In the Broncos’ Bizarro World, up popped The Odd Couple of Johnny Bowlen and Vance Joseph.
“The Blood of the City’’ and “The Leader of Men,’’ who each are collecting considerable funds from the franchise for doing nothing and causing trouble, posed for a curious late-night Instagram video in downtown Denver recently. They looked rather glassy-eyed (euphemism) as they joked:
“Hey, coach, who are the gangstas?’’ Bowlen said with his arm draped around Joseph inside what has been described as a club. Strip club.
“You are,’’ Joseph said while flashing a grin and an odd two-finger sign.
“Nah, you are. Tell them the truth.’’
“You are. Mike Tomlin and all of us know.’’
“You are,’’ Joseph replied
“You are. Nothing but the truth.’’
You are ignoramuses, Johnny Be Bad and Vance Be Gone.
If only Pat Bowlen, who will be voted into prestigious Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 2, was aware, he would be so disgusted that his son, ostracized from the Broncos, and the ex-head coach, who was a complete failure, had disgraced themselves (again), the organization, the Bowlen family and all fans and followers of the once-proud and championship franchise.
The Cardinals must not be elated about their new 47-year-old juvenile-acting defensive coordinator, and courts in Colorado and California must not be gratified that they ordered lenient two- and three-year probations for the 32-year-old scoundrel in serious separate domestic abuse and DWI (100 mph) cases.
Just think: Johnny Bowlen, with his “Get Out of Jail Free’’ card, once was a candidate to become the Broncos’ principal owner. And Joseph, poster coach for “The Peter Principle,’’ sincerely believed he should return in 2019.
At about the same time, on his “SuperBowlen’’ Instagram account, in which he called himself “Mayor of (crude word) City,’’ Bowlen, who years ago, full disclosure, wanted to intern with me, went on an outrageous outburst against new Broncos’ coach Vic Fangio, GM John Elway and President Joe Ellis.
What a pair to draw to?
But, then, the Bowlen Family Feud profoundly affects the franchise and its future off and on the field, and the reputation of Pat the Patriarch, who is in a dark place in his life.
The elder Bowlen’s two brothers and a sister, and Bowlen’s two oldest daughters are in a prolonged antagonistic dispute in public, in a lawsuit and in the NFL office against Bowlen’s second wife, Annabel, and their three daughters and two sons, and the three feudal overlords of the Bowlen Trust.
Annabel Bowlen has announced she, too, has been stricken with the early stages of Alzheimer’s — as Johnny continues as the black sheep of the Orange family. Perhaps he belongs in the dungeon in an iron mask.
Meanwhile, Brittany Bowlen, soon to be 29, is the anointed one. Brittany is employed as an associate for the Denver office of McKinsey & Company, an international management consultant firm. Although her ascension was first reported months ago in The Gazette, Brittany said openly in October that she wants to succeed her father, Pat, who revealed to me during an interview in 2010 that he was suffering from “short-term memory loss’’ and that the young Brittany was his only child who had expressed interest in being the owner someday and was his first choice.
I’ve been told by a source on the inside that Brittany could rejoin (the Broncos) soon if the league requests, but it probably will be when she is 30, in an executive’s role. She would work in all areas for at least five years.
Stepsister Beth Bowlen Wallace has been rejected by the trustees as a possible controlling owner because, the trustees claimed, she “is not qualified’’ — a statement that touched off the Bowlen bad blood hostilities.
Pat tried to prevent the current strife-ridden situation when the Bowlen family trust was set up. His brother Bill, a minority partner until 1996 when he sold his share to Pat, filed a lawsuit against the trustees and basically stated that Pat wasn’t of clear mind, because of the advancing disease, when the trust contract was written and signed, and that the trustees — CEO Joe Ellis (60), general counsel Rich Slivka (73) and attorney Mary Kelly (64) — should be removed and replaced by a new board of directors. The trustees were granted a court delay and have requested that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell arbitrate.
Goodell, a strong Ellis advocate, most likely will be asked about the Broncos’ ownership mess at the state of the league address Wednesday in Atlanta.
This Bowlen battle is not the first the NFL experienced. All four AFC West franchises have passed from father to children, wives and grandchildren. Alex Spanos, who died in 2018 after publicly acknowledging he had dementia, passed the Chargers to his sons, and the franchise is headed by two grandsons.
The late Al Davis, longtime owner-general partner of the Raiders, once kicked son Mark out of the family house for serving as an agent for one of the Raiders, and never allowed him inside the team’s offices. But Mark and his mother are the Raiders’ owners, and Mark is moving the franchise to Las Vegas. He’s primarily known for a Three Stooges hairstyle.
When Lamar Hunt, owner of the Chiefs since their origin in Dallas in 1960, died, he left the ownership to his three sons and a daughter. The transition was smooth as the siblings agreed to name Clark Hunt the controlling owner.
But other ownership changes in family were poisoned by venomous relationships. Saints owner Tom Benson, who died last year, remarried late, to an interior decorator. After a public spat between a daughter and the wife, Benson removed all three daughters from his will. Despite protests and a settlement, 72-year-old Gayle Benson is the Saints’ sole owner and a billionaire.
Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson fired his two sons and dumped them as potential owners. Richardson then was forced to sell the franchise because of his unbecoming conduct with employees.
Several other franchises endured rancor within the ranks of family members: 49ers, Bears, the Washington football club, the Dolphins and, most infamously, the Titans. Seven other franchises are owned by inheritors.
The Packers are owned by more than 360,000 shareholders.
No other football team has more ownership instability than the Broncos, and the franchise will be in flux for years.
And no other team has just been forced to tolerate the bizarre foolishness of Johnny B and Vance J.