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Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen stepping back

Owner Pat Bowlen is resigning control of the Denver Broncos, acknowledging that he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Team president Joe Ellis will assume control of the organization, as Bowlen concentrates on his health.

"The Broncos are very saddened that Mr. Bowlen is no longer able to be part of the team's daily operations due to his condition," the team said in a statement. "We continue to offer our full support, compassion and respect to 'Mr. B,' who has faced Alzheimer's disease with such dignity and strength."

Bowlen, 70, has no intention of selling the team. He created the Pat Bowlen Trust a decade ago to ensure that ownership of the Broncos will remain in his family. The hope is that one of his seven children will eventually take over.

"This is a sad day for the NFL," Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Pat Bowlen's leadership has been critical to the success of the Broncos and the entire NFL. From building a championship team that is a pillar of the community to his important work for the league on television and labor matters, Pat's love of the game drove him and we have all benefited from his passion and wisdom. But the time has come for Pat to focus on his health and we fully support him. Joe Ellis has been a trusted executive for Pat for many years after working with us at the league office. Joe's deep experience ensures that the Broncos will continue to have strong leadership."

Bowlen has been one of the most iconic figures in Colorado sports history.

Since Bowlen purchased the team and saved it from bankruptcy in 1984, the Broncos have gone to the Super Bowl in six of 16 playoff appearances, highlighted by back-to-back Lombardi Trophies in 1997 and 1998.

Bowlen's importance to the NFL, and Denver in particular, cannot be overstated. He brought stability to a franchise on the brink of disaster. Since taking ownership, the Broncos have posted 90 or more wins in three consecutive decades while managing the fewest losing seasons (five) in the league over that stretch.

Although this is a sad day for the Broncos community, Bowlen has ensured that day-to-day operations will remain in steady hands thanks to general manager and executive VP of Football Operations, John Elway.

The two men are inextricably linked in NFL history. The organization's greatest success came with Elway running the offense and Bowlen handling the business aspects. Now the Broncos stand as the AFC's powerhouse, with Elway pulling the strings of the football operation and Ellis stepping in for Bowlen.

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