Last week was a whirlwind for the Denver Broncos and their fans that culminated with news breaking on Wednesday that they agreed to terms with now former Minnesota Vikings Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Player Personnel, George Paton, as their new General Manager.
From there on, we’ve been learning about the man who will now be running the team for the next six years. Paton will be officially introduced next Tuesday, but current Vikings General Manager, Rick Spielman, met with the Denver media earlier this week to talk about Paton, with whom he has worked directly with for the last decade.
You can watch the interview in its entirety on the Broncos official team website, but I’ll break down the key quotes about George Paton from Spielman’s comments here.
“It had to be a very special place, and I think Denver presented everything that he was looking for to leave here—not only from the business side and the football side, but also from the family side as well.”
This is huge to me, because everywhere I read before the Broncos officially began scheduling interviews for their General Manager position had Denver’s job rated at or very near the bottom of the openings available for GM. As it turned out, they quickly identified their top candidate - who had options elsewhere - and ultimately got the hire in place. That would suggest Denver’s situation isn’t as bad as people in the national media assume.
“I remember that’s how I was brought up through this business, and I know we get in here early, and I taught him and that’s what I was taught—you don’t leave till the coaches leave. Then the offseason it even gets busier, but that’s what makes George incredibly unique is his work ethic. What do you want to call it—a ‘grinder’. I know how much film that we’ve watched together. Out of all the years we’ve been together, probably the thing that will stick out to me the most was last year when me and him—when the pandemic hit—and me and George moved into a hotel together for 30 days and got up, and that’s all we did.”
In the NFL, from the top level to the practice squad, you succeed in this league by outworking your opponents. Paton sounds like a guy who loves the process and works his ass off to get the best players on his rosters. That’s exactly what we as fans should hope for from a General Manager.
“I know he has a specific plan on what he needs to get accomplished when he gets there and he gets going. I know free agency, the draft, understanding the roster—I don’t want to speak for him, but he’ll have a plan in place on what needs to be done and what needs to come to the forefront. The number one thing is always the personnel, that’s the lifeline of our organization, especially in the draft in. We’ve always been big believers in building our rosters through the draft.”
This might be the most telling quote of them all. With the salary cap the way it is, the best teams draft really well. You’ll always have to pay your best players, but if you are drafting well then you have a well-rounded roster that is cap-friendly. The Vikings have drafted pretty well under Spielman and that is something we’ll hope to see from Paton as the Broncos GM.
“My philosophy has always been to be very active trading up and down on draft day accumulating (draft picks). I think last year we ended up with 15 draft picks and he was a critical part of leading those trades.”
I freaking love this! John Elway has done a decent job on draft day trades, but hasn’t really done much to accumulate future draft picks. The Vikings have had two first round picks in 2012, 2014, and 2020 and even had three first round picks in 2013. The last time they ended up with no first rounders was in 2017 and that was when they picked up Dalvin Cook in the second round. Paton has been around a team that knows how to work trades for maximum draft capital.
“I think he is an outside the box thinker. Are there ways where we can create competitive advantages? Let’s look at analytics because I think our analytics department has done an incredible job. That’s part of our process of how we draft now.”
The NFL is evolving fast. I think that is something most of us fans understand and a lot of that evolution can be identified through analytics. Over Elway’s decade of running the team, I don’t think they really strayed too far ahead of the NFL evolution curve. They were by no means analytics ignorant, but I feel they were far too conservative at times sticking with where the trends were heading. Perhaps Paton’s addition will help Denver charge ahead in that area.
I stayed away from making any snap judgements on the hiring of Paton thus far. I was pulling for a guy like Champ Kelly, so at first I was a bit disappointed. However, the more I learn about Paton the more comfortable and excited I am for the Denver Broncos heading into this 2021 offseason.
How do you feel about the Broncos hiring of George Paton now that you’ve had a few days to process?