ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For the first time in four decades, the person with final say on football decisions for the Denver Broncos did not have the team's name anywhere on his football résumé when he arrived.
When George Paton was formally introduced Tuesday as the newly minted general manager of the Broncos -- complete with the requisite orange tie -- he immediately became the proverbial fresh set of eyes to fix a five-year playoff drought, a decided lack of touchdowns on offense and a spinning turnstile at quarterback.
"The fact that he's had a lot of opportunities to go other places -- I think you look at a man like that, and you say, 'You know what, he's not going to jump at any job; he wants to find the right job,'" president of football operations John Elway said. "I think that when you show the patience that George showed, we're very fortunate that he liked our situation. ... I think we have a bright, bright future with George and his history and evaluation as well as his connections throughout the league."
Paton is the first personnel executive with the final say on football decisions and no prior ties to the organization since 1981, when then-owner Edgar Kaiser hired Grady Alderman as the Broncos' general manager.
Both Elway and coach Vic Fangio lauded Paton's roots in scouting as well as the depth of his duties with his former team, the Minnesota Vikings. Terry Fontenot, who was named Atlanta Falcons general manager this week, and Dave Ziegler, who was promoted by the New England Patriots after the Broncos interviewed him, were among those the Broncos had also vetted for the job.
Paton has called the Broncos a "sleeping giant."
"I just think they have drafted well the last couple years, they have some good young players to build around," Paton said of the Broncos. "... We have to do our part, but I do think there's some pieces in place. ... I'm not going to give you a timetable, but they do have some young pieces in place, a healthy cap, so there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic."
When Elway announced earlier this month he was stepping away from the general manager's role, it was a rather seismic shift in how the Broncos have conducted their football business since Pat Bowlen lured Elway back to the team in 2011. The Broncos then won five consecutive AFC West titles in Elway's first five seasons on the job, a run that included 50 wins with two Super Bowl trips to go with a Super Bowl 50 win in quarterback Peyton Manning's four seasons with the team.
But while the past three drafts have been exactly what the Broncos needed, overall the past five years have been a rather repetitive slog. Fangio is the third different head coach in those five years, the revolving door has spun wildly at quarterback and they've had limited success in free agency.
Paton plans to right the ship.
"We all believe that to draft and develop talent that you bring high-character players into your organization, you develop them and hopefully get them second contracts, and that's how you build your best culture," Paton said. "Now when you go outside, will you be aggressive and dip into free agency or the trade market? Yeah, every now and then, but it takes that right type of player to do that. I think we all believe in drafting and developing and making them into your own. That's the best way to build a football team."
That could be music to the ears of players such as safety Justin Simmons and defensive end Shelby Harris, two of the Broncos' most prominent soon-to-be free agents. Simmons, who played on the franchise tag this past season, has played every defensive snap in each of the past three years while being named a second-team All-Pro and to a Pro Bowl as well.
There is also the matter of team options in the contracts of linebacker Von Miller and safety Kareem Jackson, given one or both of those players will be sent on their way if the Broncos don't engage the option years in those deals. Miller is under investigation by the Parker Police Department in Colorado for potential criminal charges. Miller has yet to speak publicly about the investigation.
Paton must also decide on the future of quarterback Drew Lock, what the Broncos should do with the No. 9 pick of the NFL draft and what a potential suspension for running back Melvin Gordon during the 2021 season means for his future. All that must be considered in addition to having enough salary-cap room to participate in free agency more than many teams. It makes for a busy first few weeks on the job.
"I think all those tough decisions start when I can meet with the coaches and the scouting staff, and that's where you get your plan for the offseason," Paton said.
And when he was asked Tuesday if there was something he'd like to do on the job with the Broncos he had not been able to do in Minnesota, Paton said simply: "I would like to win a Super Bowl here."