The Broncos’ roster is composed of more than 75 percent black players.
More than 80 percent of the Denver Broncos’ executives, administrators, directors, coaches and scouts are white men.
The franchise could lose an African-American coach in a few days, but may add a black assistant general manager soon.
“We’re getting better as an organization (in regard to diversity), but we’re not where we need to be,’’ CEO-president Joe Ellis said in a Zoom conference to the media as the Broncos launched their search for a general manager.
When asked about the possibility of minority consideration for the GM position, Ellis said the Broncos believed that inclusion was “very important’’ and the process would include interviews with “several black candidates.’’
The NFL’s “Rooney Rule’’ requires that one minority nominee for GM — and two for a head coaching vacancy — must be interviewed.
Several turned out to be two. Champ Kelly, the Bears’ assistant director of player personnel who had developed in the scouting department with the Broncos, and Terry Fontenot, VP/assistant general manager of the Saints, each talked with the Broncos in video conference calls. However, President of Football Operations John Elway, Ellis and coach Vic Fangio ultimately chose George Paton, Vikings assistant GM.
Fontenot since has been named the Falcons’ general manager, but Kelly, also a contender for the Panthers’ job, hasn’t been hired away from Chicago. Kelly and Jamaal Stephenson, the Vikings’ director of college scouting, are possibilities for assistant GM with the Broncos if Paton doesn’t elevate someone from within the franchise. The Broncos’ search team met with Brian Stark, director of college scouting for the Broncos, as a courtesy, and A.J. Durso is head of pro personnel scouting.
In the meantime, defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill, who concluded his playing career as a safety with the Broncos, is being interviewed by Chargers’ new coach Brandon Staley for the open defensive coordinator’s position. Staley served as an assistant with Broncos in 2019. If Hill departs, he most likely will be replaced by another black coach.
Of the Broncos’ 31 coaches just five are black, and another is a woman — Emily Zaler, one of three assistant strength and conditioning coaches.
Zaler was employed by the Broncos with four African-Americans before the 2020 season in the team’s diversity internship coaching program. Another was Jett Modkins, son of Broncos’ running backs coach Curtis Modkins.
The Broncos’ veteran black coaches are Modkins, Hill, defensive quality control coach Nathaniel Willingham and strength and conditioning assistants Korey Jones and Cedric Smith.
When Fangio succeeded Vance Joseph, the coach hired three white coordinators.
Ellis said that Brittany Bowlen, who has been training in multiple roles hoping that she eventually will become Broncos’ controlling owner, and Nancy Svoboda, executive VP of human resources, are developing a diversity initiative.
Woody Paige writes: The Broncos could use a forceful plan. GM George Paton stressed the necessity of diversity in his introductory press conference. The franchise is lacking and lagging.
All eight of the Broncos’ top executives are white, and only one, Svoboda, is a woman. Of the 10 vice presidents, Bowlen is the sole woman.
In the personnel and scouting department, which includes 13 directors and scouts, Ray Jackson, a former Colorado State player is the highest-ranking African-American, in charge of player administration. The effervescent Jackson, who played cornerback in the NFL for six seasons, was lured by Elway away from the Steelers in 2015.
Just four of the scouts are black.
One of the other scouts is George’s nephew Rob Paton, who was promoted to college/pro scouting in 2019.
George said he would meet with personnel people before he made a decision about “a right-hand man’’. The GM hasn’t determined if he will attend the annual Senior Bowl leadup of practices next week, which seems rather odd for someone with expertise in the evaluation of college players. Invitations to the event in Mobile, Ala., have been accepted by 26 defensive backs, 18 defensive linemen and 25 offensive linemen — areas the Broncos specifically will draft from. The seven quarterbacks include Florida’s Kyle Trask and Alabama’s Mac Jones, but not Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson or Trey Lance.
The Broncos could be in the market for one.
The Broncos once were ahead of the crowd in diversity when, in 1968, Marlin Briscoe became pro football’s first black quarterback.