Like father, like heir apparent.
What would Mr. B pick?
Annually, for almost 30 seasons, I asked Pat Bowlen his Broncos’ prediction.
Always, the Broncos owner would squint his eyes, present an acerbic smile and, without hesitation, exclaim: “19 and 0!’’
He wasn’t joking. He meant it. Bowlen had a “if you’re not first, you’re last’’ mentality. “I want to be No 1 in everything," he said.
The Broncos never have finished with 19 victories and zero defeats, but Pat always kept striving for perfection and came close in several seasons after buying the franchise in 1984.
In the Elway Era, the Broncos won 13 (and lost a playoff game) in Mr. B’s rookie season. They had the same win total two years later and again in 1989 by reaching Super Bowls, a third time in 1991 and once more in 1996. Bowlen’s Broncos broke that barrier in 1997-98 with 16, then 17 victories and two championships.
In the Manning Era, the Broncos won 13, 15, 12 and 15 with two Super Bowls and one title.
The Broncos haven’t produced a double-digit victory season since, but are probing for a comeback this year.
Sadly, Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen died 15 months ago Sunday.
Brittany Bowlen is The Chosen Kid. As Pat told me in 2009, Brittany had been the only child, as a teenager, to express interest in one day taking command. She has been selected by the Broncos’ trustees to follow in her dad’s boot steps.
Brittany, who rejoined the organization Dec. 2, is the franchise’s vice president of strategic initiatives, specializing in culture, diversity and inclusion until the COVID-19 crisis. Then, she became the executive in charge of setting up the stadium so Broncos fans could return at some point this season. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Ms. Bowlen announced Tuesday that an attendance of 5,700 will be permitted for the second home game — against the Bucs and Tom Brady on Sept. 27.
The Broncos invited 500 “family and friends” to test the health and safety protocols and improvements Monday night.
“We are not back to normal,’’ Brittany said at the media conference. Mile High “will look and feel very different. In addition to mask and social distancing requirements, seating will be done in small pods, and sections will be broken into groups.’’
On Sunday I asked Brittany to give her first public prediction for the Broncos’ record.
Her text response was: “I think if I had a chance to answer this question, I would reference my father’s tradition — 19-0, of course, in honor of his legacy.’’ Then she added: “We’ll make it fun and interesting, hopefully.’’
Since the NFL was founded in 1920, only one team has played an immaculate regular- and postseason. The 1972 Dolphins were 17-0.
Hello again, Denver. I’m back. Now, where was I? This will be the 47th season I’ve made a prediction and written columns about the Broncos’ opening game for four Colorado newspapers — the late Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette and, beginning Monday, the new digital daily Denver Gazette.
The Broncos definitely will defeat the Titans 27-24 (on a late Brandon McManus field goal) because this franchise is 38-8 (83 percent) in home openers since I arrived in town in ‘74 and 17 of 19 in the 2000s.
Bluntly, the devastating injury to Von Miller was a rally-decimater that will be improbable to overcome for a playoff slot. In the worst-case consequence the Broncos could fail in six of seven before their bye. However, if they prevail in four or five early, including an unheard-of upset at home over the Chiefs, the Broncos should have an optimistic opportunity in seven of the last nine.
Realistically, after they trip the light fandango vs. the Titans, the Broncos will lose in Pittsburgh and home to the Bucs, jettison the Jets, flop in New England, flip against the Dolphins and be dominated by the Chiefs. Following an off week, the Broncos will win in Atlanta, collapse in their inaugural trip to Las Vegas, beat the Chargers, wane vs. the Saints, flunk in Kansas City, crush the Panthers and the Bills, be vanquished by the Chargers in the new stadium in Los Angeles and close with a rout over the Raiders.
But miracles happen.
Ask the Nuggets.
And perhaps Brittany Bowlen is a prophet.