Inside the Broncos’ coaching search: How late nights, long flights, hours of meetings ended with Nathaniel Hackett’s hire

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Inside the Broncos’ coaching search: How late nights, long flights, hours of meetings ended with Nathaniel Hackett’s hire
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A fourth candidate interview in 36 hours complete and a cross-country flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles closing in, Broncos general manager George Paton was looking forward to a short night of sleep at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Following dinner, chief communications officer Patrick Smyth, who drinks coffee like most people drink water, offered Paton a double espresso.

“I had never really had one before,” Paton said with a laugh. “I didn’t sleep at all that night. I was so (ticked). It set me back.”

Fortunately for Paton, it was the only setback — and a brief one — during a 19-day odyssey-of-a-search to find a coach to replace Vic Fangio, whom he fired. It was nearly three weeks of early mornings and late nights, long and short flights, great (Green Bay) and average (Philadelphia) dinners and hours of discussion during private plane trips.

The Broncos interviewed 10 candidates (nine in-person) in eight cities over nine days, choosing to travel to the candidate instead of the sterile video conference format.

“Pretty smooth from the outset,” Paton said. “From the opening interview, we were pretty sharp.”

During an interview with The Denver Post in his second-floor office at the Broncos’ facility, Paton walked through the process of selecting the five people who made up his search committee, the 15-category grading form each person filled out post-interview and ultimately last week’s timeline that ended with Nathaniel Hackett being introduced on Friday.

Developing the plan

Paton informed Fangio of his dismissal early on Sunday, Jan. 9.

“When you’re in my position, you need to have a plan so I had a plan already in place before I took this job,” Paton said. “I envisioned the five people on the committee if we had to make a change.”

Later that day, Paton finalized his search committee. He would be joined by Smyth, executive director of football operations/special advisor to the general manager Kelly Kleine, director of player personnel Darren Mougey, vice president of football administration Rich Hurtado and vice president of player development Ray Jackson.

“We all had different roles and they all brought something different to the table and a unique perspective,” Paton said. “Ray: He knew the pulse of the locker room and who would fit. Darren: A football mind. Kelly: She has the greatest common sense of anybody in the building and she’s a great judge of character and people. Rich: An agent’s perspective and he’s been on the side of his agency representing candidates and what questions to ask. And Patrick: The pulse of the league he has.

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