In response to Tuesday’s item from the Denver Post explaining that three of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s seven children have exited the employment of the team, we pointed out that the development invites speculation that the team eventually will be sold. In response to that response, Broncos V.P. of communications Patrick Smyth reiterated that the Pat Bowlen Trust doesn’t plan to sell the team.
“No plans for the sale of the team,” Smyth said on Twitter. “The hope remains to keep the Broncos in the Bowlen family.”
“Hope” is the key word here. There’s a chance that none of the seven Bowlen children ever will develop and demonstrate the skills and abilities necessary to “earn the right to sit in his seat and run the team,” as team president Joe Ellis said in 2014.
Taking a broader look at the situation, and comparing it to a dynamic with which my limited cognitive powers can relate, the seven Bowlen children are in a Willie Wonka-style competition for the privilege of securing the keys to the chocolate factory. At some point, one of them will be deemed to be worthy of becoming the controlling owner of the franchise.
Until then, the team is being held in trust, with Ellis serving as the de facto owner, for the purposes of casting votes and otherwise representing the team at league meetings. Given the ownership issues in Tennessee, where team founder Bud Adams didn’t arrange for a clear transfer of control to one of his children before his passing, it’s critical that one person at all times be in charge of the Broncos and every other NFL franchise. In Denver, Pat Bowlen has decided that one of his children eventually will be selected as being worthy of having that power.
There’s no guarantee, however, that any of them will qualify. There’s no specific timetable or deadline for one of the Bowlen children to earn the right to succeed their father. At a minimum, it will take several years. In theory, it could take many years.
For now, there’s no urgency to resolve the situation. The franchise is thriving, both financially and on the field. Unless and until the organization stumbles badly (since 1982, the Broncos have had only five total sub.-500 seasons, and they haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1971 and 1972), no one from outside the organization will clamor for a new leader to be named from inside the Bowlen family — or for the family to sell the team to someone else who will be able to do the job.
Regardless, ownership of the team has been and will remain in a state of limbo until Ellis and his fellow trustees determine that one of the Bowlen children is ready to run a football with primary colors that include the shade of the Oompa Loompa.