The Broncos’ conundrum of controlling owner, trustees, CEO, president of football operations, head coach, coordinators, quarterbacks and a dozen unrestricted veteran free agents will be besieged by convoluted timing complications in 2022.
With general manager George Paton betwixt and between.
The Broncos’ saddles are blazing.
Unless the Broncos, who have lost 52 of their past 82 games (36.4 winning percentage), turn around this season, there will be no peace in Dove Valley, and a new cast of characters will occupy the franchise’s headquarters.
The list of those who will or could be gone by next July includes Joe Ellis, John Elway, Rich Slivka, Mary Kelly, Brittany Bowlen, Vic Fangio, Pat Shurmur, Mike Shula, Ed Donatell, Tom McMahon, Von Miller, Teddy Bridgewater, Melvin Gordon, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller, Kareem Jackson, Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewel, Bobby Massie, Eric Saubert and Shamar Stephen. Another 10 assistant coaches and a dozen more players also may not return.
Paton would seem safe because he signed a six-year contract.
Twelve current or injured starters and 18 backups appear to be secure. Drew Lock has one more year remaining on his original four-year deal, but he isn’t certain to play in Denver in ’22.
After losing four games in a row, and with a minimum of seven more difficult games on the schedule (Chiefs and Chargers each twice, Raiders, Cowboys and Bengals), the unsatisfactory AFC West last place Broncos could lose their four on the road and more.
Comprehensive changes are coming.
Ellis acknowledged July 27 in a pre-camp meeting with the media that he will be retiring in late March, although he will stay during the transition to new ownership. The chief executive officer-president said he “won’t be the controlling owner by sometime in the spring or early summer. I can’t put an exact deadline on (ownership). But, believe me, we need to get it resolved.’’
The options are Brittany Bowlen as controlling owner for the Pat Bowlen family and possible minority shareholders (with John Bowlen, or the franchise will be acquired in bidding by outside interests, including one owner that must, by NFL rules, own at least 30 percent. In that case, Peyton Manning and/or John Elway could become minority partners with a group from this state or someone such as Larry Ellison, who was co-founder of the Oracle software corporation and is worth approximately $100 billion. Oracle has three offices in Colorado with 3,500 employees.
The sportsman (whose team won sailboat-racing’s America’s Cup) has tried in vain to buy the 49ers and three NBA franchises, but then purchased the private Hawaiian island Lanai for $300 million. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Robert Smith -- who lived across the street from City Park as a kid, graduated from East High School, owns a ranch in Colorado and would be the NFL’s first majority African American franchise owner – are other candidates.
Manning and Elway are intricately connected to wealthy neighbors in Cherry Hills, the country’s fourth-most affluent area.
Forbes Magazine claims the Broncos’ franchise is worth $3.75 billion, although a team executive told me that value is rather high. The Bowlen family paid $78 million for majority ownership in 1984. The Panthers were the last NFL team sold in 2018 for $2.2 billion.
The timing for new Broncos’ ownership creates significant problems, even if Brittany Bowlen ends up as the managing partner, and especially if the Broncos are out of the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.
The regular season will conclude Jan. 9, but the firing and hiring period for head coaches begins before then.
Could the lame duck Ellis and Elway, whose contract expires in 2022, and Payton consider dismissing Fangio – with one year left on his contract (at about $5 million) – months before new ownership has been approved by the league, and they couldn’t choose a replacement during the prime period.
Brittany, senior vice president of strategy, has an excellent relationship with Paton, but her expertise and experience on the football side of the organization is limited. Would Bowlen, before actually being in place as the controlling owner, support the selection of a new coach and name a president of football operations if Elway departs?
Can the current executive team make decisions on free agents March 6th, 2022, and the draft April 28th without an owner? Could Payton trade for Aaron Rodgers when new ownership, including perhaps Peyton, isn’t finalized until summer?
The Broncos soon could be trapped in a time warp.