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Mile High Morning: Remembering Pat Bowlen's first day as Broncos owner, 37 years later


The Lead

Long before he was known as a Pro Football Hall of Famer and even before he was known to Denver simply as "Mr. B," the Broncos' most successful owner was introduced to the city by his full name, Patrick Bowlen.

On this day 37 years ago, Bowlen officially began his tenure as the team's owner, marking the day with a press conference.

The Hawaiian resident who had earned his fortune in Canada in the oil industry was something of a mystery to Broncos fans, who had learned just days earlier that Bowlen had entered into an agreement with Edgar Kaiser Jr. to purchase the team.

The announcement by Kaiser on March 19 had been a surprise — even to the team's previous owners, Gerald and Allan Phipps, who still were due to receive two more payments from Kaiser at the time he made the sale to Bowlen, as Irv Moss reported for the Post.

In those early days, Post columnist Buddy Martin sat down with Bowlen in Honolulu to get to know the new team owner. He noted details of Bowlen's athletic pursuits in competing in triathlons, skiing and golf, and he described Bowlen as having "an air of individual ruggedness" and being "made of … fire and ice."

"In the coming months, Pat Bowlen will probably need more of his ice than fire," Martin wrote for the March 21 edition of the Post. "Not to mention the stamina of a triathlete."

Two days after that story ran, as Bowlen made his way to team headquarters in Denver to begin his tenure, he could have used less ice.

Over the previous 24 hours, Denver had received about five inches of snow. The morning of March 23, 1984, as Bowlen was set to hold court with local reporters, a municipal truck overturned on the exit off Interstate-25 that led to the team's offices, the Post reported.

Bowlen's session went on as scheduled, and as you'd expect, he responded to the press' queries. Someone asked a basic question that veered into rhetorical territory: "How important is winning?"

"Do you want me to say winning is everything?" Bowlen asked.

The reported replied: "If it is to you."

"Winning is more important than making money," Bowlen said.

To that end, someone asked if he would have made the trade that had brought John Elway to Denver a year earlier.

Bowlen, describing Elway as "probably going to be the best quarterback in the league," was unequivocable in his response: "I think I would have done the same thing if it had been him or somebody like him."

In hindsight, that thinking could perhaps be seen in Bowlen's move to bring Peyton Manning to Denver in 2012 or in the trade to acquire Champ Bailey, both of whom are Hall of Famers.

Bowlen himself would also become a Hall of Famer in his own right. To him, the endeavor he was beginning on that day in March was more than just an investment; it was a full-on commitment.

"This is a career decision for me," Bowlen said. "It's what I want to do. It's going to be my No. 1 business."

Martin, the Post write, made a prediction in his March 22 column.

"On the whole, I think Denver will be fond of this Wisconsin-born, Oklahoma-educated Northwesterner, who admits more than anything in the world, 'I'd rather have been an athlete first and a businessman second,'" Martin wrote.

Instead, Denver got the businessman, and the franchise and city were better for it.

Below the Fold

In assessing Denver's signing of Kyle Fuller, ESPN’s Dan Graziano gave the Broncos an A grade. "Reunited with Fangio, Fuller should be a high-level performer in Denver in 2021," Graziano wrote.

Even after the Broncos signed Fuller and fellow free-agent cornerback Ronald Darby, could the Broncos draft another cornerback with the ninth-overall pick? Some commentators (including Graziano in the article above) noted the Broncos' new flexibility in the draft, but CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson still expects Denver to take a cornerback to build for the future.

The Unclassifieds

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