George Paton

Sean Payton Addresses Decision To Accept Broncos’ Offer

Four teams pursued Sean Payton this year, and the former Super Bowl-winning HC would have been a coveted option next year. Rather than stay at FOX and wait out potential openings of jobs he was previously connected to, Payton decided to become the Broncos’ next head coach.

Addressing the decision to relocate to Denver — in a transaction that probably doubles as the highest-profile coaching hire in Broncos history — Payton broached a few topics. Among them, the team’s new owners.

I tried to put ownership at the top from the beginning, and I was impressed with how much they want to be successful,” Payton said, during an interview with NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan, of the Broncos’ Walton-Penner ownership group. “We had great support in New Orleans. I can’t recall Mr. or Mrs. B [Tom and Gayle Benson] ever saying no to something. … This was the opportunity I was looking for.”

Payton, 59, also interviewed with the Cardinals, Panthers and Texans. He made the Broncos his first meeting, and Duncan adds the former Saints coach spoke with Rob and Carrie Walton Penner via Zoom this past weekend. Rob Walton was not part of the Broncos’ contingent to initially meet with Payton in Los Angeles more than two weeks ago. Denver’s ownership did not announce interviews this year and made a surprise trip to Ann Arbor to meet with Jim Harbaugh, who had previously announced he was staying at Michigan. The winding HC search still led back to Payton, who was believed to be the franchise’s top choice throughout.

Waiting out the prospect of the Cowboys or Chargers’ jobs becoming available next year would have included opportunities to coach Dak Prescott or Justin Herbert. Not long ago, Russell Wilson would have resided as an asset for coaching candidates. Thanks to a stunningly woeful season that came shortly after the Broncos’ new ownership group authorized a five-year, $245MM extension, Wilson can be viewed as a liability. Reports had indicated Payton was onboard with coaching the former Seahawks great, however, and his Tuesday decision will greenlight this pairing as one of the more interesting in recent memory.

Russell is a hard worker and has played at a high level and won a lot of games in this league,” Payton said. “The pressure is on us to put a good run game together and reduce the degree of difficulty on his position. I’m excited about him.”

Wilson, 34, reached out to Payton about coming to Denver and will have one of this era’s top play-callers overseeing his bounce-back opportunity. The Saints were on Wilson’s initial 2021 trade-destination list; he added the Broncos later that year. The Broncos traded an eight-asset package for Wilson, including two first-round picks and two seconds, to land the nine-time Pro Bowler in March 2022. The early returns were alarming, but Wilson going from an overmatched Nathaniel Hackett to Payton should represent a strong spot to re-emerge as an upper-echelon starter. If Wilson cannot resemble his Seattle form this season, the Broncos will need to look at other options. Of course, Wilson’s contract will make such a move more difficult — even by 2024.

The Wilson situation heightens the importance of the Broncos’ Payton hire. Payton unleashed Drew Brees in New Orleans. The former Charger morphed from a player the team obtained Philip Rivers to replace into one that totaled a record-shattering five 5,000-yard passing seasons. Payton guided the Saints to seven NFC South titles and nine playoff wins. The team ranked in the top 10 offensively 11 times during Payton’s 15 years on the sideline; it also did so during Payton’s 2012 Bountygate ban. After the Broncos gave Wilson considerable autonomy to co-design an offense last year, Payton should be expected to hold the reins tightly.

Mickey Loomis and Broncos GM George Paton spent the past three days hammering out a compensation package for Payton, Duncan adds. Payton has been rumored to wanting to bring some personnel people with him to Denver, which could certainly cause a conflict with the Paton-led front office. The high-profile coach should have the opportunity to structure things as he sees fit, given his pedigree and the leverage he possessed. For now, however, Paton remains in place.

Both Payton and Paton — that will make for some confusing conversations as long as this partnership lasts — will report to Broncos CEO Greg Penner. That marks a change from 2021 and ’22, but the Walton-Penner group only arrived in Denver late last summer. Payton and Paton also spoke privately often ahead of this hire, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets.

George and Mickey were great,” Payton said. “It took a minute, but they worked through it hard and got a deal done. … It works out great in Denver because we’re in the AFC.”

The Saints were believed to have asked for two first-round picks from teams for Payton, and while the price undoubtedly would have been higher had the Panthers made the hire, the Broncos collected a 2024 third-rounder in the deal. Still, Denver will go into this draft without first- or second-round picks and will not have a 2024 second-rounder. That will make matters difficult for the Payton-Paton tandem, but this will be the power structure in place in charge of helping the Broncos crawl out of their biggest slump in 50 years.

Broncos Interview Jim Caldwell, David Shaw; Latest On Sean Payton, Jim Harbaugh Pursuits

9:35pm: Add another list to the Broncos’ head coaching search. Denver interviewed former Stanford head coach David Shaw on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Shaw recently resigned from his post at Stanford after two consecutive 3-9 seasons. Despite the dismal finish to his career, Shaw left the Cardinal with a 96-54 record as a head coach.

Before becoming a mainstay in Stanford, Shaw held assistant coaching roles with the Raiders and Ravens coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers. His success at the NFL level combined with his winning tradition at Stanford made Shaw a hot commodity in the NFL, especially after the immediate NFL success of his Stanford predecessor, Jim Harbaugh, following his rise to the pros.

NFL teams will finally have their opportunity to kick the tires on Shaw, and it appears the Broncos are the first to do so. It would certainly be an interesting fit as Shaw has connections to fellow Stanford alumni Penner and Rice.

12:52pm: The Broncos added another name to their HC search. They are meeting with former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell on Wednesday, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets.

Caldwell’s interview will be in-person, 9News’ Mike Klis adds (via Twitter). A fixture on coaching carousels in recent years, Caldwell has already met with the Panthers. Caldwell’s AFC championship in Indianapolis and two playoff berths in Detroit aside, his entry into this race qualifies as a lower-profile development considering the other names connected to the Broncos.

Sean Payton has spoken with the Broncos, and an interview is expected. The team can interview Payton beginning Jan. 17. But some doubt regarding Payton’s interest in this job has emerged. The Broncos may want Payton more than vice versa, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes, and colleague Jeremy Fowler adds the prospect of a long-term Russell Wilson partnership has generated some skepticism around the league.

Wilson had the Saints on his 2021 list of acceptable trade destinations — before the Broncos landed on that list and became his preference — and Payton, from his FOX analyst role, offered some possible solutions to address Wilson’s stunning performance drop-off this season. The 16-year Saints HC is expected to be choosey, though he has said on multiple occasions he will likely coach again. Payton has also analyzed every team’s depth chart in preparation for a potential NFL return. A franchise quarterback is not a requirement for Payton, Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes (subscription required), but a path to one would move the needle. Although Wilson showed signs of his pre-Denver self to close the season, he probably does not qualify as a franchise QB after the year he had.

Payton would also be expected to bring his own personnel staff to Denver, Graziano adds, which could spell more trouble for Broncos GM George Paton. New Denver ownership’s curious plan of having both Paton and the next head coach report to ownership also could sound alarm bells for Payton, Howe adds, though that might not be too much of a concern given the price the Broncos will need to pay to lure Payton. It would not exactly be expected Denver would hire a new GM that is not approved by Payton, for whom the team may well need to trade a first-round pick.

A report Tuesday placed Harbaugh as an early frontrunner, but Fowler clarifies the Michigan HC is behind Payton. If the latter turns down the Broncos, Harbaugh will be the favorite. Harbaugh is rumored to be prepared to bring Tom Gamble, the former 49ers player personnel director who is now with the Wolverines, with him, per Fowler.

Unlike the Panthers, who were believed to be confused when Harbaugh reached out to them, Tom Pelissero said during a Dan Patrick Show appearance the Broncos contacted Harbaugh (video link). New CEO Greg Penner and co-owner Condoleezza Rice‘s ties to Stanford — where Harbaugh coached from 2007-10 — are driving this interest. The Broncos have done extensive research on the former 49ers coach, Fowler adds.

The Colts were rumored to be interested in Harbaugh, but they have not interviewed him yet. It would not surprise if such a meeting took place, with Fowler adding the Colts job appeals to Harbaugh. Jim Irsay‘s overreaching last year has made the Colts job less of a draw for some, Howe adds, but Harbaugh did play for the Colts for four seasons in the 1990s and holds a spot in their ring of honor.

Caldwell, 67, has been out of the league since a Dolphins one-off as an assistant HC in 2019. He joins Payton as an offense-oriented candidate. The rest of the Broncos’ candidate list includes defensive staffers — Ejiro Evero, Dan Quinn, DeMeco Ryans, Raheem Morris. Among this lot, Quinn, who interviewed for the Denver job last year, looks to have the best shot of landing the position, Pelissero adds. Quinn has ties to Paton dating back to their Dolphins days, though he appears to be a fallback option at this point.

Broncos HC Fallout: Penner, Paton, Payton, Hackett, Evero, Rosburg, Rypien, Risner

George Paton‘s status with the Broncos has taken some hits this week. Although the second-year GM is set to remain in his post, it appears the decisions to hire Nathaniel Hackett and trade for Russell Wilson have cost him.

New Broncos CEO Greg Penner is set to play a major role in the team’s next HC hire, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. With the Broncos still in the process of putting the team up for sale when they conducted the search that produced Hackett, Paton led the hiring process. Penner said he will rely on Paton during the team’s latest hiring effort, but with it being the new ownership’s first HC search, it should be expected the GM will not have final say.

Paton’s situation reminds somewhat of Joe Douglas‘ with the Jets, though the former has not been on the job as long. Douglas has rebuilt the Jets’ defense to the point the team is a playoff contender, and this year’s draft class has helped the team considerably. But the Zach Wilson investment has gone south fast. Paton passed on Justin Fields for burgeoning star cornerback Patrick Surtain II and landed high-end starters Javonte Williams and Quinn Meinerz in Rounds 2 and 3, while also adding outside linebacker Baron Browning on Day 2 of last year’s draft. Denver collected first- and fourth-round picks for Bradley Chubb at this year’s deadline, helping to fill the draft-capital void created by the Wilson trade. While several of Paton’s moves have worked out, the Wilson-Hackett partnership undercut them and has the former Vikings lieutenant on thinner ice.

It is not known if Paton or ownership pushed to have Wilson signed long-term before this season. Conversations ramped up once Penner arrived along with Rob Walton, and the team wanted to avoid waiting until 2023 to extend the QB. But the five-year, $245MM extension is off to a shockingly poor start. Penner announcing that the next HC will report to him and not Paton strips the latter’s power to the point Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk posits the next Broncos coach will have the chance to run the football operation. Paton, 52, has held that role since arriving last year.

The Broncos have experienced ups and downs with a coach running the show, going from Mike Shanahan in this role to the overmatched Josh McDaniels, who held de facto GM power upon being hired in 2009. Considering new ownership’s deep pockets and a potential offer to run football operations, the Broncos would present an intriguing opportunity for an experienced head coach. That is believed to be the direction Denver heads this time, after seeing first-time hires Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Hackett underwhelm.

I’ve worked with a lot of great CEOs, and it starts with really strong leadership,” Penner said. “I think that’s going to be the most critical factor here in a head coach. Obviously the X’s and O’s are important, but we need a strong leader for this organization that’s focused on winning. That starts with culture, it’s instilling a sense of accountability, discipline, and we need an identity on offense. At the starting point, it’s got to be about culture and leadership, and those characteristics are what we’ve focused on the most.”

Frank Reich, Jim Harbaugh, Dan Quinn and Sean Payton are believed to be on the early radar. The Broncos could make a strong run at Payton, Fowler adds, though it is not certain the former Saints HC is interested. Harbaugh has a relationship with Broncos consultant John Elway, who ran the team’s football ops for 10 years, and minority owner Condoleezza Rice due to each’s Stanford ties. Rice worked with Harbaugh during his time with the Cardinal, per Florio, adding an interesting wrinkle to the upcoming search.

As for the team’s current setup, interim HC Jerry Rosburg said (via 9News’ Mike Klis, on Twitter) DC Ejiro Evero declined the chance to be the interim option out of loyalty to Hackett. Evero and Hackett have been friends since they were college teammates at UC-Davis. The league has also shifted away from promoting interim coaches, with Doug Marrone being the most recent such hire back in 2017. The Broncos still want to interview Evero, though the first-time DC does not profile as an experienced candidate.

Rosburg, 67, also said (via ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, on Twitter) it was his decision to fire special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes and offensive line coach Butch Barry. Both were Hackett hires. Rosburg also confirmed it was Paton, not Hackett, who brought him out of retirement to be the team’s game management assistant. Hackett’s run of issues during the season’s first two weeks led to the hire. The sideline confrontation between Brett Rypien and Dalton Risner also contributed to the early Hackett dismissal, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link), as it was a sign the first-year coach was losing the team. Penner said off-field matters led to the early firing. Randy Gregory, who threw a punch at Rams offensive lineman Oday Aboushi and faced a suspension, cited Hackett’s tenuous status as HC in his successful appeal to the league, Klis tweets.

Broncos GM Believes Russell Wilson Is Fixable; Next HC To Report To Ownership

Broncos GM George Paton has seen a few members of his 2021 draft class become high-end starters, and the team’s Bradley Chubb trade at this year’s deadline netted a first-round pick. But Paton’s two biggest moves since taking the GM reins — hiring Nathaniel Hackett as head coach and trading for Russell Wilson — have moved him to a relatively hot seat.

Although Paton is staying on in the wake of Hackett joining a short list of HCs fired before the end of their first season (just five since the 1970 merger), new Broncos CEO Greg Penner said (via NFL.com) the next head coach will report directly to him. This effectively minimizes Paton’s power, and it should not be considered out of the question the Broncos will be looking for a new GM if the next head coach insists on it.

Paton, 52, was a sought-after GM candidate for years and was viewed as likely to stay on in Denver prior to Hackett’s ouster. But the Hackett-Wilson pairing ignited a stunningly ineffective offense, leading to Denver falling well short of expectations despite a stout defense. The Broncos rank last in scoring — down from 23rd with Teddy Bridgewater and OC Pat Shurmur at the controls last season — and chose to both bring in a game management assistant and move their QBs coach (Klint Kubiak) to the play-calling role. The next Denver HC will be tasked with repairing Wilson, something Paton believes can happen.

We saw flashes of Russ this year. Russ even said he didn’t play up to his standard,” Paton said. “He will be the first one to tell you he didn’t play up to his standard, didn’t play up to our standard. He needs to be better.

“I don’t think we made a coaching move based on Russ. That wasn’t what it’s all about. That’s not why we’re getting a new coach, to turn around Russ, it’s about the entire organization. It’s about the entire football team. It’s just not one player. It’s not whether Russ is fixable or not. We do believe he is. We do.”

After making the blockbuster trade for the nine-time Pro Bowl passer, the Broncos gave him significant input in helping design the offense, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Broncos also allowed Wilson’s personal team unfettered access. Attempting for much of this season to play more from the pocket — a scenario some Seahawks staffers envisioned would take place as Wilson (fourth all time in QB rushing yards) aged — the 11th-year QB has produced by far his worst season. The potential Hall of Famer has played through injuries for much of the year and often lined up with a backup-laden offensive line and receiving corps. The Broncos have also been without Javonte Williams since October. But Wilson’s struggles to this degree (29th in QBR — a sharp decline from 10th in a down 2021 season) have been one of the most shocking developments in recent quarterback history.

The Broncos gave Wilson a five-year, $245MM extension in August, tying him to the team through the 2028 season. The team’s offensive freefall will certainly impact its next HC search. Paton, Penner, Rob Walton and minority owner Condoleezza Rice will work toward finding a staff that can coax better play from the current franchise centerpiece.

The decision to have Russell here was a long-term one,” Penner said. “This season has not been up to his standards or expectations. We saw some glimpses of it in the last few weeks. He knows he can play better, we know he can play better, and we know he will do the right work in the offseason to be ready for next year.

George and I have had a chance to get to know each other — we talk every day since we purchased the team a number of months ago — and he acknowledged right up front there were a couple of decisions that hadn’t worked out as he had expected. 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.”

The team offered the interim HC gig to DC Ejiro Evero, who declined, leading to Jerry Rosburg — whom the Broncos pulled out of retirement to address Hackett’s game management issues — taking the gig. But the team wants to interview Evero for the full-time position. While Evero may be in the mix, Mike Klis of 9News notes experience will likely be prioritized. Frank Reich, Dan Quinn, Jim Harbaugh and Sean Payton should be considered candidates, per Klis, and SI.com’s Albert Breer heard Harbaugh connections to Denver shortly before Hackett’s firing.

Payton will require trade compensation to land, as the Saints still hold his rights, and will be coveted by every team searching for a new coach. Reich said he hopes to coach again in 2023, while Quinn was a Broncos finalist this year. Paton added experience is a plus but not a requirement.

Harbaugh signed a new Michigan contract last year and recently reaffirmed his commitment to the Wolverines, but the ex-49ers HC has long lingered on the NFL fringe. The Vikings interviewed Harbaugh last year, and the Colts have now been linked to an attempt to bring him back to Indianapolis. Harbaugh, 59, has a relationship with John Elway, per Breer, dating back to the former’s time as Stanford’s HC. Elway is no longer in a regular role but works as a consultant; he had input in the Broncos’ process to trade for Wilson this year. Harbaugh’s 49ers stay did include some notable quarterback success stories. The fiery HC elevated Alex Smith‘s career in the early 2010s and redesigned his offense to suit the talents of Colin Kaepernick, leading to three straight NFC championship game appearances.

Coaches formerly with the Seahawks could be candidates as well, with CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson indicating options like Quinn and Dolphins QBs coach Darrell Bevell — a longtime Seahawks OC — have been brought up (Twitter links). The Broncos had success when pivoting to retreated head coaches John Fox and Gary Kubiak. While Peyton Manning had plenty to do with that, it appears the team will try to move in this direction after three straight first-timers — Hackett, Vic Fangio, Vance Joseph — could not end the now-seven-season playoff drought.

Broncos Fire Nathaniel Hackett, Name Jerry Rosburg Interim HC

4:00pm: The Broncos have gone with senior assistant Jerry Rosburg as their interim HC to close out the season, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets and the team has since confirmed. The veteran coach was hired in September to assist with in-game operations and decisions, including clock management. The 67-year-old’s background is in special teams, including stints with the Browns, Falcons and, for one decade, the Ravens; he will oversee the team’s staff in all three phases.

Pelissero adds that the interim HC role was originally offered to defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, who has become a prime candidate for a full-time head coaching gig given his performance in 2022 (Twitter link). He has instead decided to remain the DC to close out the campaign, as he heads towards what will likely be a busy offseason filled with interest from Denver and elsewhere.

11:45am: After yet another disastrous performance in front of a national audience, Nathaniel Hackett‘s time in Denver is coming to an end. The first-year head coach has been fired by the Broncos, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). The team has confirmed the decision.

Hackett has become just the fifth coach in league history to have his first season as a bench boss come to an end before the campaign is completed. Denver sits a 4-11 on the year after yesterday’s 51-14 loss to the shorthanded Rams. That qualifies them as one of, if not the largest disappointments in the league considering the expectations surrounding the team heading into the fall.

Hackett was hired with the intention of reviving the Broncos’ offense, a unit which was seen as by far the weak point on an otherwise capable team. That, coupled with the trade for, and extension of, quarterback Russell Wilson, was presumed to put the organization on a path to success on both sides of the ball. Instead, the team ranks dead last in the NFL with an average of just 15.5 points per game. Improvement has generally not been seen even after Hackett ceded play-calling duties to QBs coach Klint Kubiak in November.

As offensive struggles (including several shockingly poor performances by Wilson), injuries and a lack of consistency continued to pile up, expectations grew over the passing weeks that Hackett would be let go at some point. The matter of whether or not he would be fired before the end of the campaign was a matter of debate, but questions on that subject have now been answered. Denver will now join the Panthers and Colts in their search for a long-term replacement.

A statement from team owner Greg Penner reads in part, “We sincerely appreciate Nathaniel’s efforts and wish him and his family all the best in the future. Following extensive conversations with [GM] George [Paton] and our ownership group, we determined a new direction would ultimately be in the best interest of the Broncos… We recognize and appreciate this organization’s championship history, and we understand we have not met that standard.

 “Moving forward, we will carefully evaluate every aspect of our football operations and make whatever changes are necessary to restore this franchise’s winning tradition. I will lead our head coaching search with support from our ownership group and George, whom I have confidence in as our general manager.”

That final sentence is noteworthy, as Paton has drawn sharp criticism this season for his role in the decisions to hire Hackett and acquire Wilson. Conflicting reports have emerged recently regarding whether or not Paton’s tenure would be cut short after only two seasons at the helm in the Mile High City. A public vote of confidence from the team’s new ownership group bodes well for his job security in at least the short-term future.

Nevertheless, Paton and the rest of the Broncos’ front office will be under intense scrutiny in the coming months as they look to undo the damage caused by Hackett’s hiring. Wilson is under contract through 2028 as a result of the mega-extension he signed before making his regular season debut with Denver this fall, so he is tied to the franchise for years to come. That, along with coaching uncertainty for the second straight offseason will leave a significant stain on the 2022 season for the Broncos, the sixth straight in which they have produced a losing record.

Hackett, meanwhile, is unlikely to find himself on the head coaching radar anytime soon. The total inability of the Broncos to find consistency on offense in particular and build any momentum during the season suggests he is best suited as an offensive coordinator, the role he held for eight total years with the Bills, Jaguars and Packers before taking the Denver gig this offseason.

Latest On Broncos GM George Paton’s Job Status

Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett is more than likely going to be a one-and-done in Denver, but there may be additional casualties following the Broncos’ underwhelming 2022 season. Sources told Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post that “front-office changes are more probable than not” in Denver, with the writer specifically pointing to general manager George Paton.

[RELATED: Broncos Likely To Fire Nathaniel Hackett Before Season’s End?]

Things haven’t gone great for Paton during his second season in Denver. The organization’s two main offseason moves — the trade (and subsequent extension) for Russell Wilson and the hiring of Hackett — have backfired, and as La Canfora points out, both of those moves were made before new ownership took over. The Rob Walton-led ownership group has “unlimited resources,” as La Canfora writes, and they may be more willing to eat the salaries of both their head coach and GM.

While La Canfora’s sources indicate that front office changes could be coming, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is adamant that Paton is staying put. During an appearance on 104.8 The Fan in Denver, Schefter opined that the GM will keep his job following the 2022 campaign.

“I expect that George Paton is going to be safe,” Schefter said (via the station’s website). “You can write that down from me. I don’t think he’s going anywhere.”

Paton worked his way up the Vikings organization, culminating in him earning the role of assistant general manager/vice president of player personnel. After being connected to a number of GM vacancies, he was hired by the Broncos following the 2020 season. During Paton’s first season at the helm, the organization traded star Von Miller and finished with a 7-9 record. A new quarterback and head coach were expected to right the ship in 2022, but the team is currently sitting with a 3-9 record.

Coaching Rumors: Colts, Broncos, Reich

Jeff Saturday is now overseeing a staff full of Frank Reich assistants, but the surprising Colts HC hire is not currently looking to add any new personnel to his staff for this audition. Rumors of Jim Irsay‘s Saturday hire frustrating current Colts staffers surfaced last week, and while Saturday bucking the recent trend by seeing his interim tag turn into a full-time post would likely mean a host of new assistants in 2023, Reich’s group will be the one in place for the rest of this season.

I like the group; I like the support they give each other. They’re in clearly defined roles,” Saturday said. “And I’m happy with where they are. Bringing somebody in, trying to learn an entire process or how we’ve done things? I like where the guys are, so I don’t anticipate that. I’m not guaranteeing it, but in my head I haven’t even had a chance to get that far. I’m just trying to get Week 2 under my belt.”

Saturday stopping short of shutting down the prospect of outside staffers coming in is interesting, but considering how off the board his hire was, it would not surprise to see the new Colts HC consider bringing in some staffers while he is in charge. Here is the latest from the coaching scene:

  • Scott Milanovich confirmed recent reports he turned down an opportunity to be the Colts’ play-caller. The veteran assistant, who is in his second season as Indianapolis’ quarterbacks coach, said (via The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, on Twitter) “Ultimately, it just wasn’t the right situation, I don’t think, for me at the time and the and the team.” Milanovich called plays in the CFL and as an interim OC with the Jaguars four years ago. Both he and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery are set to be involved with game-planning going forward, but assistant QBs coach Parks Frazier will be the voice in Matt Ryan‘s helmet going forward.
  • The OC Milanovich succeeded in Jacksonville in 2018, Nathaniel Hackett continues to oversee a disappointing Broncos season. After picking up a win in London, Denver reverted to its pattern of sluggish second halves in Tennessee. Although injuries have steadily depleted Hackett’s offense, the unit is averaging a league-low 14.6 points per game and also struggled when more of its starters were healthy. Some of George Paton‘s peers are advocating for the second-year GM to be proactive with this coaching situation, per Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post, to better ensure he will stay on the job. Hackett hit the one-and-done radar stunningly early, but Paton’s status has not come up as much. Like Hackett, Paton was hired before the team’s new ownership arrived. While Paton has fared well in key aspects since taking the job in 2021, the Hackett-Russell Wilson partnership not working out has undoubtedly affected his perception.
  • Nick Sirianni spent three seasons as the Colts’ OC and worked with Frank Reich with the Chargers as well. The current Eagles HC did not shoot down the idea of Reich joining Philly’s staff, likely in a consultant-type role, via EJ Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer. This would not only make sense for Sirianni, but Reich had a rather notable Eagles stay previously, being the OC on staff during the Birds’ Super Bowl LII-winning campaign.
  • Former Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon pleaded guilty to a domestic battery charge stemming from a May incident, according to ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss, who adds the longtime NFL staffer received a suspended one-year prison sentence. An Indiana judge instead gave Saxon, 56, one year of probation. The Cardinals placed Saxon on administrative leave in August; he resigned from the team last month. Saxon, who was on Kliff Kingsbury‘s staff since 2019, spent 23 years as an NFL assistant.

Latest On Nathaniel Hackett’s Job Status

League executives are starting to wonder how long the Broncos will tolerate Nathaniel Hackett‘s growing pains. Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post spoke with NFL executives, evaluators, and coaches, with many “paint[ing] a bleak picture” of Denver’s outlook with Hackett at the helm. The head coach’s “ability to survive his first season on the job” is being discussed around the NFL, per La Canfora.

[RELATED: Which Head Coach Will Be Fired First In 2022?]

Many of the sources attribute Denver’s coaching issues to inexperience. One anonymous GM went as far as to wonder if GM George Paton may be the one to pull the plug. The team’s new ownership wasn’t responsible for hiring the current head coach/general manage pairing, and if Paton wants to save his own job, he may look to admit his mistake sooner than later.

“I hate to say it, because it’s only six weeks,” the anonymous GM told La Canfora, “but [Paton] needs to start separating himself from the coach. I like George a lot, and that’s what my advice to him would be. Keep trying to give [Hackett] help, if he’ll take it, but you also may have to be willing to admit it was a mistake far sooner than you ever imagined. This owner didn’t hire either of them. You have to be careful how hard you fight to prove this can work, because it’s been a disaster so far. And if you aren’t careful, you’re going to get fired, too.”

Before firing Hackett, there’s a chance that the organization could try to remedy the situation. Some of the sources suggested bringing in an outside consultant, with many pointing to the inexperience of the coaching staff. As La Canfora notes, Dom Capers and Jerry Rosburg are the lone experienced coaches on the staff, and the writer even suggests that the team could look to bring in Gary Kubiak as an adviser or even as interim head coach. Kubiak’s son, Klint Kubiak, is the team’s quarterbacks coach.

Still, no matter how much experience the Broncos add to the coaching staff, it still might not be enough. One executive told La Canfora that Hackett doesn’t look like he’s ready to be a head coach.

“Unless something changes quickly, I don’t think he gets through the year,” the executive said. “It looks too big for him. It looks too fast for him. The red-zone play-calling has been awful. I don’t see enough adjustments being made.”

Of course, part of the team’s issues could also be attributed to quarterback Russell Wilson, who also drew criticism from the personnel that was polled by La Canfora. Even with Wilson’s underwhelming play, many still believe he isn’t being put in a position to succeed, with La Canfora pointing to the team’s lack of RPOs and motion.

“Some of that is on the quarterback, certainly,” a GM said, “but they don’t seem to have a lot of ideas when the field gets tight, and I don’t think they have the right people in that building now to fix it.”

AFC West Notes: Chargers, Hackett, Chiefs

After Justin Herbert finished the 2021 season in the unusual position of being the AFC’s Pro Bowl starter but out of the playoffs, Brandon Staley voiced concerns about the Chargers‘ roster to ownership. Staley conveyed to both ownership and the Bolts’ front office that defensive and special teams upgrades were necessary this offseason. More specifically, Staley wanted veteran pieces, ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry notes, adding that the second-year HC sought a defense capable of complementing a ready-now offense.

[I] felt really strongly that in order to build a complete football team that was ready to face what we’re going to have to face,” Staley said, “that we needed to make significant changes in those two phases of the game.”

DVOA placed the 2021 Chargers fourth in offense and 26th defensively, despite the fast-rising Staley becoming the team’s head coach based on his defensive credentials. Facing a time crunch created by Herbert’s extension eligibility, the Chargers added big-ticket defensive pieces in Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. Auxiliary troops like Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Kyle Van Noy and Bryce Callahan signed as well. The Chargers also extended Derwin James, on a safety-record deal, this summer. The team, which ranked 28th in special teams DVOA last season, replaced its punter and long snapper as well. JK Scott and ex-Falcon Josh Harris are in those roles this year.

These additions raise the stakes for Staley, who will have fewer excuses given his 2022 personnel. Here is the latest from the AFC West, shifting first to a coach off to an unusual start:

  • It is uncertain if the Broncos will change Nathaniel Hackett‘s game-day roles, but after the rookie HC’s game-management struggles through two weeks, he said (via 9News’ Mike Klis, on Twitter) GM George Paton and assistant GM Darren Mougey have assisted him in these areas this week. Although the puzzling 64-yard field goal decision in Seattle and the Denver crowd counting down the play clock in Week 2 (after the team’s fourth delay-of-game penalty of the season) are the main takeaways from Hackett’s start, the Broncos are 0-for-6 in red zone touchdowns and have committed 25 penalties — including six false starts — through two games. The 25 infractions are a Broncos two-game record. Hackett said (via Klis, on Twitter) the team will have “good answers moving forward” in these areas.
  • Willie Gay‘s four-game suspension will take a starting linebacker off the field for the Chiefs. While the team used a third-round pick on Leo Chenal this year, Andy Reid said (via ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher, on Twitter) Darius Harris will be first in line to fill in for Gay. The Middle Tennessee State alum has been with the Chiefs since 2019, being part of the team’s UDFA class. Spending much of his career on Kansas City’s practice squad, Harris has played 13 games — including two starts, both in 2020 — with the team.
  • While Staley stressed the team will not rush Herbert back, the third-year Chargers quarterback practiced in a limited capacity Wednesday. Herbert’s rib cartilage fracture comes as the doctor leading his rehab effort — David S. Gazzaniga — is being sued by former Bolts QB Tyrod Taylor regarding a 2020 incident. “I think we have full alignment with Justin and his family, his agents, and then the medical professionals, and that’s what we’re going to try to do is have alignment that way and just kind of trust the process and hopefully get him well soon,” Staley said, via Thiry.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

Wednesday, we took a look at how the 2022 offseason changed the HC landscape. While 10 new sideline leaders are in place for 2022, not quite as much turnover transpired on the general manager front. Five new decision-makers, however, have moved to the top of teams’ front office hierarchies over the past six months.

The Bears, Giants, Raiders and Vikings rebooted their entire operations, hiring new HC-GM combos. The Minnesota move bumped out one of the previous top-10 longest-tenured GMs, with 16-year Vikings exec Rick Spielman no longer in power in the Twin Cities. The Steelers’ shakeup took the NFL’s longest-tenured pure GM out of the mix. Kevin Colbert was with the Steelers since 2000, and although he is still expected to remain with the team in a reduced capacity, the 22-year decision-maker stepped down shortly after Ben Roethlisberger wrapped his career.

Twelve teams have now hired a new GM in the past two offseasons, though a bit more staying power exists here compared to the HC ranks. Two GMs (the Cardinals’ Steve Keim and Chargers’ Tom Telesco) have begun their 10th years at the helms of their respective front offices. They have hired three HCs apiece. The Buccaneers’ Jason Licht is closing in on a decade in power in Tampa Bay; Licht will now work with his fourth HC in Todd Bowles. Beyond that, a bit of a gap exists. But a handful of other executives have been in power for at least five seasons.

Here is how long every GM or de facto GM has been in place with his respective franchise:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  5. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  6. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010; signed extension in 2022
  7. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2019
  8. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013; signed extension in 2022
  9. Tom Telesco (Los Angeles Chargers): January 9, 2013; signed extension in 2018
  10. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  11. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  12. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016; signed extension in 2022
  13. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  14. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  15. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  16. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  17. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  18. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  19. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  20. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  21. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  22. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  23. Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers): January 14, 2021
  24. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021
  25. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  26. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  27. Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders): January 22, 2021
  28. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  29. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  30. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  31. Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  32. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018