Has Pat Bowlen Gone Around the Bend?

alton rexCorrespondent IJune 17, 2009

31 Oct 1999:  Owner Pat Bowlen of the Denver Broncos watches from the sidelines during a game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The Vikings defeated the Broncos 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Rodolfo Ganzales  /Allsport

With the news Brandon Marshall may be leaving the mile high city for greener pastures, Bronco fans have got to be asking themselves if their team owner has misplaced a few of his marbles. So the question is: Is Pat Bowlen NUTS?

In a word ... No.

If he's not crazy, what is going on behind the pate of that nordic receding hairline? I think the answer is pretty easy: Jan. 1, 2007 and Feb. 26, 2007.

There's no doubt the murder of Darrent Williams changed the Bronco's, and particularly Mr. Bowlen forever. And while the circumstances and reasons for Damien Nash's death were completely different from the events of New Years Eve, they could not help but re-inforce Mr. Bowlen's feelings about the way Mike Shanahan ran his shop off the field.

Life is too fragile and too fleeting not to safeguard with every effort possible.

If you compile all of the changes over the past two years and look at the bottom line of what they've wrought, you can see one thread runs through all of those events.

The Bronco's and Mike Shanahan have long been known as a player-friendly place to play. As long as a player did his job on the field, the Bronco's have been one of the teams more likely to overlook a players off the field piccadillos. And I'm not condemning them for it either.

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As a life-long Chiefs fan, I have long hated the Broncos – but with one exception, I've never hated a Bronco player... there was this one linebacker... I forget his name now... a 'roid raging' freak of a man... but I digress...

In fact, I have a lot of respect for the Bronco's. No matter when or where KC beat those guys, it was a victory to savor and be proud of. And the credit for that has to ultimately land at Mr. Bowlen's feet. He's got multiple super bowl appearances and two Lombardi trophies in his closet. One must respect him for that.

So, here's the deal. Why is Mr. Bowlen making the changes he is making to his team?

I think the answer lies in how his players are conducting their lives off the field. Is it possible he decided that he never again wanted to go thru what happened during the first 8 weeks of 2007 ever again? I can see how he would feel that way.

If that IS the case, where would he look to make fundamental changes in the culture of his team? I think the answer to that is the Head Coach.

If so, did he go to Shanahan and tell him he wanted him to assert more control of the team off the field than he had in the past? I would have.

As Shanahan had never been that kind of guy, and because the team needed to focus more on healing and playing than culture in the immediate aftermath of those events in 2007, I imagine little or nothing more than planning was done that season with regard to culture.

When 2008 rolled around, whatever changes in team culture (if any) Shanahan attempted to put in place evidently did not meet with Mr. Bowlen's standards.

Let's not ignore the fact Shanahan would most likely be chaffing under such 'babysitter' requirements being added to his job description. He treated his players like men and expected them to be men.

Unfortunately, whenever they got into scrapes off the field, Shanahan was mostly concerned with how quickly they could return to the field.

And that sent the wrong message to the younger guys on the team.

After 2008, Mr. Bowlen realized the team, if not on the decline, was at the very least underperforming for the talent on hand. Couple that with Shanahan's reluctance to babysit, and the decision to make a coaching change begins to clarify.

If Mr. Bowlen really wanted a new team culture, it was becoming glaringly obvious he was going to have to replace Shanahan.

If you look around the league, there are several teams you never see having off the field issues. Of those, the most successful are the Patriots. Josh McDaniels was the most attractive choice for Bowlen's offensive mindset. It was a no-brainer.

I think Mr. Bowlen had long talks with McDaniels about team culture and off the field issues. I think they KNEW before McDaniels ever took the job they were going to have to run off a couple of team leaders who would not conform to the new culture.

I think they specifically knew Cutler was probably going to be one of their biggest headaches before the trade stuff ever started.

The way Shanahan protected and coddled Cutler, and Cutler's off the field drinking issues, along with his lack of maturity made it inevitable. And I think both Mr. Bowlen and McDaniels knew it going in.

At the end of the day, I think creating a new culture that forced the team to put football, professionalism and winning ahead of money, fame, notoriety and nightlife in stripper bars was more important to Mr. Bowlen than allowing his team to become a refuge for thugs and buttheads with a horrible reputation in their community for show-boating and excessive behaviour.

Let's not forget Brandon Marshall was allegedly party to the events of Jan. 1, 2007. Supposedly he helped instigate or inflame the encounter in the strip bar that led some gang bangers to machinegun the Hummer Darrent Williams died in.

Marshall's repeated issues of domestic abuse since January 2007 only make this possibility more believeable.

If the Bronco's let Marshall or any other player go in the name of creating a new culture in that locker room and after hours for those players. I think Bronco fans should stand behind your owner no matter what.

Denver is a great city, and the Bronco's are a noble team with a history worthy of protecting. If Mr. Bowlen has to run off a couple of punks to get his team back to where they become a jewel of the city rather than a focal point of tradgety and disgrace... I say he's to be admired for the effort.

Too many owners in the NFL lack the courage or character to stand up for something purely on the basis of principle. For most owners, only winning matters.

Mr. Bowlen is larger than that, and Denver is lucky to have him.

I have always considered Lamar Hunt to be the greatest owner in the NFL, and I felt that way because his teams valued character. So much so they would run off the likes of Dale Carter when he was still in his prime.

Today, I consider Pat Bowlen to be Lamar's peer. And there are damn few men on that list.