SBD/July 24, 2014/Franchises

Broncos Had Plan In Place For Bowlen's Absence, Taking "Business As Usual" Approach

Ellis said one of Bowlen's seven children will likely run the team one day
Following the decision by Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen to cede control of the organization due to Alzheimer's disease, the team yesterday said that everything "remains on course," according to Frank Schwab of YAHOO SPORTS. Bowlen had plans in place to "put the team into a trust, and the plan is for ownership to stay in the family." Broncos President & CEO Joe Ellis will "assume day-to-day business operations -- but he had been doing that for a while as Bowlen's health deteriorated." Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway will "continue to run the front office." Ellis said that the plan is for one of Bowlen's seven children to "'earn the right' to one day run the team." But Schwab noted it is "mostly business as usual for the Broncos right now" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/23). Elway said that there are "no plans for him to own the team" (DENVER POST, 7/24). NFL Network's Michael Silver said Broncos fans should feel "pretty good where the franchise is." Silver said Ellis and Elway are "not only very good at what they do," but also serve as "custodians of this franchise and of Bowlen's legacy." Silver said Elway told him that Bowlen is "grateful that the franchise he's now leaving behind is in such a good and healthy place" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 7/23). ESPN's J.A. Adande said, "It seems like they're in a good place, and he set them up to succeed after he stepped down. But I just always wonder can it continue without that iconic figure at the top" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/23).

THIS ONE'S FOR PAT: In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes the decision for Bowlen to "step away from the family business in order to do right by the Broncos was as brave and selfless as it was difficult." There was "no exit conversation, ripe with made-for-the-movies melodrama." Instead, what Ellis revealed with a "peak behind the curtain at the toughest call of Bowlen's career was more true to the messy realities of growing old." It was a "series of talks during the course of several months among Bowlen, his family and team executives that slowly pulled together the loose strings of what needed to be done" (DENVER POST, 7/24). USA TODAY's Lindsay Jones notes though Bowlen's mental health "has been deteriorating in recent years, he remained a fixture at the team facility." He was "in his office nearly every day during training camp and the regular season and frequently watched practice from the sideline." Ellis: "He didn't walk through the door this morning, and that's hard for people. That's really hard for people here" (USA TODAY, 7/24). ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold noted every person who works inside the Broncos' complex "knew this day was coming." Those "in and around the Broncos have always said Bowlen was 'stepping away,' choosing to let the people he has in place run the team in the way he hoped it would be operated" (ESPN.com, 7/23).

HANDS-OFF APPROACH APPRECIATED: In Colorado Springs, David Ramsey notes Elway and Broncos coach John Fox yesterday "complimented Bowlen and his hands-on approach to leadership," but Elway said that Bowlen "never became a meddlesome owner." Elway: "When he came into the football business, he admitted the fact that he knew about the business side, but he didn't know a whole heck of a lot about the football side. He was always listening and asking questions" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 7/24). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said Bowlen is the "kind of an owner as a fan I would always want my teams to have." Blackistone: "He stayed in the background, he delegated to people who knew the job better than he did, and they went out and got players and built a franchise. The organization just ran like an engine." The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola: "You talking about staying in the background -- even when you saw him those moments when he was on the field, he was never very intrusive. He always showed a lot of class" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/23). Pro Football HOFer Shannon Sharpe, who played 12 years with the Broncos, said, "You knew he was going to give you the best opportunity to win. Sometimes he might have spent money that he didn’t necessarily ... have, but that's what he wanted. He wanted to win championships" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 7/23).

PRAISE FROM THROUGHOUT THE LEAGUE: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said of Bowlen, “He was always a league guy first. He was a real solid partner, one that I respected and had a lot of fun with. Just a real good guy.” He added, "I think over the 30 years he’s built an environment up there that I think everyone in the NFL would like to copy" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/24). NFL Network's Silver noted a "prominent" NFL owner told him that Bowlen was "so well respected and well regarded by his peers that he was responsible for all kinds of things behind-the-scenes that nobody ever really gives him credit for." Silver: "It's hard to find somebody in this competitive industry who's universally respected by some very wealthy and powerful men, but Pat Bowlen was one of those people" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 7/23). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said Bowlen was "probably the most underrated owner in any sport the last 30 years." Wilbon: "People who have played and worked for him adore him. ... You never hear a negative word" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/23).

GETTING TO KNOW JOE: In Denver, Mike Klis profiles Ellis, and writes he is "well qualified to take charge." Leadership "streams through Ellis' bloodlines," as his mom is the sister of former President George H.W. Bush. Ellis said, "I got asked to do it. I had the best mentor anyone could have. I just feel fortunate to be part of the organization. I wish Pat were here to do it. That would be better." Klis writes Ellis "may be kin of the Bushes, but he's more a protégé of Bowlen's." Elway said, "His style comes from Pat, which is why Joe is so terrific to work for." Denver Metropolitan Football Stadium District Chair Ray Baker said of Ellis' push to build Sports Authority Field at Mile High, "He never used the Bush card, and he never used the team president card, either. You would not use the word ego with Joe. He likes to stay invisible" (DENVER POST, 7/24). USA TODAY's Jones & Pelissero note Ellis "played a major role in projects" like building the Broncos' stadium and the current "massive renovation project at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Centre," the team's HQ in Englewood. Ellis also was a "driving force behind the team's decision" to hire Elway in '11 (USA TODAY, 7/24).
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