The Minnesota Vikings have hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as their next general manager, ensuring that they are about to change how they do business. The former vice president of football operations for the Cleveland Browns comes from a different background than we are accustomed to when it comes to Vikings’ general managers.
Adofo-Mensah graduated from Princeton with an economics degree in 2003, and he worked as a day trader before joining the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. He served as the team’s director of football research and development until 2019. He was hired by the Browns in 2020. In all of these ventures, Adofo-Mensah has leaned heavily on analytics.
Conversely, Rick Spielman, who joined the Vikings after the 2006 NFL draft, followed the traditional path to a GM title. He worked as a college and pro scout from 1990-96 before working his way up through the front-office ranks. After six years serving as the Vikings’ vice president of player personnel, Spielman was officially given the GM title in 2012.
Spielman didn’t lead a search for a head coach during his first six years with Minnesota. When he arrived, Brad Childress was the incumbent, and Leslie Frazier was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach following the 2010 season. But after the Vikings fired Frazier in 2013, Spielman made his first hire — Mike Zimmer. From there, Zimmer gave Spielman a clear vision of what kind of players he wanted, which influenced how Spielman drafted players and approached free agency. As a result, Minnesota was mostly successful for their first six seasons together.
However, after eight seasons on the job, they were older than most NFL GMs and coaches. Zimmer was 65 and embraced an old-school brand of football, and Spielman was 59. It appeared that the Vikings’ brain trust was falling behind in a league that was trending towards analytics.
Spielman spent eight years in Minnesota before he had “his” guy at head coach. For context, Jeff Diamond worked as senior vice president in Minnesota from 1991-98 and hired Dennis Green in 1992. Together, the two went 71-41, culminating in an NFC Championship appearance in 1998. The Vikings hired legendary GM Jim Finks in 1964, but it took three years before he hired Bud Grant and the Vikings began to become consistently competitive.
Now, for the first time, the Vikings will be entering an off-season and season with both a new GM and head coach (Fran Foley was VP of player personnel in the 2006 offseason before being fired following the NFL draft). Vikings president Mark Wilf has already made it known that the new GM would be in charge of hiring their head coach. So, in theory, Minnesota should have their GM and head coach in lockstep from the get-go.
There is a lot of speculation that 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris could be the next head coach. Other young candidates like Rams OC Kevin O’Connell and 49ers OC Mike McDaniel could re-emerge now that Adofo-Mensah is leading the coaching hire. With a youth movement in place and (hopefully) a happy marriage from the get-go between GM and head coach, the Vikings have engaged in the most significant philosophical shift in the organization’s history.