may come to pass, most have overlooked the real genius in all of this success, one Patrick Dennis Bowlen.
Bowlen’s success and skill as an owner in the NFL is routinely overshadowed by the likes of those more flamboyant, such as Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft and Dan Snyder. Meanwhile, since purchasing the team from Edgar Kaiser in 1984, Bowlen’s steady hand has guided the Broncos to 12 playoff appearances, six conference championships, five Super Bowls with two wins, and only four losing seasons.
Most questioned Bowlen’s firing of “mastermind” and “coach-for-life,” Mike Shanahan after the 2008 season and three consecutive years of no postseason play. Shanahan had been with Bowlen for 14 of his 25 years and had brought him the ultimate prize for an NFL owner: two Vince Lombardi Trophies. But a decade had passed since John Elway rode off into retirement, and Shanahan’s Broncos had won only one division title and one playoff game since.
While the Broncos’ immediate future rests solely in the hands of the 33-year-old McDaniels, it‘s Bowlen’s astute understanding of the NFL and where the game of football is headed that will ensure the Broncos’ next era of success.
Coaching has become a young man’s game (with apologies to Bill Belichick). It’s not the taskmasters like Lombardi and Chuck Noll, or the offensive geniuses like Bill Walsh and Shanahan, who will be successful in this NFL. It’s the young, workaholic, in-touch technologist coaches like Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, New Orleans’ Sean Payton and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh who will be the perennial playoff contenders of the future.
Bowlen has given Broncos fans one of those in the person of McDaniels, and while it may be too early for coach of the year predictions, it’s not too early for executive of the year stumping. Bowlen’s 25 years of Broncos ownership is exceeded by only eight other owners, and credit for his success over those years is long overdue.
Pat Bowlen for NFL executive of the year!