Bowlen, Brandt named HOF contributor finalists

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and former Cowboys personnel maven Gil Brandt are one step closer to joining the NFL's ultimate pantheon.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Thursday that Bowlen and Brandt have been nominated as contributor finalists for the Class of 2019. The contributor category recognizes "individuals who made outstanding contributions to professional football in capacities other than playing or coaching."

Recent inductees as contributors include longtime general manager Bobby Beathard, current Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr.

Bowlen and Brandt join former Chiefs safety Johnny Robinson, who was recently selected as a senior finalist. The Hall of Fame's full selection committee will vote on that trio -- along with 15 modern-era finalists -- on Feb. 2 at the Super Bowl festivities in Atlanta. Each candidate must receive 80 percent of the committee's votes in order to be inducted.

The nominations of Bowlen and Brandt are part of a recent push by the NFL to recognize more contributors such as longtime scouts, general managers, personnel executives and owners. Before the bylaws changed four years ago, contributors were voted in the same class as modern-era players.

Since purchasing the Broncos in 1984, Bowlen has been one of the NFL's most accomplished owners. Over that 34-year span, Denver boasts the league's best home winning percentage (.721) and the second-best percentage overall (.603). Bowlen is the only owner ever to achieve 300 victories during his first 30 seasons. Robert Kraft of the Patriots is the sole owner in NFL history with more Super Bowl appearances (nine) than Bowlen's seven.

Perhaps most telling, the Broncos are the lone NFL organization to avoid back-to-back losing seasons during Bowlen's four decades overseeing the operation.

A battle with Alzheimer's disease forced him to cede day-to-day control to CEO Joe Ellis in July of 2014. A year later, Bowlen was unanimously elected as the 28th member of the Broncos Ring of Fame, which he founded upon acquiring the team.

"We're absolutely thrilled for Pat and the entire Bowlen family," Ellis said in a statement. "There's no question that Pat elevated the NFL, the Broncos and our region over the last three decades. He's always had such modesty and humility, but he's incredibly deserving of this selection and we appreciate the contributor committee nominating him. It's very special to see Pat take such a significant step toward the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

One of pro football's original "draftniks," Brandt obsessed over NFL prospects as a student at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1950s. He would eventually spring forth from the same storied Los Angeles Rams scouting tree that produced legendary NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and original Dallas Cowboys president Tex Schramm.

Installed as Schramm's personnel director, Brandt and longtime head coach Tom Landry transformed the Cowboys from an expansion outfit to a long-running NFC dynasty. Bringing the scouting profession out of primitive times, Brandt not only developed an extensive network of informants among the college ranks but also pioneered the use of computers to refine the process. Along the way, he also popularized the use of psychologic tests, initiated the search for prospects outside of the United States and Canada and searched for potential football stars in other sports.

As the architect of a franchise that generated five Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl titles during his 29 years, Brandt's fingerprints all over the Cowboys' iconic "America's Team" moniker that caught on with even casual fans by the late 1970s. During the height of his success, Dallas registered an NFL-record 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-1985), earning 18 trips to the postseason in that two-decade stretch.

Nicknamed "The Godfather" out of deference to his reach, influence and stature in the NFL community, Brandt still keeps his hand in talent evaluation as an analyst, writer and eminence grise for NFL.com.

"He progressed NFL scouting in so many ways," venerable scouting veteran C.O. Brocato told the Waco Tribune-Herald in 2015. "He was a tremendous director of scouting for the Cowboys for so long. He was always one of the top ones. At his age, he's still in a little bit of everything."