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From moving into a hotel with his boss to beach scouting: Here's what makes George Paton "incredibly unique"

Zac Stevens Avatar
January 14, 2021

EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman and Broncos’ new general manager George Paton have been attached at the hip for over two decades.

Starting in the late 1990’s, the two have spent more time together than anyone else with Paton becoming Spielman’s right-hand man as they worked their way to the top of the NFL.

The friendship began in Chicago when Spielman was the Bears’ pro director and Paton was an intern.

“When I left to go to Miami, it took me a year, but I eventually got him down to Miami with me and then when I had the opportunity to come up here to Minnesota, there was no question he was the No. 1 person that I had to have on my staff,” Spielman told he Denver media on Thursday. “It took me a year, but a year after I got here I was able to get him to Minnesota.”

The working relationship quickly grew into a friendship, which blossomed into the two becoming best friends.

“Probably my greatest honor was when he asked me to be his son’s godfather—Beau when Beau was born,” Spielman said, speaking about his friend that he will no longer be working with after over 20 years together.

Safe to say, not many people know the Broncos’ new general manager better than his, now, former boss.

“Denver’s getting an incredible talent evaluator that—and you’re not an incredible talent evaluator in my opinion unless you’re sitting there willing to do the work and do all of the extra work that it takes and willing to look under every stone to find talent and George does that,” Spielman stated.

Instead of looking under every stone, a more fitting phrase Spielman could have used is Paton’s desire to look under every granule of sand to find NFL talent.

“Because of all the COVID-19 protocols [last year], because there were no workouts in the spring, we were looking for a player and I trusted him and his staff—our pro department—to find the guys and bring them to me and then let’s sit and meet on them,” Spielman said chuckling as he tried to describe Paton’s tireless work ethic. “Well he came in, he had a YouTube video of a guy working out on a beach that we eventually signed because that was the only thing we had.”

“Not that you’re ever going to make personnel decisions on a guy working out on a beach doing backpedals or catching a ball or anything, but that’s how far he will go to try and make sure that we’re getting the best talent that we can to get in here,” Spielman continued, still in disbelief nearly a year later. “The player did end up coming here and actually played for us late in the season.”

YouTube scouting apparently can work in the NFL. A key to that, however, is having an incredibly large serving of work ethic and grind to go along with it. When the two worked together in Chicago in the late 90’s, Paton’s commitment to the grind jumped out to Spielman.

“That’s what makes George incredibly unique is his work ethic, what you want to call a grinder. I know how much film that we watched together,” Spielman stated. “We get in here early and I taught him, and that’s what I was taught—you don’t leave until the coaches leave. And then in the offseason it even gets busier.”

The 2020 offseason was unlike any other. Two months after Paton withdrew his name from the running for the Cleveland Browns general manager job, COVID-19 shutdown nearly the entire United States.

While the country and NFL went almost completely remote throughout the offseason, Paton and Spielman took the opposite approach to their draft preparation.

“Out of all the years we’ve been together, probably the thing that will stick out to me the most was last year when me and him when the pandemic hit and me and George moved into a hotel together for 30 days,” Spielman said. “Got up and that’s all we did.”

For the most important month leading up to the draft, Paton moved into a hotel with his boss to do one thing exclusively: Work.

“We conducted our draft meetings. After the draft meetings, we would sit there and go through everything that we discussed [that day],” Spielman said, detailing their month-long grind together. “After that, I said let’s go ahead and do the board and we would sit there and play with the board and decide what we would want to present to the scouts tomorrow and with the coaches tomorrow off of everything that we know. For me, that was invaluable to have a person that I trusted so much that had the work ethic that he had.”

If grinding in all of their waking hours wasn’t enough for those 30 days, Paton took it one step further.

“I remember, I went to bed one night and I came back down—I forgot something—and there was something we discussed that he wasn’t sure of and he was back down there watching tape again,” Spielman said in awe of his former assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel.

To succeed in the NFL, a tireless work ethic is almost mandatory. Yet, even with the bar set that high, Paton’s astonishing work ethic sets him apart from the rest and makes him “incredibly unique.”

“There’s no question that he is more than ready to run his own shop and to lead an organization with a historic club that has a great tradition out in Denver,” Spielman said, fully confident that his friend will succeed as the Broncos’ new general manager. “Denver, to me, got an incredible, not only talent evaluator, but an incredible person.”

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