With all due respect to the four candidates still in the running for the position, the people who have interviewed for the Broncos general manager job form an underwhelming group. It’s not exactly a “who’s who” of front-office types.
That doesn’t mean George Paton, Champ Kelly, Terry Fontenot and Brian Stark aren’t up-and-coming personnel people. They all are in that category.
But they aren’t proven commodities. Nor was Dave Ziegler, who withdrew from consideration on Sunday.
None of them have been an NFL GM before. None of the have done the job. None of them have any track record of success.
That’s the trend with the Broncos. Their last two big hires, both head coaches, were newbies. And for good reason.
After Gary Kubiak wasn’t willing to play Paxton Lynch instead of Trevor Siemian in the 2016 season finale, John Elway wanted a head coach who clearly was second in command. He wanted someone who would follow his orders.
That’s why Vance Joseph was given an opportunity to be a head coach after just one season as a defensive coordinator. He was willing to cede power, to the point where he didn’t even get to pick his coordinators.
Even after that two-year disaster, Elway still wasn’t ready to hire a powerful head coach. That’s how he wound up with Vic Fangio, a lifer assistant coach who was desperate to get a top job at 60 years old and was willing to have Rich Scangarello crammed down his throat in year one.
Both were willing to take a job that wasn’t ideal. Other teams weren’t giving them the opportunity, so they couldn’t afford to be picky.
The same can be applied to the four potential general managers. There’s a reason Thomas Dimitroff, Rick Smith and other seasoned candidates aren’t finalists in Denver.
The Broncos job isn’t a very good one. At least not right now.
The former GM will still be around, as John Elway is under contract for the 2021 season. Fourteen months from now, there will be a new boss, as Joe Ellis has said he’s won’t be around after March 2022. And Fangio will be back as the head coach, despite a 12-20 record that is largely due to his incompetence.
Who would want to deal with those things? Someone who isn’t in line for a GM job anywhere else.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t smart, hard-working, talented people. And it doesn’t mean they won’t work out.
But it does mean that the Broncos aren’t shopping at the high-end stores. Instead, they’re hoping to find a diamond in the rough at the outlet mall.
While that’s frustrating, it’s understandable. It’s the financially responsible thing to do.
If the Broncos are sold in the coming year, there’s a good chance that the new owner will want to make changes. He or she will want to bring in their own people.
That’s why Fangio is coming back. The new owner can let him go after the 2021 season and make the new hire, only having to eat the one remaining season on the head coach’s contract.
And it’s why Stark has the inside track to be the next GM. He’s an easy transition, given that he’s an internal candidate. And he can be replaced without having to pay off $15-20 million.
If Stark works out, that’s great for everyone. The new owner has a sharp, young GM who is working for less than most of his counterparts. If he doesn’t, everyone can move on easily. Smooth and seamless.
It’s a good gamble for the team. And it’s a good gamble for Stark, as he will have a GM gig on his resume and will secure a nice pay increase.
That might not be the splashy move that Broncos Country was hoping to see. But reading the tea leaves, that’s the way it’s going to go.
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