What ‘winning the right way’ means to Broncos’ new owners

Aug 10, 2022, 4:24 PM | Updated: 4:35 pm

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Winning is at the core of what Rob Walton, Greg Penner, Carrie Walton Penner, Mellody Hobson, Condoleezza Rice and Lewis Hamilton want to do with the Broncos.

But perhaps the first initial impression they have made is on how they want to win.

“One thing I know is they’re all about winning, and they want to win the right way,” general manager George Paton said on July 26, one day before training camp began.

Outgoing Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis reiterated that sentiment when he introduced the new owners Wednesday, saying, “They care about winning, and winning the right way.”

OK, sounds good.

But what does that mean?

“Winning the right way starts with values,” said Greg Penner, the incoming CEO.

And for the group, that starts with the workplace itself.

“We’re committed fully to making sure that the Denver Broncos is the best team to play for, to work for and to cheer for,” Carrie Walton Penner said.

Added Greg Penner: “It goes from everything from how our culture is. As Carrie said, we want this to be a great place to work, we want our players to come here and feel like they’re supported, that this is a great place to play, grow as individuals. Those types of characteristics are really important to us, so, that’s where we start from.”

In other words, for the players, it sounds a lot like what Pat Bowlen espoused — especially with the impression he made in his first years on the job.

While Bowlen sat back and listened, he took a “whatever-it-takes” mentality to giving his players a functional work environment tailored to success. Unlike some NFL organizations of the day, Denver was not a place where coaches had to fight tooth and nail for new tackling dummies and an extra bench in the weigh room.

As Bowlen said early in his ownership, “Basically, they want to be treated like human beings, not like … pieces of equipment. That’s as much a part of it as the money they’re getting paid.”

But organizations are far larger than they were 38 years ago, when Bowlen bought the Broncos. In 1984, the Broncos’ staff had 51 people working below Bowlen.

Today, the Broncos’ website lists 284 names below the new CEO.

And while a singular quarterback can point a team in the direction of glory, organizations win championships. Culture ties together those organizations, and making people feel a part of success.

When the Broncos played in Super Bowl 50, the organization chartered planes to ferry the entire staff — with plus-ones for all — to the San Francisco Bay Area for three nights, the big game and the after-party. Then, every full-time staff member received a Super Bowl ring.

The Broncos weren’t and aren’t a perfect organization — none are, to be fair — but they got that right.

“We believe that a winning team and organization requires the right people, high expectations, the necessary resources and then accountability,” Greg Penner said. “We’re committed to that, and we’re going to draw on this diverse ownership group to succeed.”

The first full day of almost anything should always be one of optimism, boundless good feelings and warm smiles. This was no different. “A milestone day in all of our lives,” Rob Walton called it.

Soon, it will be time to get to work. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun. And to some degree, a holistic work environment of the 2020s should have some of that.

“Most of all, we’re just really looking forward to all having fun together with this,” Greg Penner said. “Obviously, this is a business, but this is a sports franchise and we want to win, and that’s our goal. And part of that is having a lot of fun with this family and with this group while we do that.”

And there is nothing more fun in sports than winning — and winning big.

If the Broncos can do that — and do so in a dignified manner that brings pride to its fan base, its city and the entire region while taking care of the people who make it possible — these new stewards can become as beloved to its supporters as Bowlen was.


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