Pat Bowlen, Broncos owner, nominated as a contributor finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is one step closer to having his football legacy secured with induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bowlen and Dallas Cowboys’ longtime executive Gil Brandt were nominated Thursday as contributor finalists by a panel of five media members who convened this week in Canton, Ohio. The contributor’s category is for “individuals who made outstanding contributions to professional football in capacities other than playing or coaching.”
Bowlen and Brandt advance to the final stage of Hall selection. They and former Kansas City defensive back Johnny Robinson, the senior’s committee nominee announced last week, will be presented to the full selection committee Feb. 2, the day before the Super Bowl, in Atlanta.
Nominees are required to get 80 percent of the vote for enshrinement.
“We’re absolutely thrilled for Pat and the entire Bowlen family,” Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. “There’s no question that Pat elevated the NFL, the Broncos and our region over the last three decades. He’s always had such modesty and humility , but he’s incredibly deserving of this selection and we appreciate the contributor committee nominating him. It’s very special to see Pat take such a significant step toward the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Bowlen, Brandt and Robinson will be among 18 finalists — 15 modern-era finalists are expected to be announced next month.
Although not a rubber-stamp for induction, Bowlen’s nomination is a huge step. In the last four years, five of the six contributor nominees have been elected, including Dallas owner Jerry Jones (2017) and former San Francisco owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. (2016).
Before 2015, contributors were included in the modern-era nomination list that includes coaches and players. But a bylaw change in 2014 allowed for a category for contributors — chiefly owners and general managers — and that has allowed owners such as DeBartolo and Jones and general managers such as Bill Polian, Ron Wolf and Bobby Beathard to be elected.
Bowlen stepped aside from daily involvement with the Broncos in 2014 to battle Alzheimer’s. He selected a three-person trust, led by team CEO/president Joe Ellis, to run the team.
Bowlen’s resume since buying the Broncos from Edgar Kaiser in 1984 includes:
- Three Super Bowl titles in seven appearances;
- More Super Bowl berths than losing seasons (six), including no consecutive losing seasons;
- Tied for fifth all-time with 348 wins;
- An NFL-leading 21 winning seasons since he entered the league;
- And a combined 91 years served on 15 league committees, third-most behind Hall of Fame owners Dan Rooney (Pittsburgh) and Lamar Hunt (Kansas City).
Only 14 owners or team founders are among 24 contributors in the Hall of Fame.
In a statement to The Denver Post, Beth Bowlen Wallace, one of Pat’s daughters, said: “I’m excited my father has been nominated as a contributor finalist by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s well deserved and surely all the past and present Broncos players, coaches and executives — along with the fans — are eager to hopefully celebrate his induction into the 2019 class.”
Two of those former players, receivers Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, participated in a community event at the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse earlier this week and expressed their admiration for the indoor facility’s namesake.
“Pat was not, ‘Hey, look at me, look at me,’” said Smith, the Broncos’ all-time leader in receptions (849). “I watched him run this organization and Pat was never the focus. His vision was always the focus. He put people in place to make sure that vision came true.”
Said McCaffrey, who played his final nine seasons with the Broncos: “Mr. Bowlen is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. I get emotional trying to talk about it because he’s the type of owner who checked his ego at the door, he bleeds orange and blue, he loves his players, he loves his coaches and he loves the fans.”
If Bowlen is elected, he could be a part of the same class as former Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who is eligible for the first time.
Despite the franchise’s success, only five players who spent all or a majority of their careers with the Broncos are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: John Elway (inducted in 2004), offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman (2008), tight end Shannon Sharpe (2011) and tailbacks Terrell Davis (2017) and Floyd Little (2010).
In Bowlen’s conference room, adjacent to his office at the Broncos’ Dove Valley headquarters, he has framed jerseys of Elway, Zimmerman, Sharpe and Davis, the Hall of Famers who played for him.
Many believe the Broncos’ success combined with his impact at the league level should make Bowlen an ideal choice for induction.
“If people really dug down to the core and looked at some of the life-changing things in the NFL, Pat Bowlen is behind it,” Smith said.
Said McCaffrey: “He’s so quick to give credit to everybody else, it’s time to give him a little bit of credit.”
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 23, 2018
When you talk about contributors, nobody’s given more to the game than Pat Bowlen. His impact on the Broncos and NFL will never be matched, and it’s great to see that recognized today.
— John Elway (@johnelway) August 23, 2018
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