During Pat Bowlen’s 35 years as the owner of the Denver Broncos, he has left his mark on the team, the Denver area and the larger NFL community. The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Contributors Committee recognized his remarkable accomplishments — which include a winning legacy and immeasurable contributions to the league’s growth — by selecting him as a finalist for the Class of 2019. As the final vote approaches, DenverBroncos.com will speak with a number of people who have seen firsthand Pat Bowlen’s impact on the Broncos and the NFL.
We continue with former general manager John Beake, who served as the Broncos' GM from 1984-98. Bowlen and Beake helped guide the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances over that stretch. During his time with the Broncos and later as the NFL's Vice President of Player Development and Managing Director for NFL Europe League Football Operations, Beake also saw, firsthand, how Bowlen helped grow the game of football internationally.
Beake describes, in his own words, why Bowlen deserves to take the next step and be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I first really noticed [Bowlen's impact on the international game] back in ’91, ’92, when they had the original World League of American Football, and all of a sudden they put a hiatus on that and brought it back in ’95. Pat was a mover and really a part of that. He was in favor of the American Bowls. I think we went to seven American Bowls all over [the world]. He wanted to see the game grow. He wanted to take our product where other people could enjoy it. … He was 100 percent behind it. He helped people out, and then when we were [starting] NFL Europe back in ’95, that’s when he asked me to be on the committee and work with them on getting all the NFL teams involved in allocating players and came up with a formula.
“… I would talk to Pat, and he was all for [playing internationally] and saw the benefit of it. He believed in taking our game internationally to grow our product and he did it in the right way. Not only did we bring a good game over, but our players enjoyed it, people enjoyed it and they liked being an ambassador. That was one of the things when we were running NFL Europe, was that when all the players came over, [we said], ‘You’re representing not only yourself and the National Football League, but you’re representing the United States. Your character has to be spotless.’
“He was all for that. He was a wonderful person to work with, and we really enjoyed bringing the game internationally. He believed in that.
“… One of the things we talked about, whether it was an American Bowl or a Super Bowl or a playoff game, the thing he wanted was make sure the players focus on the game, and you take care of their families, their wives, their parents. … You listen to them and help them out so [the players] don’t need to be bothered. … [He wanted] them focused on the game.
“… As an owner of the Denver Broncos, he rose to the top of ownership pretty fast. That’s a select group up there, but he was really instrumental in working with the commissioner — first Paul Tagliabue and then Roger Goodell. He could bring people together. He’s not a politician, but he is a politician. He knew how to bring people into the fold, and he knew how to get votes. … He just had that nature about him. … He was very good with Jerry Jones. In fact, when Jerry bought the Cowboys, he spent a lot of time with Pat in the early days. And also with [Patriots owner] Mr. [Robert] Kraft. There was a little group there.”
“… For me to have an opportunity to be most of my career with Pat Bowlen, I felt, was an honor. What a wonderful person to work for, because he had so many qualities. He was a good listener, but if he saw something that needed to be changed, we’d sit down and talk about it. He was very well-respected by the other owners in the league, he was respected here in Denver and the state of Colorado, because he brought a lot to all of us here and the environment. He was a guy who, when he came in, he didn’t park out front. He parked in the back, walked in there, always saw Greek [Director of Sports Medicine Steve Antonopulos] in the morning.
“… [His standard continues because] I think that mostly everybody in this building had an opportunity to work for Mr. Bowlen, and you knew his demeanor and how he expected everybody to act and listen. He was open to talk to you. I think the players knew that he had their best interest [at heart]. I think that’s carried through, because you’ve got enough people here that can relay to these young players that part of winning is a good attitude about who you are, where you are and who you’re representing.
“They knew Pat would do everything in the world for them.”