Pat Bowlen: Making the Hall of Fame Case

Pat Bowlen will be inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame at halftime on Sunday. Khalid Alshami recounts all the reasons why Bowlen should also be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I said publicly last year that I wanted 2012 to be a great season, not just a good season. We certainly had a very good season and perhaps exceeded a few expectations. But Broncos fans, you and I know what a great season looks like.”

This is what Pat Bowlen said after Peyton Manning’s first season in Denver, following a campaign that produced the best record during the regular season in the NFL and an overtime playoff exit at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.

For Pat Bowlen, being good was never enough. Being good is mediocre. Being good is a waste. No one remembers a team that was good. No, Pat Bowlen has always aspired to greatness, namely for the football franchise he owns.

Bowlen has always maintained that the members of Broncos Country deserve championships and nothing less. Anything short of that ideal is considered a failure.

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This is an owner who fired a coach who won him back-to-back Super Bowls, three division championships and seven playoff appearances in 14 seasons as head coach. Before that, he fired a coach that won five division championships, five playoff appearances and three Super Bowl berths.

Since Pat Bowlen purchased the Denver Broncos, saving the team from bankruptcy in 1984, the team has gone on to be the most successful franchise in the NFL.

The Broncos have posted 90 or more wins in each decade since 1980 (and are sitting at 56 half way through this decade), while managing the fewest losing seasons (five) in the league over that stretch. Under his reign, the team has more Super Bowl appearances (six) than losing seasons.

Not only did the Broncos win consecutive Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, but they established all-time pro football records for most wins in two seasons (33), most playoff wins in two seasons (seven), and most wins ever in three seasons (46, from 1996-98)—all records that will be very difficult to challenge.

He was the fastest owner to reach 300 wins, doing so in his 30th season with the franchise. The team has won 61 percent of their games under Bowlen—the best mark by any team since Bowlen took over. The Broncos also have the NFL's best home record (181-67) under Bowlen.

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The Broncos have sold out every single home game the franchise has had under Bowlen.

Few know the impact Bowlen has had on Denver better than Broncos V.P. John Elway.

"I’ve had the privilege of working for Pat Bowlen for nearly 30 years, and he is the most deserving of anyone ever elected to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame," Elway said. "As one of his players for many years and now in my current role, Pat has given us every opportunity and every resource to put the best football team on the field and compete for championships. In my opinion, Pat Bowlen is one of the greatest contributors in the history of professional football, not just the Denver Broncos. I congratulate Pat on his election to the Broncos Ring of Fame and look forward to the day he is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post asked longtime broadcaster Al Michaels, who will do play-by-play for the Broncos-Packers game this Sunday night during Pat Bowlen’s ROF induction, what the game means to him.

"I'm very happy that we'll have the opportunity to be there to see him honored. I think he's been a huge figure for the National Football League for a lot of years. I think he's done a lot of really terrific things, not only for his franchise, which I've always felt was a top-notch franchise, the Broncos always have been in contention, but Pat has done a lot for the league as a whole. And I've always felt that the really great and iconic owners are the owners who have not only built great franchises individually, but have worked really hard to make the NFL a better product. That's why I would put Pat into that category, because Pat was involved in so many things on the league level. The fact that Sunday night is now the biggest night, that goes back to Pat. That goes back to him working with Dick Ebersol, who ran NBC Sports at the time. And Dick will be in Denver, as well, with us this week. Pat invited Dick to come and Dick gladly accepted, so he'll be there.

"Sunday Night has about a 50 percent larger audience than Monday Night does, and you can attribute that to Pat's vision and the fact that he figured, 'Hey, you know what, if we can make our big game Sunday night with a flexible schedule and all of that, that would be the best way to maximize the value of the NFL on TV."

Michaels also talked with Dusty Saunders in a column years ago talking about Michaels' top-10 games on Monday Night Football—five or six of them being in Denver.

“There was something about Denver that just created an extra amount of excitement,” Michaels said.

During the Ring of Fame induction this Sunday, the Broncos expect upwards of 30 players from the Super Bowl teams to attend, including former head coach Mike Shanahan.

Pat Bowlen has done so much for the Broncos and the city of Denver, but his work within the league to improve the NFL cannot be understated. His omission from Canton is as heinous as any of the players who blossomed during their careers as Broncos.

 

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Khalid Alshami is an Analyst for MileHighHuddle.com. You can find him on Twitter @KhalidHAlshami.

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