One piece at a time, General Manager George Paton is putting the Denver Broncos back on the winning track.
It takes time to get anything done, but Paton's first draft and free agent class show great promise for the future.
But did you know that Paton is not the only Broncos general manager to have spent a long previous career with the Minnesota Vikings?
And in fact, the previous individual has just been named to The Hall of Very Good. (No laughter, please. This is a legitimate honor, and one on which I am proud to vote.)
That individual was Grady Alderman, who played offensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings from 1961 through 1974.
Admittedly, this was decades before the George Paton era, but nevertheless, both men had lengthy experiences with the Vikings, George as an executive and Grady on the offensive line. Grady started 176 games for the Vikings and later became director of planning and development for the Vikings following his playing career. With his football background, he became one of Edgar Kaiser's first hires, though Grady's stint as the Broncos' general manager was relatively short, as he and the team parted ways less than two years later.
The Hall of Very Good was established in 2002 by the Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA), the only organization in the country dedicated to documenting and preserving pro football history, and of which I am a member.
I voted for Grady, and that was an easy vote. He was a six-time Pro Bowler for the Vikings and certainly one of the sport's best offensive linemen in the 1960s. He is one of the very few who earned this honor as a player and then later became a general manager in the NFL.
The purpose of the Hall is to honor players and coaches who are not yet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but whose outstanding careers nonetheless deserve recognition.
For each of the last 19 years, seven to 10 people have been elected annually.
Twenty-seven of those elected to the Hall of Very Good have subsequently been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Alderman joins an illustrious list of other people with Broncos ties who are in the Hall Of Very Good, including Lyle Alzado, Cookie Gilchrist, Randy Gradishar, Abner Haynes, Rich Jackson, Floyd Little, Karl Mecklenburg, Tobin Rote and Louis Wright, plus head coaches Dan Reeves, Lou Saban and Mac Speedie and assistant coach John Hadl.
Little and Speedie were elected years before they were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The entire 2021 Hall of Very Good Class is Grady Alderman, Russ Francis, Mike Kenn, Tony Latone, Stanley Morgan, John Niland, Clark Shaughnessy, Bill Stanfill, Bob Vogel and Abe Woodson.
I will not go over the merits of each individual, but a quick Google search by the reader will show that each of these men not only is worthy of this honor but is a legitimate candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Back when Grady was starting at the University of Detroit (now the University of Detroit Mercy), it was impossible for him to imagine that he would someday be the general manager of the Denver Broncos, then a few years away from its inception.
And when George Paton was playing defensive back at UCLA and following in the footsteps of his late father as a Bruins player, I doubt he had the Broncos on his mind very much.
But the connections in pro football remind me of a burrito. You fill it with whatever ingredients and then fold it over, and the two ends touch.
Grady and George experienced wildly different paths, but each one led them to Denver following their time with the Vikings.
After his Broncos career, Grady stayed in Denver and was a prominent businessman who stayed out of the limelight.
For George, his place in the limelight is assured as he continues to make the moves to bring the team back to winning ways and championship contention.