Minnesota Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel/Assistant General Manager George Paton is the Denver Broncos' new general manager, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Wednesday and the Broncos later confirmed. Paton agreed to a six-year deal with the Broncos.
Paton, 51, was considered one of the Broncos' top candidates when President of Football Operations John Elway announced Jan. 4 that he would be moving to an elevated role, after serving as GM for 10 years. The Broncos interviewed five candidates for the position, including Chicago's Champ Kelly, New Orleans' Terry Fontenot, New England's Dave Ziegler and Denver's own Brian Stark.
Paton first interviewed with Elway, President and CEO Joe Ellis and coach Vic Fangio on Friday and had a second interview in-person Tuesday. Less than 24 hours later, he was named the Broncos' 15th GM in franchise history.
"It is an honor to be named general manager of an iconic franchise with a championship tradition like the Denver Broncos," Paton said in a press release. "This organization has great resources, tremendous people, a talented young core of players and an outstanding coaching staff."
According to 9News' Mike Klis, the deal was all but done Tuesday night when Elway, along with coach Vic Fangio and Chief Communications Officer Patrick Smyth, took Paton to Elway's steakhouse. The next morning, after Paton flew back to Minneapolis, the contract was officially signed.
"Early in this process, it became clear why George has been such a coveted GM candidate for so many years," Elway said in a press release. "He is a proven evaluator who knows every detail of leading football operations. With his experience in all aspects of the job — the college and pro sides, salary cap, trades, working with the head coach and bringing the staff together — George is more than ready to succeed in this role.
"George has waited and worked for the right opportunity, which shows that he is smart and serious about winning. We're thrilled to name George Paton as general manager of the Denver Broncos."
Before arriving in Minnesota in 2007, Paton was the director of pro personnel for the Miami Dolphins from 2001 to 2006. He began his career with the Chicago Bears in 1997 and rose to assistant director of pro personnel in 2000.
Paton is a native of La Canada Flintridge, Calif., a city in Los Angeles County. He played quarterback at Loyola High School before walking on at UCLA as a defensive back. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in history in 1991, he was a player/coach in professional football leagues in Italy and Austria before returning as a junior varsity coach at Loyola in 1995.
"George is one of the most widely respected and experienced personnel executives in the NFL," Ellis said in a statement. "He's a composed, collaborative leader with a clear vision of building a championship team. Getting to know George over the last week, his intelligence, work ethic and leadership skills impressed all of us. He has worked nearly 25 years in the NFL to prepare for this challenge, and we are very fortunate to have George as our new general manager. We're excited to welcome George, his wife, Barbara, and his children, Bella and Beau, to the Broncos family."
In Minnesota, Paton worked alongside GM Rick Spielman, who is regarded as one of the best GMs in the NFL. Paton worked for the Vikings for the last 14 seasons and has been the assistant general manager since 2012. As he's worked his way up, he's become regarded as one of the best front office executives in the NFL. He's interviewed for several GM positions over the last few years, including the Cleveland Browns last year, and the Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions this year. His focus with the Vikings has been coordinating scouting and personnel functions, while lending his expertise in the draft.
Paton has been a large of the Vikings' draft since his arrival in 2007. In the last 10 drafts, no other team has selected more Pro Bowlers (13) than Minnesota. He's helped draft star players such as wide receivers Justin Jefferson (2020) and Stefon Diggs (2015), as well as running back Dalvin Cook (2017) and safety Harrison Smith (2012). He's also found gems that went undrafted, signing top players like wide receiver Adam Thielen (2013).
In Paton's 14 years with the Vikings, they made the playoffs six times with six different quarterbacks. They also won four division titles and made two NFC Championship games. He helped acquire 22 Pro Bowlers during his tenure.
In Denver, he hopes to do the same with a relatively young roster that he believes has a high ceiling.
"In many ways, I feel like this team is a sleeping giant," Paton said. " Drafting and developing players is the No. 1 priority. We will be aggressive — but not reckless — in adding talent to our roster. ... For me, it is the right place and the right time for this opportunity. Throughout this process, I felt a real connection with Joe, John and Vic. It feels like home. We share the same values on winning and doing things the right way."
Paton certainly steps into a difficult situation, with the Broncos missing the playoffs the last five seasons and having question marks about ownership, the starting quarterback and key free agents returning this offseason. His to-do list from day one is definitely long.
But Paton appears to be hopeful about his and the Broncos' future.
“I believe in hard work, the grind and not taking any shortcuts to achieve our goals," Paton said. “Our family has heard nothing but great things about Colorado, especially the passionate fans in Broncos Country. Along with my wife, Barbara, and children, Bella and Beau, we are proud to now call Denver our home.
"I can’t wait to get to work."