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Sacco Sez: The legacy of Pat Bowlen

Pat Bowlen's selection for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is genuinely one of the greatest moments in Denver Broncos history.

One would logically say that the Super Bowl victories clearly stand first, second and third, but who laid the groundwork for those victories?

Pat Bowlen.

There is an old saying to the effect that a fish stinks from the head. That is, it starts at the top. There is a reason why we apply perfume and cologne to the face instead of our feet.

From the very first moment he bought the team, through the time when he told me that "I want us to be number one in everything," to Joe Ellis and John Elway citing his legacy as their driving force in running the team today, Pat set the tone for what has become one of the greatest franchises in American sport today.

I was his PR man, so my thoughts and memories are based on my observations and how public relations ties into all aspects of winning and losing. Wins, losses and PR — each defines the other. 

Forget for the moment that we are coming off two sub-par seasons. Remember instead that it was just three years ago that the Broncos won Super Bowl 50.

As Super Bowl LIII is played and celebrated, remember with pride that the Broncos — Pat Bowlen's Broncos — are one of just nine teams to win this game three times.

And in the National Football League, a team is always closer than it might seem.

All of my Pat Bowlen memories speak to his legacy, starting with this one: When he bought the Broncos, it was I who picked him up. It was amazing in itself in that there was not a posse of security and advisers involved.

Just me, picking up Mr. B. and his attorney and dear friend, Bill Brittain.

Bill sat in the front, Mr. B in the back.

As we drove to our headquarters at 5700 Logan, I mentioned that I had worked up some talking points. Today's major executive press conferences often are driven by preparation, rehearsal and stock answers.

Pat replied with, "What are talking points?"

I explained that I had thought of possible questions the press might ask, and possible answers that he might give, and he said, "I'm not too worried about that. They can ask anything they want and I'll do my best trying to answer them."

Just think of that. A team owner saying he does not wish to discuss any possible questions and answers with his public relations man, saying the press "can ask anything they want and I'll do my best trying to answer them."

It made me mindful of Pete Rozelle, the greatest commissioner ever, who would take the podium with a cigarette in one hand and ask the press to just go ahead with their questions.

I remember thinking, "This might be really good," meaning not just his press conference but his entire regime.

And it was way beyond really good, and has been now for 35 years. He set the tone that day, and that needle has not moved much except pointing more and more toward the top.  

You all the stats and salient facts, from the 300 wins in 30 years to his being the father of "Sunday Night Football," but many still do not know how beyond serving on more committees than almost any other owner ever, he was part of the "kitchen cabinet" of advisers to commissioners Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell.

It was common, not rare, to walk past his office, with the door open, and hear him on the phone with either the commissioner or another owner of his own stature.

These conversations are often the foundation of how policy is made and executed.

If you think Pat's legacy is in the past, you are kidding yourself. The reason some buildings last for centuries is because they are well-built and have great foundations.

That is what Pat has given to the Broncos and to the entire National Football League, foundations that remain in place today, and will tomorrow, and will guide the fortunes of both continually upward.

Pat is the 16th team owner to be selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including two families that have each had two, the Maras and the Rooneys.

There is no question whatsoever about the vast influence that Mr. B has had on the Broncos as a team and the vast landscape of pro football overall.

This moment is richly deserved by Pat, his family, players and coaches past and present, and by the entirety of Broncos Country, however defined.

But his legacy is not over.

The legacy of Pat Bowlen lives on, stands for victory and class, and will stand tall whenever we see the orange and blue.

Pat's words say it all: "I want us to be number one in everything."

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