ORLANDO, Fla. -- When Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen formally announced he had promoted Joe Ellis to team president and hired John Elway as the team’s chief football decision-maker in early 2012, most with the team said it was a sign Bowlen intended to step out of the public eye.
And though Bowlen still works from his office at the team’s complex when he is in Denver, he has a far lower profile than he once did in three decades worth, and counting, of ownership. When the team's officials arrived in Florida on Sunday for the league meetings, Bowlen was not with them.
Bowlen has been a fixture at the annual meetings, especially in his time on the broadcast committee when some of the most lucrative televisions contracts in league history were negotiated, so his absence was noted as team executives from across the league gathered in Florida. Ellis will represent Bowlen at the meetings and in any votes, including the "owner plus one" sessions that included the team owner and one other high-ranking team official. Elway will attend most of the sessions as well.
Bowlen has been in Hawaii in recent weeks. Elway joked after the Broncos’ aggressive work in free agency, he may have some explaining to do when the owner returned to Denver.
"But the environment Pat Bowlen creates, his approach and belief that he wants to compete for the world championship every year, that’s a big reason people want to play for the Denver Broncos," Elway said. "We all have a very clear expectation here that he wants to win, to do it the right way."
Since Bowlen largely turned over the business side of the franchise to Ellis and the football side to Elway, the Broncos have gone 34-14 with three consecutive AFC West titles to go with this past February’s Super Bowl appearance, even as they kept their financial house in order against the salary cap.
Elway recently signed a contract extension that takes him through the 2017 season and Ellis said Elway had demonstrated "great vision and leadership" on the job. With a favorable salary cap position and enough cash flow to get the job done, the Broncos were one of the most aggressive teams in the hours after free agency opened.
Coach John Fox has formally entered the last year of his contract with the start of the new league year and the Broncos have discussed an extension with Fox’s agent Bob LaMonte in recent weeks, including a face-to-face meeting at the league's scouting combine in February in Indianapolis. Elway has repeatedly said he expected to get a deal done.
Elway has said of Fox: "He's done a nice job, I think you look at three AFC West championships, there's a lot to that, but there's also a lot to the expectations of we've got to continue what we're doing."