The Denver Broncos have three Super Bowl titles and eight Super Bowl appearances, yet up until last weekend the team only had four true players in the Hall of Fame. The disrespect Canton, Ohio has shown the city of Denver over the years is appalling. Even though the Broncos have been one of the best teams in the league, the instances when its players have been recognized as great are few and far between.
John Elway, Gary Zimmerman, Shannon Sharpe and Floyd Little were the only true Broncos in the Hall of Fame until Terrell Davis was elected last Saturday night. Willie Brown and Tony Dorsett are also in the Hall of Fame; however, both played with Denver for just a short period of time.
When you think about the great players the Broncos have had over the years, many have a case to be put into the Hall of Fame. Sure, Champ Bailey and Peyton Manning will get their nods in time. But, I am talking about players like Randy Gradishar, Louis Wright, Karl Mecklenburg, Steve Atwater, Rod Smith and John Lynch.
All of these players have legitimate cases to be enshrined into Canton; however, these guys are not the Broncos’ biggest snub. That belongs to owner Pat Bowlen, who still continues to wait to be recognized for all of his great work, contributions and success in professional football.
Since Bowlen took over the Broncos in 1984, Denver has gone 334-212-1. The .612 winning percentage is the highest in the NFL in that period. Bowlen has been at the helm for nine AFC Championship appearances, seven Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl championships.
Bowlen has also contributed to the league as a whole. He was a key figure in television negotiations and the rise of Sunday Night Football.
It does not seem right that Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame ahead of Bowlen. Sure, Jones is the bigger name across the NFL world, as he parades his celebrity, ever gravitating towards the spotlight. But, he does not hold a candle to the longevity of success Bowlen has had.
Since Jones took over the Cowboys in 1989, the team is just 243-205, with much of that success coming early. Dallas won Super Bowls in 1992, ’93 and ’95. In 1994, the Cowboys lost in the NFC Championship. Outside of that stretch, Dallas has not reached another conference championship game.
Jones has made good contributions to the game. He is considered a key figure in the explosive financial success of the league during his tenure. Jones was also a key figure in getting FOX to pony up the dough to carry a large number of NFC games. Recently, Jones was even a part of negotiations to put the Rams back in Los Angeles. He has also been fined several times and has been criticized nationally for being one of the worst personalities in sports.
I am not saying that Jones does not belong in Canton. I am saying that it seems premature to put him at this particular time, especially when you have owners like Bowlen out there that are deserving of the honor.
Bowlen’s health has turned for the worst over the last few years, due of his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. It would be great to see former coaches and players, Bowlen’s family and all of the Broncos’ fans get to celebrate Bowlen’s inevitable enshrinement while he is still alive.
The question is: What does it take to get an owner into the Hall of Fame? Is it winning, contributions or money? My guess, it is probably a combination of all three; however, perhaps Jones is in first because he is perceived as a big reason the NFL is so profitable today, and is a large (and loud) presence across the league.
If you break down the success of both organizations in terms of winning and contributions made to the game by both men, Bowlen is far more deserving of earning entrance into Canton.
While he still owns the Broncos (now managed in trust), Bowlen’s active contributions to the NFL are over as he engages in his own personal battle. Jones is very much still in the limelight and active. It would be nice to see the Hall of Fame voters take timeliness into consideration next time they select a new class.
The Broncos have been disrespected for years by Canton. And, Bowlen’s absence from the Hall of Fame is the biggest slap in the face by far. Since 1984, no other organization has been better than the Broncos. The numbers do not lie, it is time to finally make this right.