Despite Wednesday’s announcement that he will be stepping back from the organization to focus on his health, the organization maintains those same priorities.
Adjusting to Bowlen’s absence around the facilities will take time, but the 2014 season looms. Just as Bowlen would want, the team is preparing the same way it usually would, determined to accomplish his objectives.
“It is important to follow out the mandates that Pat put on us every year,” said Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis. “Listen, everybody -- his family, his children, his brother, myself, John Elway -- we all wish Pat could come through the door and do what he did so well. We are all here for him. But he has left us with a blueprint that is easy to follow.
"We've got to abide by that and do right by it. And we will.”
A sentiment echoed during Wednesday’s press conference was Bowlen’s ability to not micromanage and to allow his employees to learn and grow. Though Bowlen permitted his employees a degree of autonomy, Elway said he “was very interested in knowing what was going on. He wanted to know everything that was going on and was a great listener. But he also had great advice.”
Bowlen's empowerment of employees like Ellis and Elway paved the way for future team successes, even though Bowlen’s role will be limited.
"When I look at Pat and what I’ve learned from him up to this point, (one thing) is his ability to go ahead and hire people and allow them to do their jobs and have the security in oneself to hire the best person,” Elway said. “Give them guidance with his experience that he’s had as a businessman, but also give them the rope to go and be as good as they can possibly be, and that’s what Pat’s done since he’s been here. He gives you the ability, he gives you the resources -- No. 1, to be as good as you can be, and he gives you guidance when he thinks that you need some guidance.”
This allows the Broncos staff to continue their work productively and work towards another Super Bowl run.
Head Coach John Fox said when the players saw Bowlen watching practice -- which he did frequently -- they were inspired by his commitment to the team and the sacrifices he made so it would be successful. Fox said Bowlen’s “fingerprint is on everything," and that the culture he created started at the top and will continue to prosper.
During his press conference, Ellis became emotional when speaking about how he will not see him around the facility anymore. The players liked having him around and Bowlen made a point in developing relationships with them, Elway said.
“As a player, you love to see your owner on the field and around, because then you know it means a lot to him,” said Elway, who played for Bowlen 15 seasons and has worked for him the last three. “And that’s why it meant so much to Pat that he was around. So, as a player when you see that, it transcends through the whole organization, the importance of him being there and how important it is to him.
"You feel that as a player, and the fact that he has the same goals that we have, and that’s to win a world championship. If it doesn’t start at the top with the goal of winning a world championship, it’s very difficult to get that done.”
Ellis learned many lessons from Bowlen and aims to carry on Bowlen’s winning legacy. Ellis noted that Bowlen poured all of his resources back into team to ensure that it could be as competitive as possible. Simply put, he wanted to be the best at everything, both on and off the field. Because of this, “everybody knows how they need to conduct themselves moving forward,” Ellis said.
“The mandate is the competitive fire, to be competitive and do the things to continue to win football games,” Elway said. “That’s what he (Bowlen) is, he’s a competitive guy. The thing is to continue with the resources that he gave us, and be smart with the resources, and be mindful of what we’re spending on. That’s, especially on the football side, that’s what he wanted. He wanted a winning football team.”
The days leading up to training camp are typically filled with excitement and anticipation. Dove Valley had a somber atmosphere on Wednesday as Bowlen’s announcement sunk in and his absence was felt.
But the Broncos’ goal is the same, as Bowlen himself said: "Be No. 1 in everything." Of course, that means winning the Super Bowl. It’s Bowlen’s goal and, despite his illness, it has not and will not change.