No one batted an eye when the Minnesota Vikings fired head coach Mike Zimmer on Black Monday. Everyone saw it coming. Zimmer himself called it back in 2018(!) with his comments about how he would likely lose his job if the team did not select the correct quarterback for the future.
However, not many foresaw the firing of general manager Rick Spielman, including Spielman himself.
It seemed like the Wilfs realized the GM job was less desirable with Spielman in the building hiring his predecessor. After all, not many general managers would want to take the Minnesota job with someone looking over their shoulder.
Now the Vikings look ahead to arguably one of the biggest off-seasons in franchise history. The Vikings have requested eight formal interviews and have been rumored to have an interest in some others.
Among the eight names they have requested, four of them come from the front offices of the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles. Both organizations are known around the league for their interest in analytics. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Glen Cook are in the Browns organization, and Brandon Brown and Catherine Raiche are with Philadelphia.
Minnesota’s chief operating officer Andrew Miller is leading the general manager search, and he comes from an analytics background. He went from investment banking to leading the Cleveland Indians’ analytics staff and made a stop with the Toronto Blue Jays before coming to Minnesota.
Analytics helped the Eagles win their first-ever Super Bowl during the 2017 season. They used expected points added (EPA) and win probability in-game and exploited other teams’ tendencies. Philadelphia tasked staff with deciphering the tendencies of their future opponents. The Eagles filled their front office with Ivy League graduates like Andrew Berry, Alec Halaby, and Ryan Paganetti. Paganetti gave Doug Pederson the green light to go for it on the infamous Philly Special touchdown.
The Browns hired Berry from the Eagles in 2020. During his time in Cleveland, he has added a plethora of talent to the roster, including Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Jedrick Wills, Greg Newsome, and Jadeveon Clowney.
Following this trend, the Vikings are looking at Brandon Brown, the Eagles’ director of pro scouting. The Eagles have signed Javon Hargrave, Steven Nelson, Anthony Harris and re-signed Rodney McLeod in the last few years. Notably, Brown has won a Super Bowl and knows what it takes to construct a championship roster.
Philadelphia promoted Catherine Roache to vice president of football operations last summer. She has been with the Eagles for under three years but is quickly flying up the ranks with her strong background in analytics and accounting.
On the Browns side, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is one of the most intriguing names out there right now. He has experience with football research and development and has implemented analytics for player evaluations. Berry had this to say about Adofo-Mensah:
It’s very difficult because, during (his) stay in San Francisco, (he) need to not only develop (analytical) insights but also convey them. In a role, you can see how he was able to build relationships between different groups and get people to agree. And the other is sports and football. His broad understanding of operations was, therefore, a much higher level of understanding of team-building, people, relationships, and management skills, even though he officially led a 49ers research group.
The other candidate from Cleveland that the Vikings are interested in, Glen Cook, also follows this general pattern of analytics-focused approaches. He has been one of the top talent evaluators for the Browns, which is a good sign given how much talent they have brought in lately.
From the outset, it appears that the Wilfs are embracing analytics, given who they’ve requested to interview so far.