Pat Bowlen: The Most Significant Owner Never Talked About


Pat Bowlen is a name that many might not know outside of the Mile High City. What a shame this is. He is the principal owner of the Denver Broncos and has been ever since he bought the team in 1984. It’s a purchase that would not only change his life and that of the franchise, but a move that would change the entire city of Denver, the state of Colorado, and the Country; Broncos Country that is. It will go down as one of the greatest moments in franchise history.

Bowlen was born in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. His father, Paul Dennis Bowlen, found great fortune in the Canadian oil business and became a millionaire. Unlike most children with millionaire parents, Pat found his own way to fortune and success. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in business (1965) and law (1968). He became a very successful lawyer in Alberta, Canada, all while working as an executive for his father’s company. But that was not enough for the hard working Bowlen. He also found success as a real estate developer and had major investments in the mining industry. Whatever he touched seemed to turn to gold, but his future would soon turn bright orange.

Pat Bowlen: The Most Significant Owner Never Talked About

In 1984, Mr. Bowlen purchased a small market NFL franchise known as the Denver Broncos and would turn them into one of the most successful and popular teams in the NFL.

He now enters his 34th season as team owner, which makes him the longest tenured owner of a professional team in the state of Colorado. In 2015, the Broncos surpassed the San Francisco 49ers as the team with the highest winning percentage, since Bowlen took over as owner.

Since 1984, the Broncos have more Super Bowl appearances (7) than losing seasons (5). Take that in for a moment. In 33 seasons, the Denver Broncos have only had a losing record five times. His overall winning percentage is .611, which translates to 322-204-1, making him the ONLY owner of an NFL team to surpass 300 victories in the first 30 seasons of ownership. In those seven Super Bowl appearances, they won three of them.

How do you garner this much success? By creating a winning culture, hiring executives and coaches that know more than you do, and getting the right players to carry out the mission.

Raiders fans can talk about the 80s, and Chiefs fans can brag about how the AFC Championship trophy is named after their original owner (although they have never actually hoisted the Lamar Hunt Trophy), and Chargers fans can brag about, well, how cool it was to play in San Diego, but the Denver Broncos have been the creme of the AFC West since ’84 and most of that is due to Bowlen.

21 winning seasons, 13 division titles, seven conference championships, and 18 playoff appearances does not come easy. However, Broncos Country has come to expect only the best each and every season, and this is because of the winning culture that Bowlen has created. According to a 2014 Harris Poll, the Denver Broncos were recognized as “America’s Team.”

Aside from turning the Broncos into an NFL powerhouse, Bowlen has been integral in the success of the league in general. During his time he has served on many NFL committees. As the chair of the NFL Broadcast Committee, Bowlen was responsible for the NFL’s $18 billion T.V. contract. This contract was the most lucrative single-sport contract in history, and while everyone loves to give Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft all the credit, Bowlen was in the meeting rooms making deals.

Unfortunately, over the past few seasons, Bowlen’s health has taken a turn for the worse as he battles Alzheimer’s disease. In 2014 he relinquished his CEO duties, but the team and the state of Colorado will never forget what he did while in control.

Talks have begun regarding Pat Bowlen’s legitimacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Already a member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, there is no doubt that there will one day be a bust of Mr. Bowlen in Canton, OH. It is just a matter of when.

Mr. Bowlen is a Catholic and has donated numerous contributions to the Catholic Church, but on Sundays in Denver, the Broncos are religion and Mile High Stadium the Cathedral. Pat Bowlen built that.


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