Much has been said about the turnover in the Denver Broncos organization this offseason. Unless you are living under a rock, you know that owner Pat Bowlen made the decisions to fire head coach Mike Shanahan, replace him with Josh McDaniels, fire Jim and Jeff Goodman, promote Brian Xanders to general manager, and trade Jay Cutler.
Or did he?
Earlier this month, I read an article by Woody Paige in the Denver Post entitled: "Bowlen unshaken on vision for Broncos", which can be viewed here. Paige spoke with Bowlen about the recent changes made in the Broncos front office in the off-season.
Among the many quotes from Bowlen in Paige's article, one garnered significant media attention.
"I have short-term memory loss. I know that some of the memories of the Superbowl Championships are fading."
This has led many to speculate as to how much Bowlen is in charge of his own faculties and how much his "memory loss" may have contributed to his decision-making.
Bowlen is the owner, president and chief executive of the Denver Broncos, but when it comes down to it, who is really making the decisions? Is Bowlen his own counsel in his decision-making, or does he have people advising him on such big decisions?
These are important questions to ask when a person starts to forget certain things. And we are not talking about grandma forgetting to take her pills here—there is an NFL franchise at stake.
Woody's article provided insight into these questions as well.
"Bowlen said that while he is involved in every facet of the organization, [Joe] Ellis, [the team's chief operating officer], his confidant, has been given more power in the restructuring since Shanahan was fired. "Joe is handling all the things I'm not particularly interested in, making more major decisions," he said.
"Ellis, who was director of marketing when Bowlen bought the majority ownership of the Broncos in 1984, has served in several executive capacities. He was named COO last year. Ellis, several sources say, was instrumental in getting Bowlen to agree to fire Shanahan, hire McDaniels (Ellis alone met with the new coach for a second interview) and trade Cutler."
This portion of Paige's article did not receive the same media attention as Bowlen's memory loss, yet it holds the answers as to who may be really making the decisions for the Denver Broncos organization.
Ellis has Bowlen's ear, and like Jaffar to the Sultan or Wormtongue to King Theodon, the chief adviser holds sway over the old man and may be the power behind the throne.
Woody pretty much said that: Ellis convinced Bowlen to fire Mike Shanahan, Ellis convinced Bowlen to hire Josh McDaniels, and in the end, Ellis convinced Bowlen to trade Jay Cutler.
Working his way up from director of marketing to chief operating officer over the past fifteen years, Ellis is now the man in power. Ellis is the one who is making the decisions regarding the fate of the Denver Broncos.
Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio noticed this as well, saying:
"One thing that has become abundantly clear in the wake of the termination of Mike Shanahan and the hiring of Josh McDaniels is that COO Joe Ellis (who?) has become one of the most powerful figures in the Broncos organization.
"And so Ellis is the latest in a line of (front office executives) who used a mastery of the intricate rules of the salary cap to position themselves to have significant influence over the football operation while having no accountability for on-field failure because, after all, they’re not football guys." (full article can be viewed here)
Ellis' rise to power has been at the expense of many notable people within the Bronocs organization including: Ted Sundquist, Shanahan, Jim Goodman, Jeff Goodman, Cutler, Andrew Mason (denverbroncos.com media guide).
Whether you agree with the changes that have been made or not, it is important to know who makes the calls and who pulls the strings. As fans who pour their hearts and souls in to their team, we need and deserve to know who is in charge.
And based on my read of what Woody Paige and Mike Florio have reported, Pat Bowlen makes the calls, but it is Joe Ellis pulling the strings.