MERILATT MONDAY

George Paton deserves most of the blame for this year’s Broncos mess

Nov 14, 2022, 6:00 AM | Updated: 8:42 am
George Paton...
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

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For the most part, George Paton is highly regarded in Denver. The Broncos general manager gets high marks from most of the fan base, generally enjoys a free pass from the local media and even earned an award after last season from his peers.

He drafted Patrick Surtain, widely considered a top-five cornerback in the league. And he traded for Russell Wilson, a blockbuster move that was supposed to transform the franchise.

Paton is living off those two moves. He’s riding a very undeserved wave of good vibes.

A closer look at the GM’s resume reveals that he’s had way more misses than hits. And he’s potentially made moves that will set the franchise back for years to come.

Even his best decision is now questionable. Paton took Surtain over Justin Fields, the quarterback who is a weekly highlight reel for the Bears. As time goes on, it’s looking more and more likely that the general manager got that one wrong.

Not only is Fields a quarterback, a position that has way more impact than a cornerback, but he would’ve helped the Broncos avoid other moves. Had they drafted the QB, Denver wouldn’t have traded two first-round picks and two second-rounders to the Seahawks for Wilson. Nor would they have tied up $250 million in the veteran QB.

Fields, two ones, two twos and a boatload of money to spend on free agents, or Surtain and Wilson? The former looks better than the latter.

Which goes to the Wilson deal. Not only did Paton give up a haul – four draft picks, Drew Lock, Noah Fant and Shelby Harris – for the veteran, but he also inked him to a mega-contract before ever seeing him play a single down in orange and blue. The Broncos are now saddled with a quarterback who may very well be past his prime for the next five to seven seasons.

And those were Paton’s hits.

He also handpicked Nathaniel Hackett from a group of 10 candidates. The head coach is seemingly in way over his head, guiding a team that is 3-6 and leading an offense that is amongst the worst in the league.

How did Paton choose Hackett over Kevin O’Connell, who is 8-1 with the Vikings? How did his interview list not include Brian Daboll, who is 7-2 in his first first season with the Giants, and Mike McDaniel, who is 7-3 in his inaugural campaign with the Dolphins?

Those three first-year head coaches are a combined 22-6. There aren’t a lot of “newness” excuses being thrown around in Minnesota, New York or Miami.

Barring a miraculous turnaround, Hackett is likely one-and-done in Denver. He’s been a disaster.

It’s not all his fault. The head coach wasn’t given much guidance.

After all, his boss allowed him to hire a bunch of first-time coordinators, putting together an inexperienced staff. In part, that’s why the Broncos are the most-penalized team in the NFL, as they don’t pay attention to details.

Paton also signed off on the nonsense that was Hackett’s training camp and preseason plan. In an effort to keep players healthy, the head coach turned one-third of his practices into “jog throughs.” He also didn’t play most starters, including Wilson, during the exhibition games. It hasn’t kept his team healthy. And they were clearly unprepared for the season.

The general manager also didn’t force Hackett to make any changes during the bye. Despite their struggles, the three-win Broncos stuck with the “status quo” during the midseason break. Not surprisingly, their results on Sunday against the Titans were a carbon copy of their first eight games.

Paton’s personnel moves have been equally as questionable. He’s had a ton of misses.

The GM traded away the greatest defensive player in franchise history, sending Von Miller to the Rams for picks that have turned into Nik Bonitto, Luke Wattenberg and a third-round pick in 2023. That’s abysmal.

He also sent Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins last week, getting a first-round pick at the deadline for a linebacker he called a “core player” on Denver’s defense. What Denver does with the draft choice and the cap space will determine if that move is a win.

Here’s hoping they don’t use the money on the likes of Melvin Gordon. The Broncos brought back the running back this offseason, rather than turning the job over to Javonte Williams. It’s been a disaster, as Gordon has been a fumbling machine, including a Week 4 scoop-and-score against the Raiders that turned the tide of the season.

Paton also paid Randy Gregory in free agency, a player who missed more games during his career than he played prior to signing in Denver. After inking a five-year, $70-million deal, the edge rusher has played in four games and missed five this season for the Broncos.

That move didn’t hamstring the team, however. Denver still has the second-most cap space in the league right now.

Given that fact, it’s even more egregious that Paton didn’t do anything to fill the void at wide receiver when Tim Patrick was lost for the season during training camp. The Broncos are devoid of weapons. At times on Sunday, Wilson was throwing the ball to Kendall Hinton and Tyrie Cleveland.

They needed to add someone alongside Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. Paton decided to stand pat.

Add it all up and it’s not a very impressive resume. In fact, it’s pretty brutal.

The Broncos are a mess. Blame Hackett. Blame Wilson. But also blame George Paton.

He created this mess. It’s on him.

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George Paton deserves most of the blame for this year’s Broncos mess