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Bronco notes: Paton steers clear of playoff predictions

Cornerback is the Broncos' biggest need but hardly the only one with a team that has missed the postseason the past five years.
Credit: Twitter/@Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — George Paton takes over the Broncos’ football program at a time when the team’s fan base is as disappointed and impatient as it’s been since before the height of Broncos Mania in the late-1970s.

Then again, there probably wouldn’t be a new guy in charge if the Broncos were doing well.

After making the playoffs 22 times (with 8 Super Bowl appearances) in the 39-season stretch from 1977-2015, the Broncos have gone five consecutive seasons without a postseason berth.

So, George Paton, how long before the Broncos are in the playoffs again?

“I never like to say that,’’ Paton said in a sit-down interview with 9NEWS this week. “I’d like to say we can compete. But I never like to give predictions. There are so many factors, we have so much work to do. For me to say that now wouldn’t be fair to anyone in this building or anyone in this community. Just know we’re going to work our butt off to try and get there quickly.’’

Paton’s football philosophy

One topic the Broncos’ GM search committee wanted to learn from its five candidates during the first round of Zoom interviews two weeks ago was their overall philosophy for organizational football success.

Paton was asked the same question during his interview with 9NEWS.

“For one, it’s a collaboration,’’ he said. “It’s not my decision. It’s not the head coach’s. We want – everyone is going to be involved in the decision-making process. And number two, you need to know your own team before you can really move forward. A lot of bad decisions are made when you let a good player go or maybe you extend a player you shouldn’t have.

“And then, three, you have to draft and develop talent. They’re younger, they’re hungrier, they’re typically cheaper. So you need to draft and develop talent to sustain in this league.

“But you need to be aggressive in all avenues of scouting. Whether it’s a trade, whether it’s free agency. And so it’s not just one thing when building a team. You’ve got to look at everything and you’ve got to have an open mind and you have to be flexible. And that’s what we’re going to do here.”

Defense, by George

The Broncos most glaring weakness is not quarterback. It’s the cornerback position. Their top three corners last year – A.J. Bouye, Bryce Callahan and Essang Bassey – suffered significant injuries. The injury-plagued Callahan missed six more games in 2020, increasing his career missed games to 41 in six years. Bouye missed five games with a shoulder injury, and was suspended the final four games for violating the league’s performance enhancement policy. He is not expected to return, as Bouye is one of several key defensive starters – Jurrell Casey and Von Miller are the others – who are on the wrong side of 30, are scheduled to make large, nonguaranteed salaries and are coming off major injuries.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos strong safety Kareem Jackson (22) against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Then there’s safety Kareem Jackson, who has played well and stayed healthy, but he will be 33 next season when he is scheduled to make $10 million.

The “sleeping giant,” Paton referred to as he accepted the job was mostly about the Broncos’ offensive side where there is youth and talent that hasn’t come together yet. The defense, though, has the opposite problem where the Broncos have to get better production-per-dollar value from so many players.

“I have a general understanding of this football team,’’ Paton said. “I’ve watched a couple games and obviously people have talked to me about the team. But until I do a deep dive … I know they have some young offensive pieces. I know they have some age on defense but I also know they have some young pieces on defense as well. So I hate to give you an answer because I haven’t put all the work in.”

Hill interviews with Chargers

Credit: AP
This is a 2019 photo of Renaldo Hill of the Denver Broncos NFL football team. This image reflects the Denver Broncos active roster as of Monday, June 3, 2019 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

Broncos defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill interviewed for the Chargers’ defensive coordinator position Wednesday. New Chargers head coach Brandon Staley and Hill were defensive coaching assistants to Broncos head coach Vic Fangio in 2019. Staley will call the defensive plays but the coordinator position would still mean a significant promotion for Hill, who finished his 10-year playing career with the Broncos in 2009-10.

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