Roger Goodell: NFL is better because of Pat Bowlen

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen died Thursday at age 75 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

Bowlen, who bought the Denver franchise with his siblings in 1984, helped the Broncos become one of the winningest teams in NFL history, earning three Super Bowl trophies, and will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the 2019 class this August in Canton.

Friday morning, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell led a cacophony of praise for Bowlen's extraordinary life and the influence he had on the league and beyond:

"Pat was driven by the will to succeed and his competitive spirit made him a great leader. We all will greatly miss him and his kindness, passion and wisdom," Goodell said in a statement.

"Pat had a deep love for the game of football, the Broncos and the City of Denver. In the 35 years he owned the Broncos, he helped deliver a remarkable 21 winning seasons and seven Super Bowl appearances, including three titles.

"Our league is also better because of Pat's extraordinary contributions. As co-chair of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee and the chair of the NFL Broadcasting Committee, Pat played an instrumental role in many facets of our League that benefited fans, players and clubs.

"Pat personified all that's right about the NFL and is extremely deserving of this summer's recognition as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"We send our deepest condolences to Annabel, the Bowlen family and Broncos' fans in Denver and around the world."

NFL owners, teams and players mourn the loss of longtime Broncos owner Pat Bowlen:

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones:

"This is a sad day for all of the people whose lives were touched by Pat Bowlen. It's a sad day for football and for the NFL.

"From the day I became involved in professional football, Pat's influence inspired me. He loved the League, and he loved the game, and he cared deeply for the future of the NFL. I immediately felt a kindred spirit -- a brotherhood. I had great respect for his passion and enjoyed working side-by-side with him. He recruited me to be a part of a group of owners who were instrumental in selecting a dark-horse candidate for Commissioner in 1989 -- Paul Tagliabue. It was something he felt was critical for the future success of the League, and he was right.

"Pat was always thinking about the long-term success and stability of the NFL as a whole, and we often shared contrarian views that didn't always align with the conventional thinking of our peers. My favorite Pat Bowlen memory is of the two of us kicking each other under the table with excitement, like a couple of school kids, as we were finalizing the television agreement that brought Rupert Murdoch and FOX into the NFL as a broadcast partner in 1993. It has always stuck in my mind as a testament to his vision for doing what was right for the immediate and long-term future of our League. It wasn't a popular decision at the time, but it was the right one.

"His leadership of the Broncos and his dedication to the entire League will serve as a template of excellence in sports ownership that will be emulated and admired for years to come. And that's a wonderful legacy.

"Our thoughts and support go out to his family and also to football fans all over the country who have benefited from his wisdom and his love for our game."

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue:

"Pat Bowlen and I spent a great deal of time together during my 17 years as Commissioner. He volunteered on more than a dozen League Committees so we often had meetings in our New York office during the day and then enjoyed dinner conversation at night revolving around our families and his love for the Broncos, their fans and their players Pat was an extraordinary leader and open-minded consensus builder. I have long considered Pat one of the top five NFL owners in League history. My wife Chan and I extend our sincere condolences to Annabel and the entire Bowlen family."

New Orleans Saints Owner Gayle Benson:

"My thoughts and prayers go out to Annabel and the entire Bowlen family following Pat Bowlen's passing last night. Pat Bowlen purchased the Broncos shortly before my late husband Tom bought the Saints and like him, played a pivotal role in the success of his team and also benefited his community through philanthropy. Not only was he a great steward of his franchise and leader in the city, but Pat also made significant contributions to our game at a league level. The leadership role he played in the areas of broadcasting, international growth, and labor relations helped produce results that have continued to grow our league's popularity worldwide."

Falcons owner Arthur Blank:

"Pat's legacy and impact on the Broncos and the community of Denver will not only be remembered for his team's success on the field, but for the lives he has touched along the way. His contributions to the game of football will be immortalized with his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame as Pat led the Broncos organization and created one of the most sought-after cultures in sports, while becoming one of the staple franchises in the NFL. On behalf of the Atlanta Falcons organization and my family, our condolences go out to his wife Annabel, the entire Bowlen family, and the Broncos organization."