Pat Bowlen has been one of the most stable owners in all professional sports since he took the team over in the 1984. In Mr. Bowlens’ tenure as an owner; 21 winning seasons, 13 division titles, 9 conference championship berths and 7 Super Bowl appearances, with 3 super bowls (denverbroncos.com). With his current degrading health, the Broncos franchise in the past several years has been at the hands of the trustees that make up The Pat D. Bowlen Trust. Joe Ellis is the serving member of the trust that acts on the day to day operations of the Denver Broncos and appointed general manager John Elway to make the football-based decisions.
The past two years have not been kind to Mr. Elway as he has been highly criticized with draft picks and his head coaching choice in Vance Joseph. The team went 5-11 last year and sits at 6-8 this season, and only being a couple of years removed from a Super Bowl, the fanbase has grown frustrated and angry. Many throw the blame at Vance Joseph as if he was a 18th century brit getting tarred and feathered, while others cast some blame upon the royalty of Denver himself, John Elway, for poor personal decisions.
Times for the Broncos seem to be going from bad to worse with the Bowlen family fighting back for complete ownership over the franchise against the trust, and even in that, the tug of war between two daughters from different marriages for that very ownership. It’s a real-life Game of Thrones going down in Denver which could have been expected after such a powerful, stable, and reputable man, falls ill and leaves such a critical position open.
It does not end with ownership however; John Elway has been the pride of Denver for decades now and even he is being called into question. No doubt after hand selecting one of the worst draft classes in the 2015 draft and having almost no answer at QB after Peyton’s retirement, and the hiring of HC Vance Joseph, the finger is being pointed at him as well. The poster child for the terrible seasons the Broncos have been having is Vance, and the people of Denver have been wanting him fired almost as soon as he was hired in Denver. There might be a small segment of folks who believe that Vance wasn’t given a great roster to begin with and is a fair argument seeing as his quarterbacks have looked like, Case Keenum, Trevor Siemien, Brock Oswiller, and Paxton Lynch.
So how does this all get fixed? Therein lies one of the more disturbing things to think about for the Broncos. It’s clear that the Denver Broncos need a much better QB to be a playoff contending team, and with the draft coming up and the Broncos only looking to end with a mid-round pick, do they roll the dice on a huge uncertainty like they did with Paxton and draft an unproven QB? Or more realistically, they would investigate the free market for their next QB, but with no idea on the head coaching situation or most likely a first-time head coach of the Broncos, what top tier free agent QB would choose Denver over other destinations? Now it’s clear that Denver will be moving on from Vance Joseph and some, if not all his coaching staff after the season and will be in the market for a new head coach. There are some good candidates out in the NFL right now but why would the best candidates choose Denver, with the uncertainty at ownership and at QB? This is a vicious cycle where the Denver Broncos find themselves in, with uncertainty in how the ownership plays out and with a QB like Case Keenum not many sought after head coaches will favor the Denver Broncos as a place to go to. To find a top tier free agent QB, the Broncos need to show they have a solid group of coaches, which the QB will want to work with which they won’t land without a solid QB in place to get that specific coach (make sense?).
The three most important components that make a great franchise are all being called into question and it’s a cycle where one can’t exist without the other, and that’s the dismay of the Denver Broncos.