Broncos’ George Paton Gives Interesting Take on Team’s Future

Getty If the Denver Broncos are to stay in the thick of the 2021 Wild Card race, they could harken back to the special 2011 campaign for inspiration.

No matter the outcome of the Denver Broncos‘ November 7 tilt at the Dallas Cowboys, George Paton says the team’s season is just getting started.

The Broncos’ first-year general manager is fresh off trading arguably the franchise’s greatest defensive player in outside linebacker Von Miller, and is showing that he’s not afraid to swing big to try and stay competitive in the moment, while also keeping an eye on the future.

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Live in the now

The Broncos (4-4) finally ended their month-long skid after staving off the Washington Football Team in a tense 17-10 win, October 31. Days following that victory, Paton spoke to the media, on November 2, and claimed that the team is “in the thick of it,” meaning he earnestly believes the Broncos can still make a run towards at least a Wild Card berth in 2021.

“Moving forward with this team, I believe in the players here. I believe in the coaches here … I do believe in the players. We’re 4-4 — everything’s in front of us. We’re still in the thick of it,” Paton said during his press conference.

Paton’s optimism perhaps stems from the fact that Denver is just half a game out of the final Wild-Card spot, and 1.5 games out of first place in the AFC West. The open wild-card spots are currently a three-team battle, led by the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3). The other two are the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3), and Denver’s AFC West rival, the Los Angeles Chargers (4-3). And behind that triumvirate, there are four more teams sitting at .500, much like the Broncos. Those squads are all just half-game behind in the race.

While the Broncos have already lost one to the Steelers, the race is still in front of them, since they still have to play the Bengals at home and two against the Chargers. Of the remaining nine games, Denver has five home games on its schedule, so if the team can get to nine wins on the 2021 season, there is a good chance to be, as Paton claimed, still in the thick of it down the stretch, and nab one of the wild-card slots.

Star wideout Courtland Sutton echoed Paton’s sentiment during the same November 2 media availability.

“I don’t think anybody else had a thought that we were going to come into this and after Von [got traded] just straight up say, ‘Forget the rest of these games,'” Sutton said. “We’re 4-4, we’ve got everything right in front of us, and we’re going to take it one week at a time, as we have been. Whenever we get done with the season, we’ll look up and hopefully we’ll like where we’re at, and hopefully, we’re sitting in L.A. hoisting that trophy.”

Deja Vu?

Perhaps the Broncos could catch lightning in a bottle with the Miller trade, much like in 2011, when another first-year general manager traded away a popular player at the deadline. During that season, neophyte general manager John Elway was running the franchise’s football operations when he dealt away Pro Bowl wideout Brandon Lloyd. And while Lloyd obviously never reached the impact of a future Hall of Famer like Miller, he was a very good and dependable player for the Broncos at that time.

Lloyd was the team’s undisputed best wideout and overall best offensive player, as he was coming off a 2010 season in which he earned his first-career postseason honors after notching 1,448 yards and 11 touchdown receptions. He was again the Broncos’ leading receiver in 2011 (19 catches for 283 yards in his four games), when Elway made the call to deal the veteran before the deadline. The Broncos dealt Lloyd, a veteran player who was on an expiring contract, to the then-St. Louis Rams for a fifth-round pick. That pick would later become defensive end Malik Jackson, who wound up being a key cog on the Broncos’ 2015 Super Bowl-winning team.

The trade of Lloyd was the start of something special for the 2011 Broncos, as then-head coach John Fox made the switch to start Tim Tebow at quarterback after the team started 1-4. The squad rallied to finish 8-8 and make the playoffs, as young wideouts Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas picked up the slack.

That season, the Broncos’ faith in their young players paid off, and hopefully history can repeat itself for the 2021 Broncos, as they seek to have their young players step up and fill the void left by the Miller trade.

Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8

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