As the Broncos interview candidates for their open general manager position, we’re connecting with reporters across the country who have covered the candidates in their current job. Our aim is to provide a closer look at the prospective candidates and the skill set each may bring to Denver.
We begin by talking to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network about George Paton, the Vikings’ vice president of player personnel/assistant general manager.
Aric DiLalla, DenverBroncos.com: What type of guy is George Paton — what’s his skill set, and what are his strengths that make him an attractive GM candidate to so many teams?
Tom Pelissero: “George Paton is one of the most universally respected personnel men in the entire NFL. [He’s] somebody who — whether you talk to people who are friends with him, people who have competed against him, people who just know him from scouting on the road — nobody has a bad word to say about him. … Certainly there are not many people that I can think of who’d be better equipped to be a GM, which — considering that George has been pursued for, I don’t even know, a dozen or so GM jobs over the past seven or eight years, probably — is not a surprise.”
AD: Do you get the sense that at some point soon he’ll be ready to take on one of those jobs after being a finalist for a couple?
TP: “Yeah, I mean, he’s been ready several years now. There were a series of jobs that he’s pulled back on, one of the most recent being Cleveland a year ago. He’s been waiting for the right fit. He has a great relationship with Rick Spielman. He’s been in the Vikings organization for a long time. He’s not had an urgent desire to leave, but certainly it’s been building to the point that he would eventually take a job. This year, the fact that you have seven GM openings, six of them are still open, just means that there are more choices than there have been in the past. Not a surprise that several teams have put in interview slips for him, and I absolutely expect if there is one he feels like is the right fit, he’s going to be a GM in 2021.”
AD: The Vikings have been very successful drafting the last few years, and he’s played a role in that. What can you tell me just about his work with the collegiate scouting process?
TP: “George does college trips. He does spend time on the road. He’s also obviously heavily involved in personnel, works hand in hand with Rick Spielman on a lot of different things. That’s kind of the brain trust on the personnel side, along with Rob Brzezinski, who handles a lot of the business [and] salary cap matters. Those are the guys who have been in charge of Minnesota for a long time. If you look at the Vikings’ draft record, the number of Pro Bowl picks that they have found, the number of young, ascending players, whether you look up and down the defense that through the years, I can list all of them off, I mean of the guys still there: Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter; of guys that have moved on through the years: obviously Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes. They’ve had really good players. And offensively, signing Adam Thielen off of a tryout, drafting Stefon Diggs, drafting Justin Jefferson now, drafting Dalvin Cook, who fell to the second round because people weren’t comfortable with him, and the Vikings did all the extra homework and got comfortable with him. That’s not all George, but he’s had a hand in that entire process. So, absolutely. Everything you can think of you need a GM to do, George has been involved with it in some capacity in Minnesota, which makes him a really impressive candidate for other teams to consider.”
AD: What stands out to you about the Broncos’ opening and what makes it appealing to some others?
TP: “It’s a great place to live and work. Start there. I can think of a lot of people in the league who would be interested in being in Denver. They’ve got a great facility, they do have some talent on the roster — guys like Courtland Sutton, who’s going to be coming back from injury. You have Bradley Chubb as a nucleus piece on defense. They’ve obviously got the veteran likes of Von Miller there, too. But there’s no question that you’re going to have the resources to be successful. There’s no question about the facilities. There’s no question about the fans. There’s no question about the city. You’ve got to answer the question on, ‘Is Drew Lock your future franchise quarterback?’ regardless of who takes that job. As Vic Fangio said the other day, that’s going to be a process. He’ll have a chance, but he’s got to get better. That’s definitely one of the things you’ve got to consider. But you’ve got a left tackle in Garett Bolles, who’s playing really well. They’ve invested resources in the offensive line. Obviously, Jerry Jeudy [is] another high draft pick that they had recently. I’m going off the top of my head, here. But you’ve got a nucleus that you feel like you can build around in a place that you have the resources to do it. That’s really what every GM candidate should be looking for … not just what’s in place, but do I have the resources on hand to get the other things I need? And in Denver, there are a lot of reasons, one of which is their past success, to believe you will have that.”