Ever since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset, the Denver Broncos have struggled mightily to find an adequate replacement. Former GM John Elway wrestled with the problem long enough before he handed the quest for the signal-calling holy grail to the man he hired to replace him — George Paton.
During the draft process, Paton identified several potential quarterback prospects but most tellingly he decided to skip consecutive pro days including Alabama’s Mac Jones. Every GM is ultimately defined by whether he found ‘The Guy’, and given Jones' gutsy leadership skills he's shown off with the New England Patriots, Paton now runs the risk of being viewed in hindsight as having not done his due diligence on the former Crimson Tide national champion.
Paton did meet with Jones remotely (which was due to pandemic restrictions), but in retrospect, it would appear that the GM left a significant stone unturned twice by failing to get an in-person feel for the QB. It could be a decision Paton comes to regret, especially as he did meet with Justin Fields despite opting not to draft him.
It could be argued that Paton’s use of Denver's No. 9 overall pick was spot on because Patrick Surtain II has certainly lived up to his billing as a supremely gifted cover cornerback. As good as Surtain might become in the NFL, though, it’s safe to say that the majority of Broncos Country will pick at the open sore of what could have been with Jones, thanks to the team's continued inadequacies at the quarterback position.
Teddy Bridgewater managed to beat out incumbent Drew Lock in training camp. However, if Denver had drafted Jones, he would have been pitched into an open competition with Teddy and you wonder whether Vic Fangio would have allowed the rookie to 'win'.
After the recent PR firestorm over Bridgewater not putting his body on the line to make an important tackle in Week 10, the salt was rubbed deeper into the wounds of Broncos fans who happened to witness Jones doing the necessary tackling duties on an interception return Thursday night. Once again, it fueled the fires of discontent that are burning around Dove Valley.
The Broncos have procrastinated at the most important position on the field while the likes of Bill Belichick and the Patriots have made bold, decisive moves to secure their franchise quarterback of the future.
Until the Broncos find a long-term solution, the eyes around the league will be cast towards what Jones is doing in New England, or for that matter, what Fields is accomplishing in Chicago. Hindsight is indeed the perfect science, and it can easily be used to conclude that Paton should have drafted Jones over Surtain.
But it does nothing to change the harsh reality that the Broncos are continually coming up short when it comes to forensically evaluating potential solutions to the problems that continue to haunt them at quarterback.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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