What became apparent yesterday has now been confirmed: the Minnesota Vikings are hiring Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as their next general manager. It's a four-year, $12 million deal.
A deal hadn't yet been completed when Adofo-Mensah was seen leaving TCO Performance Center shortly before 6 p.m. on Tuesday. But he remained in the Twin Cities overnight and the details were finalized on Wednesday. He now becomes the tenth person to serve as GM (or de facto GM with a different title) in the Vikings' 61-year history.
Adofo-Mensah, 40, was one of eight candidates to interview for the Vikings' GM vacancy, and one of two finalists. He ended up being the only person to interview twice, as the other finalist, Ryan Poles, was hired as the Bears' GM on Tuesday and thus cancelled a scheduled visit with Minnesota. Adofo-Mensah replaces Rick Spielman, who had been with the Vikings since 2006 — receiving the GM title and sole decision-making power in 2012 — before being fired along with head coach Mike Zimmer at the conclusion of this past season.
It's a fascinating hire for the Vikings because Adofo-Mensah doesn't have a conventional football background. A former walk-on college basketball player, he has economics degrees from Princeton and Stanford. He began his professional life as a commodities trader and portfolio manager on Wall Street, then made the leap to the NFL by landing a job in research and development with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. Adofo-Mensah spent the next seven seasons with the 49ers, learning from talented executives and coaches along the way. He was hired by Andrew Berry as the Browns' VP of football operations in 2020, spending the past two seasons as one of Berry's top assistants in the Cleveland front office.
Adofo-Mensah's experience isn't rooted in scouting and talent evaluation like most people who become NFL general managers. Where he shines is in gathering evidence from a variety of sources to make decisions. That means looking at quantitative data and models to gain advantages — which is the basis of the sports buzzword "analytics" — but also using people skills to accumulate input from various branches of the front office. When he was with the 49ers, Adofo-Mensah studied some of the most successful organizations in the country — including sports franchises and non-sports companies — to evaluate and modify the processes the team used.
With the Browns, Adofo-Mensah and Glenn Cook (who also interviewed with the Vikings recently) were essentially assistant GMs working with Berry. Adofo-Mensah has experience working with player contracts and in personnel evaluation.
"My whole life, I've been really passionate about decision-making under uncertainty," he said at his introductory press conference with the Browns in June 2020. "I think my commodities trading background is a reflection of that, I think my graduate [degree] in economics is a reflection of that, I think playing basketball is a reflection of that. What draws people to sports from an academic environment is you get a chance to apply some of these academic principles to things that happen kind of subconsciously on the court or on the field. I don't see it very different in my ability to pull information to make a bet on the oil market versus pulling information and making a bet on the direction of an NFL player."
Adofo-Mensah understands the importance of an alignment in culture and having a shared vision within an entire organization. That's something the Vikings were looking for. His leadership and collaboration skills will be put to use in aligning the Vikings' vision for the future. Adofo-Mensah is an extremely intelligent person who, in theory, will advance the Vikings' incorporation of analytics while using smarter values and processes to make roster decisions. It's worth noting that one of the people who led the charge in hiring him was COO Andrew Miller, who came to the Vikings from the Toronto Blue Jays a few years ago and shares a similar background in business and data.
It'll be important for Adofo-Mensah to delegate responsibilities and lean on others in the front office and on the coaching side, since he's only been in the NFL for nine years and doesn't have the classic scouting background. Executive VP of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski has been in Minnesota since 1999 and will be a top resource for Adofo-Mensah. Brzezinski is one of the top salary cap gurus in the NFL, and his skills will be needed as the Vikings head into a tricky offseason from a cap perspective. Co-directors of player personnel Ryan Monnens and Jamaal Stephenson, assuming they're retained, will be important as well. Adofo-Mensah will likely bring in others to key roles in the front office and make various changes to the Vikings' staff, as any GM would.
His first and biggest move will be to lead the hiring of the team's next head coach. More interviews in that search, now with Adofo-Mensah at the forefront, will presumably get going shortly. The Vikings already did an initial round of eight interviews with coaching candidates before this hire. Adofo-Mensah's connections with several candidates from his 49ers and Browns tenures could come into play.
An introductory press conference for Adofo-Mensah is expected to take place in the near future.
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