If your QB1’s passing touchdowns don’t add up to at least twice the number of bathrooms — Russell Wilson and his mansion are currently knotted up at 12 each — in said QB’s home, ya know what? You’re going to have culture problems.
You know who created those?
When you pursue a pass-rusher with a serious injury history, you sign him for $70 million anyway, he gets hurt again, then punches an opposing player during postgame handshakes on Christmas Day, ya know what? You’re going to have culture problems.
You know who signed Randy Gregory?
You know who brought back Melvin Gordon? You know who couldn’t stop gushing about Ronald Darby and Mike Boone? You know who handed Phillip Lindsay his walking papers?
You know who traded away Von Miller? You know who traded away Bradley Chubb? You know who gave Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick a combined $94.8 million in contract extensions? You know who gave Wilson a $245 million extension?
George Paton is the Frank Lloyd Wright of culture problems. The Broncos’ general manager is the Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe of football dysfunction. When Paton vowed to move Broncos Country out of mediocrity, 4-11 was not the neighborhood fans had in mind.
“As I told the players (Monday), I take full responsibility for where we are as a football team,” Paton said during a news conference Tuesday following the dismissal of coach Nathaniel Hackett after just 15 games. “I brought in the head coach. I brought in most of the players. Those are my decisions. And there’s no one to blame but me.”
Amen. So why the heck did new Broncos CEO Greg Penner just double down on the guy who broke his new toy?
“(Paton) acknowledged right up front that there are a couple of decisions that hadn’t worked out as he had expected,” Penner explained Tuesday. “But I understand his thought process. He understands the work that needs to be done in this offseason. And I’m going to rely on him heavily as we go through and make these changes.”
Oh, but eight one-score losses, you say.
Oh, but the drafts, you say. It was the Walton-Penner Group, you say, who green-lit that killer extension for Russ before he’d ever played a down in Orange & Blue. And Paton only acted on orders from above, you say, when it came time to add a big-money quarterback, any big-money quarterback, to help jack up the Broncos’ purchase price once the team finally got put up for sale.
Fair enough. So Paton is an excellent college scout, a good company man and the bean-counters’ hero. Congrats. In NFL front offices, those are a dime a dozen. And wasn’t Wilson 21-8 in his last 29 regular-season games decided by eight points or fewer prior to the Broncos trade? Seattle coach Pete Carroll would like a quick word, once he’s picked himself up from that laughing fit on the floor.
In a QB + Coach league, Paton dragged the Broncos from bad (Bridgewater + Fangio) to worse (Old Russ + Young Nate). It takes a special set of skills to inherit a dumpster fire and somehow turn it nuclear.
Paton has denied this in front of the cameras, but the only way, in hindsight, you could justify hiring Hackett and the clown cars that followed was as a straight-up play for his best pal Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay’s quarterback. That Wilson was always your Plan B, chained to the hope that Hackett could do for him what he did for Rodgers.
Unless the coach is Sean Payton, Jim Harbaugh or Deion Sanders, the Broncos are a “coach away” the way they were “a QB away” at this time a year ago. And the first thing a Payton, Harbaugh or Sanders would likely do is hand Paton his pink slip and get their own guy in that chair.
Because of Wilson, because of the veterans Paton added to this mix, Dove Valley is an even harder sell to prospective coaches than it was a year ago — unless you’re willing to pay double the market rate, double anything resembling a sniff of sanity. But that’s where Penner and his checkbook comes in.
And if you’ve still got Paton’s back, unequivocally, after the past five months, we’d kindly refer you to YouTube, and to a video posted by the Broncos’ official feed last January.
The title: “How The Broncos Hired Nathaniel Hackett (Ep. 1).” It’s one of those tightly edited, sharp video diary numbers that’s fun to watch if you want an excuse to punch the nearest wall. Some of the early soundbites regarding Huggy Bear Hackett haven’t exactly aged well:
“This guy is dynamic.”
“We wanted a natural leader. Someone to galvanize the organization.”
“I think Broncos Country is going to love the energy, they’re going to love the juice, they’re going to love the football mind of Nathaniel Hackett.”
“I think this guy’s going to be great. I think he’s the guy. I didn’t want to lose him.”
That was Paton, 10 months ago.
This was Paton on Tuesday:
“Maybe we could’ve talked to more candidates and had a wider net. I felt really good about our process. And I felt good about our decision at the time. It just didn’t work out.”
Dude, you interviewed 10 candidates last winter. The net wasn’t the problem. It was the fishermen chucking it.