Kiszla: Broncos must relentlessly pursue Deshaun Watson, if George Paton is truly serious about winning Super Bowl in Denver – The Denver Post

Unless he finds a legitimate franchise quarterback, new Broncos general manager George Paton is more likely to get fired in Denver than fulfill a pledge he made Tuesday to the team’s success-starved fans: “I would like to win a Super Bowl here.”

After a five-year playoff drought, the Broncos’ No. 1 need is an elite quarterback. Sorry, Drew Lock ain’t it. He’s not bad. But Lock isn’t a worthy heir to John Elway and Peyton Manning. If Lock’s the QB for the 2021 season-opener, Denver will be playing for next year. Again.

“The quarterback is the most important position in sports. If you don’t have stability at quarterback, you’re going to have a hard time sustaining winning,” Paton said, when I asked him if Denver must rethink its formula of an elite defense complemented by any QB named Joe, Case or Paxton.

“I don’t think the focus should be taken off the defense just because you want a franchise quarterback. I think we all want the franchise quarterback, and the No. 1 goal is trying to draft and develop or acquire (one), any way you can.”

I have a dream for the Broncos. Maybe it’s a crazy one. But I’m doubling down on it.

Go get Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

He’s the man — one you want leading your football team. He’s one of the few QBs who could put the Broncos back on equal footing with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Why mention this? The relationship between Watson and the Houston Texans is on the rocks, per my former colleague Adam Schefter, the best-connected reporter in the league.

If Houston cannot work out its differences with Watson, he needs to be the QB of the Broncos in 2021. Back up a truck filled with two first-round draft picks and two players off the current roster (Bradley Chubb and Lock, perhaps?). Do whatever it takes. Make the Texans an offer they cannot refuse. If it’s even remotely possible, Paton has got to make it happen.

Trade for Watson? It’s a long shot, at best.

For starters, Watson probably has to be willing to sacrifice money in a staredown with the Texans, and team ownership must blink. There would be no shortage of likely suitors, from New York to San Francisco, should Houston decide its differences with Watson are irreconcilable.

OK, there might not even be a 10% chance Watson ever wears orange and blue. But I am confident telling you this: If the Broncos dedicate 2021 to the slim hope Lock suddenly morphs into Josh Allen, there’s far less than a 10% chance the season will conclude with Denver in the Super Bowl.

Find a true franchise quarterback, George. Or else.

Your predecessor as GM was forgiven for way too many personnel mistakes because Old No. 7 is bigger in Colorado than Pikes Peak. But there’s only one way Broncos Country will love you, George: Win!

Although his six-year contract offers financial security, that’s far different than job security, as Paton well knows. If six years are required for a rebuilding project, he won’t be in town for the end of his contract.

“Typically, in this league you don’t have a lot of time to turn things around,” Paton said. “You don’t have the six years, it has to be quicker.”

If Paton doesn’t pursue a franchise quarterback with the same vigor as he busted the wedge as a special teams grunt during his collegiate playing days, the Broncos hired the wrong general manager to turn around the team’s fortunes.

We hold this NFL truth to be self-evident: In the quest for a championship, the quarterback is more important than either the general manager or the coach. Hey, it’s my own little theory. You don’t have to buy it.

But if there are doubters among you, may I kindly suggest you ask Bill Belichick how much he will enjoy eating a Subway sandwich on the sofa while Tom Brady leads Tampa Bay to Green Bay for the NFC championship game.

“When I was in Minnesota, I think we went to the playoffs with six different quarterbacks if I’m not mistaken,” said Paton, who helped guide the Vikings into the postseason with everybody from Teddy Bridgewater to our old pal Case Keenum calling the shots on offense.

And how many Lombardi trophies did the Vikings nab during Paton’s 14 years in Minnesota?

Zero. (In fact, the closest the Vikings got to the Super Bowl was with a 40-year-old graybeard named Brett Favre.)

If he wants to make Elway happy, Paton could refuse to poke everywhere from Houston to Atlanta in search of a veteran quarterback. He could stick with Lock and make a solid case for using a first-round draft choice to rebuild the secondary, whether the pick is Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech or Patrick Surtain II of Alabama.

“I’m still high on Drew. He has the physical abilities to do it,” Elway said. “This year was essentially his rookie year, and he was put behind the 8-Ball with everything that went on with COVID and no offseason, especially with a young offense and a new offensive coordinator.”

OK, so who’s in charge around here on the big decisions? What happens should push come to shove regarding Lock? I asked Paton if he would be a strong enough executive to tell the great and powerful Elway: No!

“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there. I’m 0-for-1, so we’ll see how it goes. I couldn’t say no (to the job offer),” Paton replied.

“We’ll discuss everything, and John has a personality where we could disagree, I’m sure. I’ve enjoyed talking with John — football and everything — and we’ll have no problem saying no. I think that’s part of football, that’s part of making tough decisions is the ability to say no. We’re not going to get along on everything, and so when we don’t agree, we’re going to sit down and watch the tape. If we disagree, then we’re going to move on. That’s football. That’s how you build a team.”

Although Elway has been kicked upstairs, Paton would be well-advised to use the greatest player in team history as more than a sounding board.

Even at 60 years old, the Elway mystique remains strong for current NFL players. He successfully recruited Manning. While far be it for me to suggest tampering, why not assign Elway to recruit Watson?

“You can still win if you don’t have the franchise guy (at QB),” Paton said. “You can still win, but obviously we’re looking.”

So let the search begin for a quarterback better than Lock.

And let the search start with Watson.

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