Meet the Detroit Lions GM candidate: Vikings’ George Paton has been in high demand

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions are in the midst of interviewing a wide range of candidates for both their head coach and general manager jobs. They began GM interviews in early December, and both searches are expected to wrap up in the coming weeks. As part of an ongoing series, here is a look at one known candidate on the Lions’ list:

George Paton

Current role: Minnesota Vikings assistant GM/vice president of pro personnel.

Background: Paton has been a key member of the Vikings personnel department for 14 seasons, after previous stints with the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears. He joined the franchise as director of pro personnel in 2007 and was promoted to assistant general manager in 2012, about the time he first started interviewing for GM jobs. Over the past eight seasons, Paton has turned down several interview requests, including with the Lions in 2016, and was runner-up for the San Francisco 49ers job that went to John Lynch. He has worked primarily on the pro side, but according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune has played a big role in the team’s “ambitious draft strategies” over the years.

When interviewed: Jan. 6.

Why he makes sense: Paton has been in high demand over the years because of his keen eye for talent and is considered by some to be the man behind Minnesota’s roster-building. He was a key executive when the team drafted Adrian Peterson, signed Brett Favre and rebuilt itself more recently with a monster defense. For better or worse, Paton also has connections to new Lions adviser Chris Spielman, whose brother Rick is the Vikings GM. Paton and Rick Spielman have worked together for more than two decades, in Chicago, Miami and Minnesota.

More: Reassessing head coach, GM candidates: Who do you want Detroit Lions to hire?

Related: Detroit Lions showing they’ve learned from mistakes with new approach to GM, coach search

Why he doesn’t: Paton’s scouting acumen is widely respected, but it is fair to wonder why he has not landed a GM job in the past. Before narrowly missing out on the 49ers job, he was considered the front runner for the St. Louis Rams job in 2012, when he withdrew from consideration after his promotion in Minnesota. In the last 20 seasons, Paton’s teams have made seven playoff appearances and posted seven losing records. He also is a candidate for the GM job with the Denver Broncos, where his nephew, Rob, is a scout.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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