ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Family is always the underrated factor with football moves.
For George Paton, it wasn’t just he chose the Broncos in 2021 for his long-awaited general manager opportunity after withdrawing from consideration with the Cleveland Browns last year, or the New York Jets in 2019. It was also a move he felt would work best for his family.
“They had a tremendous impact,’’ Paton said in a sit-down interview Tuesday with 9NEWS. “My wife (Barbara) she’s been with me all 24 hours (I’ve worked in NFL). She’s a Southern California girl, Orange County. She loved Denver, anyway, but this gets her close to home, and close to family. So she’s really excited.’’
Paton himself grew up in Los Angeles and played football for UCLA.
“My son Beau, he’s 12,’’ Paton continued after he was asked by 9NEWS to briefly describe his family members. “He loves hockey. He loves football. He’s a guy’s guy, a boy’s boy. His big thing was he was a little disappointed that we couldn’t bring (Vikings receiver) Justin Jefferson with us. He just got his jersey. So I had to promise him a Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton jersey. So I need to figure out where I can buy that.’’
Note to Paton: He qualifies for a 40 percent discount on all merchandise sold at Broncos Team Stores.
“And then my daughter (Bella), she’s 14 years old and she’s the artist of the family, she’s the smartest of the family,’’ Paton continued. “She’s a ballerina. When she found out we were going to Denver there were some tears until she found out they have a tremendous ballet theatre here in town. So they’re excited. I can’t wait to get them out here and they’re just the best.”
So you know about the dinner order at Elway’s Steakhouse in Cherry Creek last Tuesday night. Paton ordered a 12 ounce New York strip and a wedge salad. John Elway, the outgoing GM who had connections with the restaurant’s owner, had a steak. Patrick Smyth, the communication glue between the team and the media, and between executive-coach and more executives, had an 8 ounce filet. Head coach Vic Fangio, who had a hankering for French fries, made the strategic choice of an Elway burger.
What wasn’t known is that Paton was not yet the Broncos’ GM when the dinner began.
“I made that decision at Elway’s,’’ Paton told 9News. “I was with great people with great food. It was a wonderful feeling.’’
More specifically, Paton told the group between the entrée’ and key lime pie.
“I believe it was maybe mid-steak,’’ Paton said. “They were negotiating (his agent Bryan Harlan and Broncos’ CEO Joe Ellis), and so it was mid-steak probably and we had a little celebration beverage and enjoyed it.”
Elway clarified Tuesday that while he will have input on some major football decisions in his consultant-like role as president of football operations, the buck, for the first time in 11 years, won’t stop at his new desk. He was given an example of the Broncos considering a trade that would send three high-round draft picks and two star existing players in exchange for a franchise quarterback.
“I’m going to add my input when it has a huge impact on something like you’re talking about, and when you have something that is that big of an impact on your organization,’’ Elway said told the Denver media group Tuesday. “Ultimately, it’s going to be George’s decision. I’m going to be there to support him, to give my opinions and give him everything I would look at when I was the GM, and give him everything that would be in my mind in that situation to help him again make that decision and the best decision he possibly can. Once he hears everything, he will still be the one making that decision because that’s his role and that’s his responsibility.’’
NFL: To be hired is to be eventually be fired
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio was part of the team’s GM search committee that picked Paton. If the Broncos don’t win in 2021, Paton may be the one to let Fangio go.
“That's just life in the NFL,’’ said Fangio, who was not rattled when presented with the irony. “He might have to, but I'm not worried about that in any shape or form. I know he's not either, and we're going to do everything we can to make the 2021 Broncos a winning team."
Paton was the Broncos’ general manager for two days when he learned Friday the team’s star edge rusher Von Miller was under criminal investigation for undisclosed reasons by the Parker police department. A Parker police spokesman said Tuesday the investigation was still active. Paton was asked if the investigation would affect Miller’s roster status for 2021. Miller’s future was already murky because of injury, age and salary.
“I know how much Von means to this football team and to the community,’’ Paton said. “We’re still gathering information. I’m not totally caught up on that. But Von’s an incredible player, an incredible pillar in the community and we just need to gather more information before we comment.”
Few shakeups before draft
Paton will eventually hire the No. 2 man in the Broncos’ front office department – which the Broncos’ called director of player development and is now vacant following the retirement of Matt Russell – but that and other possible personnel moves probably won’t come until after the NFL Draft that will run from April 29-May 1. Almost all NFL scouts and personnel executives are under contract through the draft.
“I want to see what we have here,’’ Paton said. “I’ve heard good things, not just here in Denver. I’ve heard good things about the majority of the staff from around the league. I’ve had a lot of people calling me but we’re going to wait until after the draft to do anything, if anything.”