All three Broncos’ power brokers charged with selecting the franchise’s fourth never have hired a general manager.
“Curiouser and curiouser,’’ Alice in wonderment might cry.
This process could become the Broncos’ NFL-high 33rd turnover of the past five months, or the Elway’s and Means committee of three might make a brilliant decision.
After the conclusion of interviews of the Final Five candidates Friday and Saturday, CEO Joe Ellis, President of Football Operations John Elway and coach Vic Fangio are anticipated to hold further in-person discussions with their two favorites.
My NFL sources outside the organization believe the GM will be George Paton or Champ Kelly, both from NFC North teams — the Vikings and the Bears. Intriguingly, the Broncos would be battling the long-suffering Lions for Paton and the equally inept Panthers for Kelly. The three outfits finished 5-11.
Will Elway go from Peyton to Paton (whose last name is pronounced like the quarterback, not the general)?
Will he bring back Kelly, who once was featured in a photo sitting close to Elway in the Broncos’ draft room at Dove Valley?
Will the Broncos try to sign both — Paton as VP/GM and Kelly as vice president of player personnel? That duo will be a great get if Elway could pull it off as his last (The) Drive.
Paton, a former defensive back at UCLA, declined to interview for the GM’s job with Carolina. But, then, George annually turns down opportunities — three different years with the Jets — to leave Minnesota, where he has worked for 14 seasons and is the assistant general manager. Paton has served under GM Rick Spielman with the Bears, the Dolphins and the Vikings.
Paton played professional football — in Austria and Italy.
Kelly played (and was general manager and coach) for a minor-league indoor football league team in Kentucky.
Kelly, the assistant director of player personnel with the Bears, had several different titles in the scouting-personnel department with the Broncos from 2007-2014.
Paton, the son of a coach in a Los Angeles suburb, was a high school quarterback.
Kelly’s father was a drug dealer and his mother a drug addict, and he was raised by his grandparents in a small town in northern Florida. He played wide receiver and defensive back.
Paton is esteemed throughout the league as an exceptional draft and free agent evaluator who has been responsible for dozens of the Vikings’ veterans and rookies — from Case Keenum (who had a special year in Minnesota before failing in Colorado) to undrafted free agent wide receiver Adam Thielen, from wide receiver Stefon Diggs, now with the Bills, drafted in the fifth round in 2015, to running back Dalvin Cook, who was picked in 2017’s second round after most teams passed on him because of serious off-field issues in college.
Kelly was elevated in Chicago to judge the top 100 college players in the draft and be in control of assessing NFL free agents. He recommended more than two dozen of the Bears’ current players, including linebacker Roquan Smith, and lured former Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan to Chicago. Kelly also has been the Bears’ liaison between the front office and players.
This not only will be the first GM the three administrators hire, but probably their last. Ellis and Elway likely will be gone soon after their contracts conclude following the 2021 season, and Fangio won’t be in a GM call if he continues as coach beyond 2021.
Ellis persuaded Pat Bowlen to hire Josh McDaniels — a pathetic choice.
Brian Xanders was GM under both Ellis and Elway, but he was brought in by ex-coach Mike Shanahan. Xanders and Elway separated in 2012.
Elway has hired coaches John Fox, Gary Kubiak, Vance Joseph and Fangio with mixed results.
Fangio has hired his assistant coaches over two seasons.
Now, the three oddly determined not to directly involve in the interviews owner-in-training Brittany Bowlen or VP of football operations and compliance Mark Thewes, who has been in the front office with the Broncos through five coaching eras, or director of sports medicine Steve “Greek’’ Antonopulos, the only person with the Broncos for all eight of their Super Bowls.
The triumvirate of E, E & F must choose the consummate, not curious, GM.