The Denver Broncos' PR unit, which navigated a high-profile Super Bowl defeat and the exit of its longtime VP of corporate communications, has won the top annual award for NFL communications departments given by the Professional Football Writers of America.
Patrick Smyth is executive director of media relations for the AFC Champion Broncos, who saw the retirement of VP of corporate communications Jim Saccomano at the end of the 2013-14 season. Smyth, who joined the team out of college, was named to the top media post in 2010.
PFWA first VP Jeff Legwold covers the Broncos for ESPN.com said the team's PR department has operated with a "high degree of professionalism" through a gauntlet of communications issues – positive and negative -- over the past few years. “From the team’s anguish following cornerback Darrent Williams’ murder to the world-wide phenomenon that was Tim Tebow’s tenure in Denver to the hysteria of Peyton Manning and the Super Bowl trip in 2013," he said of the Pete Rozelle Award-winning staff. "There was Mike Shanahan’s firing, Josh McDaniels’ firing, Spygate II, John Elway’s return to the team and all of the games in between."
Rebecca Villanueva and Erich Schubert round out the Broncos' PR staff as media services manager and media relations manager, along with interns Christian Edwards and Liz Mannis.
The annual PR award is named after Rozelle, the longtime NFL commissioner who started out in PR with the Los Angeles Rams in the 1950s.
Super Bowl-winning coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks was given PFWA's annual Jack Horrigan Award for cooperation with the media by a a football executive or coach. Seahawks beat writer Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune praised Carroll's accessibility and articulation, as well as a "rare grasp of the emotional side of stories." Boling added that the coach is "not up there just firing off superficial answes, but actually engaged in the process."
Longtime Pittsburgh Post-Gazette scribe Ed Bouchette was honored by PFWA for his lifetime contribution to football through writing, while Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson took the group's Good Guy Award for 2014.