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Broncos GM George Paton says he believes in Hackett, Wilson

'Learning to win' and growth remain critical in second half of the season
George Paton Harrow.jpg
Posted at 7:42 AM, Oct 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-27 11:40:08-04

LONDON — His team mired in a four-game losing streak and falling out of contention, Broncos general manager George Paton expressed confidence in embattled coach Nathaniel Hackett and franchise quarterback Russell Wilson.

Paton recognizes the the criticism surrounding Hackett after the Broncos' difficulties in prime time games. Hackett has been panned for decisions, game management and the dormant offense, which ranks last in scoring.

"I believe in Nathaniel. I support Nathaniel 100 percent. He's been in this for seven games as a head coach. The scrutiny he's faced is unprecedented," Paton said when I asked him about Hackett. "We have had four prime time games, so he's had to learn in front of the world. He's kept the team together. They are connected. He's kept our building together. And I appreciate how he's gone through this."

Players supported Hackett following practice, praising his energy.

"I knew Paton would say that. We believe in coach," left guard Dalton Risner said, echoing comments from receiver K.J. Hamler.

Paton made no excuses for injuries, the issues offensively, or the 2-5 record, saying "it's not good enough." He also pointed the finger in the mirror.

"Obviously, the results aren't there. Obviously, it's not good enough. We all need to get better, and it starts with me. I do believe in this football team, I do believe in the people in our building, the coaching staff, that we can turn it around. It's only seven games," Paton said. "Obviously we've been in every game, and that's not what it's all about. It's about winning games, and we need to learn how to win football games. We haven't done that."

While recognizing the newness would prevent the Broncos from being a "well-oiled machine," the offense has to improve. It starts with Hackett, the play-caller, but more specifically Wilson. He's on pace for career-lows in touchdowns (14) and completion percentage (58.6).

"I thought it would take time. Obviously it has, but there's a lot we have to work on. And then you have some injuries on offense. Our staff's trying to learn each other, our players are trying to learn each other. It's just a lot. No excuses. We need to play better," Paton said from the Harrow School in London where the Broncos are practicing this week. "The offense isn't good enough to win games. Defense has kept us in it, but the offense has to play better."

I asked Paton if he was worried that Wilson, who turns 34 in November, was entering a decline.

"I am not concerned. We are in it for the long haul with Russ, not just the first seven games. We believe in Russ. I believe in Russ. We just need to play better on offense, the timing the rhythm. We need an identity. We really don't have an identity with offense. I think that comes with time. And hopefully it comes soon," Paton said.

"He's trying to learn the staff, the staff's trying to learn him and all of our players. We know what Russ is capable of. It's our job to get the best out of Russ and our entire offense. I know we'll get there. You've seen the flashes with Russ, whether it was the first half of the Raiders (game), the first half of the Chargers (game). You see the arm strength, the accuracy, the mobility."

Paton gave Wilson a five-year, $245 million extension in August. It was believed that Wilson waiving his no-trade clause to come Denver came with assurances of a new deal. He had all the leverage, of course. Paton was asked if he should have waited.

"We wanted to get ahead of the contract cycle. We had seen how Russ was in the offseason and training camp and we felt really good about Russ. We feel really good about Russ," Paton said. "We didn’t want a lot of distraction during the season. We feel really good about it. I feel good about that deal. I feel like it will hold up. I feel good about it."

Asked about his goals for the second half, Paton said the team needs to learn how to win and show growth.

"What we've learned (is that) we need to make plays at the end of games to win games, and we haven't done that. In all our games, we've either fumbled a punt or didn't make a catch. Just a lot that goes into it. Even last year, I felt this team needed to learn how to win. We're still learning, unfortunately," Paton said.

"We all want to see wins. I think it's really important; growth from the offense, from special teams. But we want to win; we're all in this to win. We're all here to win. It's great to be here, but we all want to win."