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Broncos quarterback Drew Lock warms up before the last game of the season for the Broncos at Mile High Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

DENVER — For George Paton, finding the Broncos' next head coach is his top priority.

The Broncos general manager is about to embark on his first head coaching search, after firing Vic Fangio Sunday morning. But that's not the only thing he's tasked with fixing this offseason. He and the Broncos also need a quarterback — a problem the organization has faced since Peyton Manning's retirement in 2015-16. The Broncos have had 11 different starting quarterbacks in the past six years, and none of them have turned out to be franchise guys.

"Obviously I know how important that position is. It's the most important position in sports," Paton said Sunday. "But we're focused on the coach and if you can get the right leader, that's the most important thing right now, is getting the right leader. And then we'll get the quarterback, we'll get the other positions. But the leadership and getting the right head coach is the No. 1 priority."

There's been speculation since last offseason the Broncos would be one of the top destinations for NFL MVP and long-time Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. There have also been rumblings this season that Seattle's Russell Wilson may also be on the market, along with Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Cleveland's Baker Mayfield. And of course, there's always the draft, though this year's quarterback class might not be the most talented.

But what about this year's starters, Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock?

For Bridgewater, he will be a free agent this offseason and might look elsewhere if he wants to be paid starter money. And for Lock, he still has one more year on his rookie contract and could be on next year's team as a starter or backup — two roles he's now experienced in Denver in three seasons. He could also be used as a trade piece.

"Once we get a new staff in, we'll meet on our team and do a deep dive on our team and identify guys we want to bring back and guys that maybe we don't," Paton said. "In regards to quarterbacks, I thought they did some good things. Obviously, they were a little up and down. I like the way Drew finished the season. He didn't turn the ball over in his starts, but we want to win games. Part of the quarterback's job is to win. And we were close, but we need to finish those games. Teddy did a nice job for the most part. He was up and down as well."

No matter what the Broncos do at quarterback, Paton made it clear the head coaching search will come first. And he made sure to note that the Broncos' lack of success in 2021 wasn't all on Lock and Bridgewater.

Paton believes there are plenty of things that need to be fixed other than quarterback play.

"You can't just pin it on the quarterbacks," Paton said. "You're not going to win many games when you lack those details and you make those mistakes in key moments in games."

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