When the Denver Broncos first hired general manager George Paton, the team hadn't won much over the previous five years. And now, after Sunday's frustratingly loss to the Kansas City Chiefs to close the regular season and make it five straight losing campaigns, Paton opted to fire head coach Vic Fangio.
It was a necessary move. Paton was diligent and calculated in a decision that completely flips the apple cart in the Mile High City. Following his lunch-time presser, Paton appeared on KOARadio, joining hosts Ryan Edwards, Benjamin Allbright, and Broncos' game day color announcer Rick Lewis to explain the process behind the move and how the GM plans to move forward in his search for the new head coach in Denver.
Part of Paton's job in hiring a new head coach also includes finding a franchise quarterback. The Broncos have fielded 22 starting quarterbacks since the turn of the century, and outside of a miraculous four-year stretch with Peyton Manning, the team has struggled to find the correct answer as a long-term, viable starter, including polarizing third-year signal-caller Drew Lock.
With obvious questions at the most pivotal position in all of sports, having the general manager and head coach in lockstep on the proper direction of the position is critical. It doesn't matter whether Paton's move is to grab a veteran, draft a young player, or continue to develop the players on the roster.
So does Lock, who has played an improved brand of football over the past three weeks, play into the conversation moving forward?
"No doubt. Definitely," Paton said. "How Drew did this year and kind of how he evolved, we want every candidate to have an opinion on Drew. How are you going to get the best out of Drew? Do they have knowledge of the college quarterbacks? Do you have knowledge of the free-agent quarterbacks? Who have you been around and what's your ideal quarterback? What type of philosophy are you going to run on offense? It's a big conversation when you're interviewing these guys. It can go to five to seven hours, and quarterback is obviously a very big part of the conversation."
Will Paton limit his search to only candidates with head-coaching experience?
"We're not going to limit ourselves, guys," Paton said. "There's too many good coaches out there. Some are unproven and we're going to cast a wide net. We're going to interview a lot of different coaches and if we get blown away by a guy that doesn't have a lot of experience, we're going to go ahead and hire him."
Thus far in his tenure, Paton has done exactly what he proclaimed in his introductory press conference almost exactly a year ago. He promised to be in every deal, to keep all options open, and to do everything in his power to help right the ship for a team that has endured the worst stretch of losing following a Super Bowl championship in NFL history.
And that includes a "wide net" of coaching candidates that even stretches to the college ranks.
"We're not going to rule out anyone," Paton told KOA. "College, pro, offense, defense. When you're in my position, you always have a list, so we're ready to go. You hope you don't have to use that list, but we're going to be off and running tomorrow."
After the firing of Fangio, Allbright posted a list of coaching candidates that included a number of familiar names. Notably, a few of the names have previous ties to Paton at his former stops in Miami and Minnesota. So would those connections have any impact on the hiring process?
"I don't think that factors in," Paton told Allbright. "I mean, obviously if you know someone in the interview process, you know more about them and the background and stuff but you just hate to limit yourself and focus on someone before you get through the whole process. So again, I may know a few guys but that doesn't give them an edge at all. And there's a lot of really good candidates out there and we want to get to know them."
One thing is already for certain: as already described above, Paton is going to do everything in his power to find the right guy for the franchise moving forward. And with his track record of success thus far, Broncos Country should be very encouraged by his very pointed words earlier on Sunday.
"We're going to be very thorough and we're going to find the best guy for the Denver Broncos, I guarantee you that," Paton said.
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