Degrees of separation: Several HC candidates worked closely with Paton

Jan 9, 2022, 1:52 PM | Updated: 2:08 pm

A number of coaching candidates have connections with general manager George Paton, and the degrees of separation could be a factor in the search for the Denver Broncos new head coach.

Here’s a deeper look into the “degrees of George Paton”:


One degree from George Paton

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings head coach

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - AUGUST 14: Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings watches his team warm up before a preseason game against the Denver Broncos at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 14, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

George Paton » Mike Zimmer

If Zimmer is let go in Minnesota, as has been rumored, his experience as a head coach and long time working directly working with Paton could make him a logical candidate. Zimmer would make it three consecutive defensive-minded head coaches for the Broncos, leaving a major question of whom Zimmer would look to fix the team’s struggling offense.


Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 07: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy after an NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs on Nov 7, 2021 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

George Paton » Eric Bieniemy

The Colorado Buffaloes legend spent four seasons in Minnesota with Paton, when he was coaching Adrian Peterson and the Vikings running backs. Bieniemy has been a highly referenced candidate around the league for years, and his familiarity with the dominant team and quarterback in the Broncos’ division could bring added value.


Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator

TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 09: Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn of the Dallas Cowboys looks on before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on September 09, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

George Paton » Dan Quinn

Patron and Quinn crossed paths in Miami for two seasons prior to the latter’s ascension to defensive coordinator in Seattle and head coach in Atlanta. Like Zimmer, Quinn has a defensive background, which again brings up the questions of who he would task with coordinating the Broncos offense.


Klint Kubiak, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 21: Offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak of the Minnesota Vikings looks on before the start of a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

George Paton » Klint Kubiak

Kubiak worked with Paton during two separate stints with the Vikings, where he’s currently offensive coordinator. Between those tenures, Kubiak was with the Broncos, working under his father, Gary. The Regis Jesuit High School and Colorado State alum is well connected to this area. With the Mike Shanahan/Gary Kubiak offense in vogue, hiring a disciple of its namesake could bring a clear offensive direction.


Todd Downing, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 19: Offensive coordinator Todd Downing of the Tennessee Titans looks on prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on September 19, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

George Paton » Todd Downing

Before heading to Tennessee, Downing gained experience across the NFL, including a season in Minnesota with Paton. He’d be a popular pick for Mark Schlereth, as no offensive coordinator in football has run the ball more this season than Downing, and that includes sticking with it following the injury to Derrick Henry.


Two degrees from George Paton

Kellen Moore, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 25: Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore is seen during the NFL match between Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 25, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

George Paton » Jason Garrett » Kellen Moore

Despite Vic Fangio’s snarky text to Mark Kiszla, Moore remains on the list of top NFL head coaching candidates. Before Mike McCarthy took over in Dallas, Moore played for and coached under Jason Garrett, who spent two years with Paton in Miami.


Brian Daboll, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll on the field before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Highmark Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

George Paton » Nick Saban » Brian Daboll

The coach credited with helping the development of Josh Allen shares a connection with the current Broncos general manager through Nick Saban, whose NFL head coaching tenure overlapped with Paton in Miami. Daboll and Moore figure to be among the most popular coaching candidates this offseason from their work bringing along young quarterbacks.


Mike McDaniel, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 10: Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel of the San Francisco 49ers on the field before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 17-10. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

George Paton » Gary Kubiak » Mike McDaniel

Born in Aurora, the Smoky Hill High School alum started his career with the Broncos as an intern in 2005. He then followed Gary Kubiak to Houston, where he would eventually link up with Kyle Shanahan. McDaniel has followed Shanahan to Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta and, now, San Francisco. Like Klint Kubiak, if Paton wants the Broncos offense to return to its Shanahan/Kubiak roots, bringing McDaniel home to the Rocky Mountains would mean hiring a head coach well versed in that system.


Brian Callahan, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 27: Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan looks on as Joe Burrow #9 prepares to run a drill during training camp workouts at the practice field outside Paul Brown Stadium on August 27, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

George Paton » Gary Kubiak » Brian Callahan

Callahan’s coaching roots are with the Broncos, starting in 2010 and ending with the team’s victory in Super Bowl 50, where he worked under Gary Kubiak. Like McDaniel, Callahan has experience in the Shanahan/Kubiak offense, where he’s currently enjoying success coaching Joe Burrow under the direction of Shanahan-tree member Zac Taylor.


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Degrees of separation: Several HC candidates worked closely with Paton