On Thursday, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen passed away at the age of 75. Bowlen was one of the NFL’s most successful and influential owners in the league after acquiring the franchise in 1984: the Broncos won three Super Bowls in his 35 seasons as the club’s principal owner, as well as thirteen division and seven conference titles. For comparison, Denver had just eight losing seasons under his leadership.
In 2014, due to complications with Alzheimer’s Disease, Bowlen stepped down as the organization’s CEO. He did remain an near-omnipresent figure within the club and its fanbase, however, and in November 2015 was inducted into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame. Earlier this year, Bowlen was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame — a long overdue honor for a man who helped shape the NFL as we know it due to his active approach to ownership.
Shortly after news of Bowlen’s passing broke, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a statement on behalf of his own organization — one reflective of the feelings across the NFL:
There was no owner or person like Pat Bowlen. I loved him. Today is a very sad day for all who knew him. When I came into the league in 1994, I worked closely with Pat on the NFL’s broadcasting committee and he offered advice and guidance to help me in every way. It was an example of the kind of man he was. He was relentless in his competitive desire to win, but he was always a gentleman, a professional and a trusted partner.
Pat’s pursuit of excellence, both on the field and in the community, made the league better. He was a leader both in his success and in his kindness and humility. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and support over the years. My heartfelt condolences go out to his beloved wife Annabel, his children, the Denver Broncos and their fans.
He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will endure through the team he built, the community he loved and his well-deserved recognition as a Pro Football Hall of Famer.