George Paton

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,’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’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


  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

Broncos Notes: Offensive Line, Veteran CB Search, Javonte Williams

With OTAs and mandatory minicamp finished across the league, organizations and media members alike have had the chance to break down some of the elements of the offseason which have stood out the most to them. In the case of the Broncos, 9News’ Mike Klis has detailed some of his key observations.

Among those is the plethora of variances in the team’s offensive line combinations during practices. Klis notes that the most commonly-used unit comprised Garett Bolles and Dalton Risner on the left side, with Lloyd Cushenberry III at center and Quinn Meinerz and Calvin Anderson occupying right guard and right tackle, respectively.

There are a number of other options being plugged into various positions, though. Included among those is Netane Muti, who has seen work with the other starters while filling in at both guard positions, as well as Graham Glasgow, who recently returned to practice to compete for a starting role. Lastly, Klis lists Billy Turner as a veteran who is “expected to play” somewhere along the o-line. The 30-year-old came back to the Broncos on a one-year, $5MM deal this offseason, but is also the linemen most experienced in working with new HC Nathaniel Hackett. 

Here are a few other notes from that same Klis piece:

  • Cornerback had the potential to be an area of need, at least in terms of depth behind Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby and K’Waun Williams, at this point in the offseason. However, Klis cites the play of Michael Ojemudia during the spring as cause for optimism that the team’s best option for the No. 4 role may already be on the roster. The 2020 third-rounder is set to compete with Damarri Mathis, whom the Broncos drafted in the fourth round this year, for that spot. A number of veteran free agents could still “wind up on GM George Paton’s radar,” Klis notes, however.
  • To no surprise, running back Javonte Williams is expected to “bump up to the 1A role” in 2022. In his rookie season, the North Carolina alum produced over 1,200 scrimmage yards despite splitting carries with Melvin Gordon, who signed a one-year deal to stay in Denver. Given his the former’s efficiency, and the seven-year age gap between the two, Williams is the logical candidate to assume a larger workload going forward.


AFC Draft Rumors: Belichick, Chiefs, Broncos

The first round of the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft has been billed as one of the most unpredictable in recent memory. There is plenty of top talent that will anticipate hearing their names called from picks 1-15 or so, but NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport believes that, past that, first-round picks will be used on players that some teams have third-round grades on, and, ultimately, some players with first-round talent may fall to the third round. This is part of a common analysis that the Draft lacks the top-end talent of most drafts but is much deeper than most with the strength of this Draft being in picks 30-90.

Beyond the regular challenge of guessing who a team might pick or where a player might fall, there is the near certainty that every mock draft on the internet will go down the drain when a team ultimately makes a draft-day trade. When discussing what might go down this Thursday with the Patriots, ESPN’s Mike Reiss is riding the odds.

Since head coach Bill Belichick joined New England in 2000, the Patriots lead the NFL in draft-day trades with 83. The next closest team is the Eagles with 64. Reiss believes that Belichick will stay true to form and strongly attempt to trade down later into the first round, allowing the Patriots to collect more draft capital in that deeper part of the Draft.

Here are a few other rumors concerning how teams in the AFC will be approaching the Draft:

  • In accordance with the opinions above, Michael David Smith of NBC Sports reported that Chiefs general manager Brett Veach told the media they have 16-18 players on the board with first-round grades. The good news: the Chiefs have two first-round picks. The bad news: those picks are 29th and 30th overall. Veach doesn’t love their chances of having one of those guys fall to them at the end of the first round. The Chiefs could either combine those picks together to try and trade up and nab one of the guys on their board or, more likely, Kansas City will trade down, exchanging those picks for others in the 30-60 range that Veach likes, adding to their current picks at 50th and 62nd.
  • When the Broncos acquired quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks, they surrendered their two earliest picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Without those picks, they won’t have an opportunity to draft anybody until the last pick of the second round, which they acquired from the Rams in exchange for outside linebacker Von Miller. General manager George Paton says that if they suffer from the fear of missing out, they’ll just “watch Russell Wilson highlights.” Since the Wilson-trade took their first two picks of the 2023 NFL Draft, as well, ESPN’s Jeff Legwold reports that Paton will certainly be open to fielding trade calls in order to potentially get Denver some more draft picks for next year.

Broncos Unlikely To Move Up To First Round

Following their blockbuster acquisition of quarterback Russell Wilson, the Broncos are operating without a first-round pick. Of course, GM George Paton said the trade was still more than worth it, especially after the organization dealt with a rotating cast of QBs over the past half-decade.

“It’s a blessing. We love having first-round picks. We love having the early second, but we also love having a franchise quarterback that sets the tone every day in the building,” Paton said (via’s Coral Smith). “I come in here and he’s here working. There is a reason he’s great. It’s because of the work he puts into it … On that first day (of the draft), we’ll watch Russell Wilson highlights.”

While the Broncos may not have a first-round pick, they’re still loaded will draft capital, including nine picks overall and five selections in the first four rounds. The front office could conceivably have the ammo to move up to the first round, but Paton told reporters that he’s unlikely to move that far up, with the GM hinting at a potential move up the board during the second round (per Mike Klis of 9News on Twitter). The team’s first selection is currently at No. 64 overall.

“When we get to that second day, we’ll be on the phone calling every team. We’ll have an idea of what we want to do on that second day, especially as it starts dropping to the mid rounds,” Paton said. “Then we’ll decide do we want to move, do we want to stand pat, or do we want to move back? That kind of depends on who is there and how many players that we like are there.”

So what will the Broncos look to accomplish in the draft as they make a push toward contention?

“I think we’re in a really good spot,” Paton said. “I think there’s going to be value in those rounds where we can upgrade our team, upgrade our depth, and upgrade our speed which is everything we need to do.”

Latest On Seahawks-Broncos’ Russell Wilson Trade

Although the Broncos have been in need at quarterback for six years, GM George Paton said Seahawks GM John Schneider initiated the Russell Wilson trade talks. A Schneider text to Paton got the ball rolling on the trade at the Senior Bowl, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post notes.

Schneider expected the Broncos to be interested, and the talks heated up at the Combine. While Denver was also linked to Aaron Rodgers for nearly a year, Paton said Wilson was the team’s No. 1 priority throughout the offseason. The Broncos planned to do “anything it took” to acquire Wilson, Jeff Legwold of tweets. The deal sent the Seahawks five draft picks and three players, including quarterback Drew Lock, who as of now figures to factor in prominently in Seattle’s post-Wilson QB plans.

The Seahawks’ official statements, while complimentary of the nine-time Pro Bowler overall, included interesting language. All three indicated the quarterback wanting out catalyzed the trade. Jody Allen‘s statement said Wilson “made it clear” he wanted a change, with the owner’s short message also saying she hopes the next Seahawks squad will be “fully engaged.” (A previous report by The Athletic included select anonymous players accusing Wilson of checking out last season, which seems to conflict with the QB’s quest to return earlier than expected from thumb surgery.) Pete Carroll‘s statement backed Allen’s, as could be expected, and said Wilson “wanted something different.”

Wilson called the separation mutual, and Schneider said Wednesday he did not expect the future Hall of Fame passer to sign another Seahawks extension, via’s Brady Henderson (on Twitter). Wilson’s 2019 extension expires after the 2023 season, though the Broncos will be expected to re-sign him either this offseason or in 2023.

A conversation with Paton and Wilson’s faith in the Broncos’ roster prompted him to waive his no-trade clause and target Denver as a destination, O’Halloran adds, and Paton said the Broncos’ new quarterback was already en route to Denver when news of Rodgers’ extension surfaced last week. John Elway, who is now a Broncos consultant after 10 years as the team’s GM and one in a different executive role, was one of the few people Paton brought into the loop on the prospective Wilson trade.

In landing the 33-year-old Wilson, the Broncos will presumably have a longer run with this particular trade acquisition than they did with Peyton Manning or would have with Rodgers. Wilson is still planning to play past age 40.

Broncos Set To Be Aggressive In QB Pursuit

It’s no secret that the Broncos will be in the market for a new quarterback. In his media availability Tuesday, general manager George Paton confirmed that the team will be active in adding a signal caller (video link via Denver7’s Troy Renck). 

Paton made it clear how open the team is to exploring all options, something which could be made easier by the fact they have 11 picks in the upcoming draft, starting with the ninth selection. When specifically asked about the current QB situation the team is facing, he reiterated that change could soon be coming.

It’s the most important position in sports, so we’re always looking”, he said, noting the presence of 2019 second rounder Drew Lock on the roster. “But we’re always looking. And we’re [going to leave] no stone unturned to find that guy. We know we need better play out of the quarterback position, so we’re going to be aggressive”. 

Pending free agent Teddy Bridgewater was the team’s starter in 2021 (after winning a training camp competition with Lock), making him the latest in a long line of attempts to find a permanent successor to Peyton Manning. His play, while on par with what the team would’ve expected given his prior stops in the NFL, wasn’t enough to end the team’s playoff drought.

New head coach Nathaniel Hackett is among the reasons Denver has been listed as a potential trade destination for Aaron Rodgers, though Green Bay could still end up being where the reigning MVP plays next year. If not Rodgers, the team could look to acquire a veteran such as Jimmy Garoppolo, or turn to the upcoming draft. On that point, 9News’ Mike Klis tweeted that the team had formal interviews with this year’s QBs on Monday night at the Combine. Given their position in the draft order, Denver could have its pick of the class, which is headlined by the likes of Kenny Pickett, Sam Howell and Malik Willis.

As one of the biggest players in the QB market, the route Denver takes to find someone new under center will dictate much of the rest of the offseason, both in the Mile High City and beyond.

Broncos Hire Nathaniel Hackett As Head Coach

The first domino has fallen in the 2022 head coaching hiring cycle. The Broncos have hired Nathaniel Hackett as their new head coach, as first reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). 

Hackett, 42 has been the offensive coordinator in Green Bay since 2019. While he hasn’t handled play-calling duties during that time, he is credited to a large degree with the high level of play QB Aaron Rodgers has sustained well into his thirties, and the Packers’ three-straight 13-win seasons.

Prior to his time in Green Bay, he had established himself as one of the best young offensive minds in the league during stints in Buffalo and Jacksonville. He interviewed with the Jaguars once already, and had a second meeting scheduled for today. That sped up the hiring process for Broncos general manager George Paton, who “stepped in Wednesday night to get a deal done”, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Hackett will take on a HC role for the first time in his career, both at the college and NFL levels. Meanwhile, he marks the fourth coach hired by Denver since 2016, a stretch that includes five consecutive losing seasons. The offense-based background for Hackett represents a departure from that of the recently-fired Vic Fangio, as well as Dan Quinn, the Cowboys’ DC who has been the hottest name in this year’s hiring cycle and was a finalist for this job.

For the Packers, QB coach Luke Getsy, who also interviewed in Denver, is the favorite to take over as their OC. Meanwhile, this news strengthens the case for Byron Leftwich to get the Jacksonville gig.

Here’s how Denver’s HC search ended up looking:

Be sure to check in on our Head Coach Search Tracker for all the latest updates as more vacancies begin to be filled.

Broncos Add Kelly Kleine, Roman Phifer To Front Office

The Broncos have been busy adding to their front office in recent days. Earlier this week, the organization announced that they’ve hired Kelly Kleine as Executive Director of Football Operations/Special Advisor to the General Manager and Roman Phifer as Senior Personnel Executive.

In her new role, Kleine is expected to be involved in every aspect of the organization’s day-to-day operations, especially in regards to pro and college scouting. She will also be “the primary liaison for the team’s football operations,” and she’ll oversee the video and equipment departments. As the team website notes, Kleine is believed to be the “highest ranking female in scouting in the history of the league.”

Kleine had spent the previous 10 years with the Vikings, including the past two as Manager of Player Personnel/College. Albert Breer of writes that Vikings GM Rick Spielman wanted to retain Kleine, but the opportunity was too good to reject. In Denver, she will report directly to George Paton, with the two having previously worked alongside each other during their stints in Minnesota. Tory Renck of Denver7 tweets that the GM had been looking to hire Klein since January.

Phifer won three Super Bowls during a 15-year NFL career. Following his retirement, he spent some time as a Broncos coach before joining UCLA as the football program’s director of player development. Phifer had been with the Detroit Lions since 2018, serving as the team’s West Coast Area Scout. In Denver, the 53-year-old is expected to split his time between Denver and the road.

Broncos GM Paton: Haven’t Called About Moving Up, Will Bring In QB Competition

We heard just a couple of days ago that the Broncos were a team potentially looking to move up in the draft. Speaking to the media today, new GM George Paton made it sound like that’s not something he’s planning on as of right now.

Paton says the team has not made any calls about moving up in the draft from their current ninth spot, James Palmer of NFL Network tweets. Paton also said has received calls from teams looking to move up next week. If Denver truly does stand pat at nine, they likely wouldn’t be able to draft one of the true top passers.

That’s relevant, because notably Paton did confirm bluntly that the Broncos are going to bring in a new quarterback to push Drew Lock. “We want to bring in competition at the quarterback position,” Paton said, via Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link).

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Lock certainly can’t be considered etched in stone as the Broncos’ Week 1 starter at this point. Paton also didn’t rule out moving up in the draft, saying something could materialize on draft day, only that nothing is in the works right now. If the team doesn’t draft a quarterback early it’s unclear what kind of competition they’d bring in, since the veteran market has mostly dried up. Paton did refer to a “trade market,” so maybe they could swing a deal for another team’s veteran backup.

It’s possible that if the Broncos don’t trade up and miss out on the first-round guys, they could draft a quarterback on Day 2. At that point, Davis Mills of Stanford, Kyle Trask of Florida, and Kellen Mond of Texas A&M would all be realistic options.