2022 won’t just mean a kickoff to a new season in the Mile High City, but the beginning of a new era for the Denver Broncos.
Since 1984, Pat Bowlen — and then the Bowlen Trust — have owned the team. And really, the Broncos are a story of before-Bowlen and after-Bowlen. In their 24 years before he became the majority owner, the Broncos enjoyed a mere eight winning seasons. While that did include their magical run to the Super Bowl in 1977 and subsequent successful years, it also included a run of 13 straight losing seasons to begin the franchise.
After Bowlen took over the team in ’84, the Broncos became a blue-chip franchise in the NFL thanks to his leadership and his “Super Bowl or Bust” attitude. Denver went to three Super Bowls in the 80s and narrowly lost the AFC Championship in 1991 before winning back-to-back championships in 1998-99. More recently, the Broncos went to Super Bowl XLVIII and lost, but then went back two years later and won Super Bowl L.
Bowlen stepped away from the franchise in 2014 — with 7 Super Bowl appearances and 3 wins — to deal with Alzheimer’s and the trust has been in charge since then. But on Tuesday, a district judge determined former owner Edgar Kaiser had no right to buy back the franchise, opening the way for the Broncos to be sold.
Also of note, the Bowlen children — of two different marriages — were unable to appoint one, single owner, and therefore Denver will be seeing new blood in the owner’s box at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium this fall.
According to Woody Paige — the wily, old newsman who seemingly still has strong sources around town — former superstar quarterbacks John Elway and Peyton Manning are looking to possibly buy the Broncos, albeit from two different camps.
With Bowlen-Kaiser lawsuit over, Broncos Joe Ellis will announce plan for new ownership quickly. According to my sources, six candidates to bid. Peyton Manning and John Elway will be in two different groups. Another Colorado-based group is doing the research for bid.
— Woody Paige (@woodypaige) January 11, 2022
But, don’t get your hopes too high in terms of “The Duke of Denver” or “The Sheriff” being the next majority owner. Neither the Manning brothers — Eli, too — nor Elway have enough money to purchase the team, which was valued at $3.75 billion before the 2021 season kicked off. That value increased 17% in one year, and over the last 20 years, it’s increased 6.6 times.
Of course, the Manning brothers and Elway are part of groups who intend to make bids to purchase the franchise, and if one of them do, it’s possible one of the former stars could be the “primary” owner even if they are not the “majority” owner. Elway has previous ownership experience with the Arena Football League’s Colorado Crush back in 2008, and he worked in the Broncos’ front office from 2011 through 2020.
Since retiring from the NFL and riding off into the sunset with a second Super Bowl win, Manning and his brother have been hosting the Manningcast, a simulcast of Monday Night Football games in which they interview hosts. Manning remains one of the most well-liked personalities in the NFL. He was recently inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame as well as the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
As for the other Colorado-based group, Paige went on for a long time with fans on Twitter about who it won’t be. He said the Kaiser family won’t challenge the ruling against them. He also said Colorado billionaires Robert Smith nor Phillip Anschutz are interested in buying the team at this point.
Previously, Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos and rap mogul Jay-Z were among possible ownership groups, too.
As for now, all we know is this: The Broncos will be sold this year, paving the way for a new era. The hope is their next owner will be as influential with the franchise and in the NFL as Bowlen was for two-plus decades.