DENVER — Wednesday was not a good day for Drew Lock, but that doesn’t mean he’s gone.
See, the man hired as general manager of the Broncos — George Paton, a 51-year-old native Californian, so he’ll fit right in here in Colorado — is not what you would call satisfied with OK.
OK is not OK for Paton, who signed a six-year contract to succeed John Elway as Broncos GM, and I’ll bet you a burger from Elway’s restaurant he would tell you OK is not OK — not at all.
His Minnesota Vikings — and we’ll call them “his” Vikings, since that’s where he spent the past 13 years as the right-hand man to the Vikings GM — once went 13-3 and ditched the quarterback. Think about that. Top-10 offense, won the NFC North, reached the NFC title game and ... moved on from the quarterback.
Does that suggest a boss who’s going to take his time with a QB who just threw 15 TDs vs. 16 INTs?
“I believe in hard work, the grind and not taking any shortcuts to achieve our goals," Paton said.
It says here Elway, Joe Ellis, Vic Fangio and Patrick Smyth — the panel that tabbed Paton after a steak dinner at Elway’s — absolutely, positively nailed this GM hire, with one big IF.
IF he can find the QB, not a QB. Paton’s Priority No. 1 is no different from Elway’s Priority No. 1 in that way. Entering the 2021 season, I expect Lock will be a QB in Denver, but not necessarily the QB in Denver. That’s because Paton’s history in Minnesota tells the story of a man who’s not OK with just OK: six trips to the playoffs were made with six different quarterbacks. When those quarterbacks had names like Christian Ponder, Gus Frerotte and your guy Case Keenum, that also tells you the roster Paton helped assemble was one heckuva roster to overcome the OK QBs he wasn’t OK with.
“In many ways, I feel like this team is a sleeping giant,” Paton said. “For me, it is the right place and the right time for this opportunity.”
Get ready for some moving and shaking at Dove Valley. Nobody should be comfy right now.
Take the curious case of star pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Right before last season, the Vikings traded for Ngakoue. Big move, right? Three months later they shipped him off to the Baltimore Ravens. Bye-bye, just like that.
Denver is still a seller’s house market, and that’s for the best when it comes to current Broncos.
Paton’s Vikings won the NFC North four times, and that’s where Aaron Rodgers works. If he wins Patrick Mahomes’ division four times, you’ll know Mahomes got hurt or Paton’s a winner.
The Vikings won through shrewd work in the draft. Their 13 Pro Bowlers selected in the past 10 drafts are tied for most in the NFL. Those names include linebacker Anthony Barr (remember when CU Buffs QB Sefo Liufau got into a shoving match with the UCLA star?), running back Dalvin Cook, tight end Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who was drafted seven spots after Jerry Jeudy but blew past Jeudy in their rookie seasons.
This is also a sign that we’ve seen the last of John Elway in a prominent role with the Broncos. That's wild to think about after all these years, but it's for the best. Oh, Elway's title looks prominent — president of football operations. But his contract runs out this time next year, then it's off to the first tee box and some quality time with No. 7 grandchild, Teddy.
Paton turned away a bunch of other GM jobs (Lions, Jets, Browns, at least), and you don't turn away a bunch of other GM jobs if you have to share this one. Why would you? You wouldn't.
“Early in this process it became clear why George has been such a coveted GM candidate for so many years,” Elway said. “He is a proven evaluator who knows every detail of leading football operations.”
Wednesday marked a new era for the Broncos organization, through and through.
Plus, a six-year contract is no joke. That’s a “here, run the franchise” contract. That’s a “it’s your show now” contract. That’s not a “we want to keep swapping out quarterbacks” contract.
And that’s where Drew Lock comes in, or gets shoved out. George Paton’s Priority No. 1 is no different from John Elway’s Priority No. 1.
Find the quarterback, not a quarterback. OK?