During yesterday’s press conference where the Denver Broncos announced the firing of Nathaniel Hackett, we learned about some changes in the power structure within the organization. Owner/CEO Greg Penner will take a more hands-on role with the team while it appears that GM George Paton will be losing some power.
One big indication of this power shift is that the new coach, whoever that might be, will report directly to Penner, and not to General Manager George Paton which is what they were doing previously.
Penner: New coach will report to him. This will be new structure. Previously, Hackett reported to Paton. Now both report to CEO Penner. Which is more typical NFL structure, Penner said. #9sports— Mike Klis (@mikeklis) December 27, 2022
Penner says this is a more “typical structure” in the NFL and that despite the new coach reporting directly to Penner, Paton will still be intimately involved in the hiring process.
“The new head coach will report to me, which is a more typical structure in the NFL. Obviously, the relationship between the general manager and the head coach is a critical one. George is going to be intimately involved with this process of looking for a new head coach, and we will make sure that there’s a good fit there.”
This likely means a few things. One, the new coach will have more power than Hackett, Fangio, and others have had in the past, and two, Paton’s power is being stripped away a bit. They’re likely eyeing an experienced coach who can be trusted and have some say on the roster and what they do in free agency and the draft. Typically, Paton, who was the architect of the roster prior would report to the owner(or Joe Ellis) and build the roster that way. Now, the new coach, whoever that might be, will bypass Paton and report directly with Owner/CEO Greg Penner.
This is why I and others believe the Broncos are eyeing a coach like Jim Harbaugh who could fill all these roles perfectly.
Also, having Paton publicly take the blame for this disastrous season is not a great look for Paton. While it is true, it just came off weird and not something you see from a team that is confident in their General Manager.
“As I told the players yesterday, I take full responsibility for where we are as a football team. I brought in the head coach, and I brought in most of the players. Those are my decisions and there’s no one to blame of me. I just want to be clear: This isn’t just about the coaching. This isn’t just about Nathaniel. This is about the entire football operation. This is about the personnel, the players, the staff and everyone involved with our football team. It has to be better across the board. I have to be better, and we have a lot of work to do. As I told the players and our staff yesterday, we’re all being evaluated. Our record this year, and especially our performance on Sunday, is not what we’re about. Sunday’s game was unacceptable. It was embarrassing for everyone associated with this team. It’s nowhere close to our standard. While we played a number of close games and we’ve had our share of adversity and injuries, all that matters is winning. No one cares about the excuses and we’re not going to make them”
It really just seems like they are slowly phasing Paton out of the picture and that we could see him fired sometime after the draft. Especially if they hire a coach with some power like a Harbaugh or Payton. He could shift into more of a scouting role, which is something he has proven he is good at, but things are not looking good for Paton currently.
Another example of Penner taking the reins from Paton is the fact that he will be leading the upcoming coaching search. The other owners will be involved, as will Paton, but it sounds like he will be the head man in that group.
Penner was asked what qualities he will be looking for in a coach and how his corporate experience will help in the search. He told reporters it all starts with leadership.
“I’ve worked with a lot of great CEOs, and it starts with really strong leadership. That’s going to be the most critical factor here in a head coach. Obviously, the X’s and O’s are important, but we need a strong leader for this organization that’s focused on winning. That starts with culture. It’s instilling a sense of accountability and discipline. We need an identity on offense. At the starting point, it has to be about culture and leadership. Those characteristics are what we’ll be focused on the most.”
The lack of leadership was evident with Hackett who lost control of his team at times this season. Also, Penner states culture is important and that the new coach needs to install “a sense of accountability and discipline” as well. All of this is lacking and has been lacking recently and is part of the reason why the Broncos have been a losing franchise these past seven seasons.
With Penner now running this circus, it will be interesting to see how everything plays out. I think they will try to flex their financial muscle and try to make a splash hire. The Jim Harbaugh smoke is out there and I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard more rumors about him and others come out in the coming days.