BRONCOS

The Broncos head coach hire is George Paton’s “Death Star shot”

Jan 21, 2022, 6:54 AM
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 26: Denver Broncos general manager George Paton stands at field level befo...
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos wrap up the first round of head coaching interviews on Friday. When their interview with Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is completed, they will have talked to 10 men about the opportunity of being their new head coach.

Broncos general manager George Paton has an eye for talent. A former scout, Paton now uses that eye for talent not for players, but for a head coach who can help him get this team back on track.

This is the most-important offseason in Broncos history. Not only do they need to find the right head coach, but they also finally need to address the quarterback position the right way. However, they must take one thing at a time and the decision on the head coach is likely to happen in the next week or so.

I believe this decision could be Paton’s one and only hire at the position – for multiple reasons. If he gets this right, then things will be trending up for the Broncos with championship success. If he gets this decision wrong, not only will the head coach be fired in a few years, but Paton will likely be replaced, as well.

This head coaching hire is Paton’s “Death Star” shot. Let’s examine why.

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One and Done

Paton may not get another chance to hire a head coach. He’s admitted that part of the reason why he came to Denver was former head coach Vic Fangio. That alarmed some people, but I believe Paton knew that Fangio could be replaced after one year if things weren’t good enough. Well, here we are in January of 2022 and the Broncos are searching for a new head coach – to the surprise of no one, including Paton.

In the NFL, general managers get to pick their head coaches most of the time. That wasn’t the case for Paton in 2021, as he was hired with a head coach in place. To make things more complicated, Fangio was part of the group that helped decide Paton would be the correct choice for the job. Paton did Fangio a solid by giving him most everything he needed to succeed, but that move only cost him a year off his contract. Now, Paton has five years remaining to turn things around – and that’s if he makes it to the end of his deal.

Most head coaches are going to be signing four- to five-year contracts with their teams. That means Paton’s contract is likely to be directly tied to whatever deal the new head coach gets. Effectively, Paton’s job will be joined by the job the head coach does. Paton waited years for the right general manager job to come around, and he needs to get the right head coach and succeed, or he could be one-and-done with the Broncos.

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Go With Your Guy

There is no doubt that Dan Quinn is the frontrunner for the Broncos head-coaching position. The Cowboys defensive coordinator has five of the eight teams who have head coaching vacancies interested, but the Broncos have something those other teams don’t have – George Paton.

Quinn and Paton have been friends for a long time. They were co-workers years ago with the Dolphins, and they could work together once again in the Mile High City. When Quinn was with the Falcons as their head coach, he wanted Paton to get hired when their general manager job came open. Paton didn’t feel it was the right opportunity, and now the shoe is on the other foot.

Paton is the one looking to hire Quinn, and this could be finally something they bring to fruition. In the NFL, especially in coaching circles, it comes down to who you can trust. Paton trusts Quinn and vice versa, so they can be on the same page when it comes to the plan and the philosophy needed to turn the Broncos around.

There’s such a thing as “going with your gut” but this instance it would be “going with your guy.” Clearly, the two respect each other and the desire to work together again has been there for years. We could see Quinn hired as the new head coach of the Broncos soon.

***

Prepare to Be “Wowed”

Paton may have had an idea of who he wanted before this search began, but he’s got to be prepared to be “wowed” by someone he may not have expected. Going through 10 interviews gives Paton several different paths to go down. He may know what he wants in a new head coach, but he also needs to be open minded when it comes to new ideas or different philosophies.

Quinn may be the leader in the clubhouse, so to speak, but if one of these other coaches impresses Paton enough, he should strongly consider that candidate. This is what happened years ago with the Steelers. That’s a team that has had only three head coaches in over 50 years. They clearly do something right when it comes to finding the right coach for the team they are and the continued philosophies they have as a franchise.

When legendary coach Bill Cowher was stepping down, many around the Steelers expected them to hire offensive line coach Russ Grimm. The Hall of Fame offensive lineman played for the Steelers and was seen as the perfect candidate to continue the “Steelers Way.” The Rooney family, and team president Art Rooney, were “wowed” by someone else and decided to go in a different direction.

That person was Mike Tomlin. He’s one of the best in the NFL, and Tomlin is still the coach of the Steelers to this day (from 2007 to now). The Steelers could’ve continued with Grimm, and he would have been a fine coach – but they wanted something more. Tomlin, then the defensive coordinator of the Vikings, impressed them so much in the interview process that they gave him the job. I want Paton to have that same vision, just in case one of these other guys not named Quinn “wows” him in the interview process.

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New Owner Needs Results

In addition to all the changes that will happen this year to the coaching staff and the quarterback position, the Broncos are likely to be sold in the spring which should be finalized and approved by the fall. That means a new owner will be in place, and that person may have a different idea of how things should run with their new shiny $4 billion toy.

Paton has five years remaining, but that could be cut short at any time if a new owner deems it so. Even with millions remaining on his deal, a billionaire owner isn’t really going to be concerned by that price tag if things are headed in the right direction.

I believe in Paton and his ability as a general manager. However, a new owner may not like the head coach he picks and choose to get rid of both in a year or two. It’s important that the coach Paton hires gets results quickly to squelch any concern a team owner may have.

The pressure is on Paton to get this right. The team is downtrodden like never before in the last 40-plus years. It’s up to Paton to put this team back on the championship track. This is not Minnesota, and Broncos fans won’t be as content with mediocrity the way Vikings fans are. Paton needs to make sure that he goes with the right head coach to put the team back in the Super Bowl picture – and put his job in good hands.

Paton needs to channel his inner Luke Skywalker and stay on target with his “Death Star” shot.

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The Broncos head coach hire is George Paton’s “Death Star shot”