The Pro Football Hall of Fame Misses the Boat on Pat Bowlen


Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and executive vice president of football operations John Elway celebrate after the 2013 AFC championship playoff football game against the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was passed over for nomination to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor on Wednesday. There were only two finalists named for consideration when the committee votes in February. Both are former General Managers.

Ron Wolf is best known for the teams he put together with the Green Bay Packers starting in 1992. Bill Polian was the architect of two championship level teams; the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. Both are deserving of consideration and my intent is not to disparage their accomplishments, but the committee whiffed by passing on Bowlen.

As great as Wolf and Polian were, Bowlen has done far more for the growth of the NFL. There is certainly an argument to be made that Wolf and Polian deserve to be in the Hall of Fame for their abilities as personnel men, but that misses the intent of the contributor category.

The NFL is the most popular sport in America, by far, and Bowlen was a key player in getting it there. Believe it or not, the sport was struggling in the early 1990’s and the television networks were seeking a reduction in the broadcast rights. The NFL was all set to sign off on that idea when Bowlen, who was a key player on the committee negotiating that deal, said no.

Bowlen saw the NFL that we all love now and played hardball. Somehow he sold the networks on the idea that the league was about to explode and they could either get on the train now, or miss out on a windfall for years to come.

We all know how the story ends, Bowlen was right and the networks have been cashing in ever since. NFL games are consistently the highest rated TV shows and fans cannot get enough. There are many reasons for that but it was Bowlen’s vision 20+ years ago that started it all.

Bowlen, of course, is one of the very best owners in all of sports and he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame on those credentials alone. Since buying the Broncos in 1984, no team has more regular season wins. The Broncos have also been to six Super Bowls, winning two, and have one of the most passionate fan bases in the league.

In addition to the numbers, Bowlen was and is first class in everything he does. He spends right up to the salary cap every year and no expense has ever been spared in his effort to win championships. Players who have played for the Broncos in those 30 years rave about how they are treated and Denver has almost been a desired destination for free agents. That all begins with the winning culture set forth by Bowlen.

Has he made mistakes? Sure he has but what makes Bowlen different is he acknowledges the mistake and fixes it. The hiring of Josh McDaniels was a mistake but Bowlen did not wait and try to make it work, he moved on before the end of McDaniels second season in Denver.

He hired John Elway to rebuild both the team and the trust that had been broken with the fans. Now the Broncos are back among the league’s elite and with a lot of youth on the roster, they are poised to stay there for a while.

Bowlen, at some point, is going to get into the Hall of Fame but it should have happened this year. Everyone knows that Mr. Bowlen is not in the best of health and no one knows what the future holds.

I fully understand that health issues don’t figure into these types of decisions but in this case, it should.

The NFL would not be what it is today without Mr. Bowlen and they owe him a place in the Hall of Fame, and he deserves to be honored while he can enjoy it.