Editor’s note: In light of the announcement last week that Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has stepped down from the operations of the franchise due to Alzheimer’s, we reprint this interview with him conducted by IJN Sports Editor Gerald Mellman.
The interview appeared in the IJN, June 23, 1989, and is remarkable for its consistency with so much of what has been written about Bowlen since he announced his illness.
BRONCOS owner Pat Bowlen, who also doubles as the president and chief executive officer, belongs to an ultraexclusive fraternity numbering a mere 27 others. The initiation fee for this elite but diverse body is somewhat steeper than what the average wallet can handle, if the purchase of an NFL franchise is any criterion. In his mid-40s, Bowlen is only a youngster compared with oldsters like his Buffalo counterpart octogenarian Ralph Wilson.
It goes without saying that Bowlen’s first five years on the job have met with resounding success. In fact, his burst on the football scene in early ’84 could not have been better timed. He immediately laced his stamp on the Broncos by leading them to unprecedented attainments.
Preceding his arrival the Broncos floundered during the strike of ’82 with a 2-7 record, improving it during Edgar Kaiser’s final year of ownership to a 9-7 record. However, they lost soundly to Seattle in the playoffs.
An indication of Bowlen’s effectiveness as a new owner was the Broncos’ season in ’84 with 13 victories — the most wins in the history of the franchise.
In 1986 and again in 1987, the Broncos captured the AFC Championship and climaxed their seasons with Super Bowl appearances.
DURING Bowlen’s five years of ownership, the Broncos have sported the best overall record in the AFC and have drawn the most attendance in the entire NFL. In his first four years of ownership, the Broncos won 10 more games each year — the only AFC team to accomplish this feat.
The peak moments for Bowlen came when the Broncos nipped the Browns in overtime in Cleveland and a year later when the Broncos again defeated the Browns in Denver. At stake were the ’86 and ’87 AFC crowns.