ENGLEWOOD — Hold on to your Randy Gradishar throwbacks. The Denver Broncos on Monday dropped a bombshell that would be felt from their Salida strongholds to Steamboat Springs.

If the Bowlen kids can't all get along and squash their differences, a new sign will be erected in front of the Broncos headquarters that bears their late father’s name: For Sale.


"(Selling) is an option," president and CEO Joe Ellis said Monday. "And we've told the beneficiaries of that."

It’s cool beans that general manager/president of football operations John Elway all but anointed Drew Lock the starting quarterback for the 2020 season eight months before the first game. And coach Vic Fangio’s honest appraisal of a flawed roster should bring some much-needed self-evaluation as the Broncos enter the offseason with loads of salary cap room and as many as 12 draft picks.

Are the playoffs next season a realistic goal?

“Yes,” Elway said without hesitation.

"If we win enough games," Fangio hedged.

But the “Game of Thrones” drama that’s boiling behind the scenes figures to shape the franchise long after 2020. While it looks to me like 29-year-old Brittany Bowlen shows all the attributes that Pat Bowlen sought in his eventual successor, too many of her siblings carry a conflicting view. Three separate lawsuits say so.

Jan. 13, 2020, marks six months since Pat Bowlen passed away after a lengthy, awful battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The bickering hasn’t stopped. It's gained volume.

“I think he’d be disappointed by what he sees right now,” Ellis said.

As someone who went through a falling out with his wonderful sister, I can speak to sibling rivalry. Life’s too short to hold a grudge, folks. It’s just not worth it. Christmas eggnog tastes so much better when you can pour a second round into your sister’s Santa Claus mug.

It’s different, apparently, when a football franchise worth an estimated $3 billion (seems low) by Forbes is the subject of the discord. (Sorry, can’t relate to that.) But can’t the Broncos move forward with The Brittany Plan even without the entire family’s approval?

Sure, Ellis said. But they won’t. This level of acrimony is unsustainable, he said.

“If Brittany were to succeed and take over for her father, everybody else is going to have to sign off on that, most likely,” Ellis said. “That may not be a requirement, but it’s going to be necessary from a (trustee's) view. That’s why a sale remains a possibility, given the circumstances we’re in.”

Acknowledging publicly the team could go up for sale was a first for Ellis, who's sick and tired of all the family matters. Don’t blame him. As The Gazette’s Woody Paige first reported, Brittany Bowlen rejoined the Broncos front office in early December with the title of vice president of strategic initiatives. (She married in November but kept her family's surname, ensuring the Bowlen name would stay attached to the team in the Brittany era.) Handling that gig has been no big deal to the Notre Dame and Duke graduate. But that’s just one job. The other — bringing the family together in order to avoid a sale — is the real challenge these days.

“She’s got a really good future ahead of her, whether she succeeds her father or not,” Ellis said.

Not so convincing, right?

Oh, yeah. The football part of Black Monday: Fangio said all three coordinators will return in 2020; Elway suggested Justin Simmons and Phillip Lindsay are in line for contract extensions, while a Chris Harris Jr. return is possible only if it fits their budget; and the team is lobbying for a Broncos-Falcons game at London's Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2020.

And for the first time since Peyton Manning returned for what became the Super Bowl 50 season, the Broncos know their starting QB.

"We've bounced off the bottom and now we're headed up," Elway said. 

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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