Sean Payton to Have ‘Final Say’ on Broncos GM George Paton: Report

Sean Payton and George Paton

Getty George Paton's fate is rumored to be in Sean Payton's hands.

Throughout his first season, head coach Sean Payton has been working to reshape the Denver Broncos in his image. Deciding the fate of general manager George Paton is rumored to be next on the docket for Payton.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported on January 6 that Payton will likely have the “final say” on Paton’s job security.

“Payton and Paton have worked well together this season, and Payton is known to respect Paton and his abilities. But Payton is expected to have the final say; it is his organization, and he gets to shape it how he wants it,” Schefter said.

The report is unsurprising as quarterback Russell Wilson, Paton’s blockbuster acquisition, was benched ahead of Week 17. Despite Paton holding the title as general manager, the Super Bowl-winning coach is behind-the-scenes pulling the strings.

Denver Gazette columnist Woody Paige previously acknowledged that “Payton is the power in football personnel” in Denver.

“Instead of making all the decisions in free agency and the draft, as he did with the previous coach, Paton this time won’t make a pick or a trade without Payton’s approval,” Paige wrote in his column published on April 1, 2023.

Payton’s fingerprints on the Broncos’ organization will presumably increase heading into the 2024 offseason.

Miscalculated Decisions Likely Doomed George Paton in Denver

On December 5, NFL insider Jason La Canfora of The Washington Post reported “rumblings” about Paton not returning. The Wilson benching might inevitably be the final straw for Paton in Denver.

Wilson was traded to the Broncos in March 2022 and received a five-year $245 million contract extension ahead of the regular season. Giving such a contract to an aging quarterback will cost Denver mightily for the next two offseasons.

Paton additionally whiffed on linebacker Randy Gregory, who signed a five-year, $70 million contract in March 2022. Gregory played 10 games with the Broncos before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers at the 2023 NFL trade deadline.

Those high-priced miscalculations do not factor in the failed Nathaniel Hackett era. Hackett was fired 15 games into his first season with the Broncos during the 2022 campaign.

Payton could use those three failed moves alone to justify moving on from Paton.

Could Candidate Possessing Familiarity With Sean Payton Become Next Broncos GM?

In all likelihood, the next Broncos general manager will have familiarity with Payton. One possible candidate overlapped with the veteran coach during their time with the New Orleans Saints.

Lou Scataglia of Predominantly Orange named former Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace as a potential replacement for Paton in 2024.

“Payton and Pace have worked together before,” Scataglia wrote in his article published January 4. “So they have a ton of familiarity with each other. And I think Pace being a GM before is also a huge plus. Right now, Pace is not a GM, so I do think he’d take the potential GM opening in Denver even if he does not get the final say on the roster.”

Pace and Payton worked together in New Orleans from 2006-14. After leaving the Saints, Pace was the Bears’ general manager from 2015-21. He found modest success in the Windy City.

During the 2018 season, Chicago went 12-4 and won the NFC North on the strength of an elite defense. In September of that same year, Pace made a blockbuster trade for All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack, who helped the Bears finish with the top-ranked scoring defense at 17.7 points allowed per game.

That campaign was the most successful of Pace’s Bears tenure, as the team went to the playoffs one other time in 2020.

Since Pace has worked with Payton before, that should put him near the top of the candidate list if Paton is fired.

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