The Vikings started setting up second interviews with general manager candidates on Friday. Ryan Poles, the Chiefs’ executive director of player personnel, and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the Browns’ vice president of football operations, are both scheduled to have in-person interviews next week. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network was the first to report that Poles and Adofo-Mensah are, at this point, the two finalists.
Adofo-Mensah’s interview reportedly will take place on Tuesday and Poles will have his on Wednesday, according to Darren (Doogie) Wolfson of SKOR North and KSTP-TV.
The Vikings have an internal committee of seven, including owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, who conducted video conference interviews with eight GM candidates this week and also are talking to head coaching candidates.
The list of potential GM interviews also included Brandon Brown, the Eagles’ director of player personnel; Glenn Cook, the Browns’ vice president of player personnel; Monti Ossenfort, the Titans’ director of player personnel; Catherine Raiche, the Eagles’ vice president of football operations; John Spytek, the Buccaneers’ vice president of player personnel; and Eliot Wolf, a scouting consultant for the Patriots.
Poles, 36, and Adofo-Mensah, 32, are both young and would be getting their first opportunity to be a GM. They also were finalists for the Carolina Panthers job last year, but that went to Scott Fitterer.
So who is more likely to get the Vikings’ position? That depends on what the team wants.
Poles has been a member of the Chiefs’ personnel department for nearly 13 years, beginning as a scouting assistant in 2009. He also received two interviews for the GM job with the New York Giants and was one of three known finalists. The team hired Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen on Friday to replace Dave Gettleman.
Poles has more of a traditional football background, but that isn’t a bad thing. He survived two shakeups in the Chiefs’ front office (he has worked for Scott Pioli, John Dorsey and Brett Veach), and was the director of college scouting when Kansas City took quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick in 2017.
Selecting Mahomes seems obvious now, but was considered more of a gamble at the time. Kansas City sent multiple draft picks to the Bills in order to move up. Poles didn’t make the final call on Mahomes, but he did accurately forecast that the QB would make a smooth transition from Texas Tech to the NFL.
The Vikings need a GM in place who they are confident can land Kirk Cousins’ replacement. All the better if that quarterback comes in the draft so he plays on a rookie contract. Finding a young QB was an issue for Rick Spielman, who was fired as the Vikings’ general manager this month.
Poles played on the offensive line during his time at Boston College and also was instrumental in the Chiefs’ remaking their line last offseason. Kansas City drafted Creed Humphrey in the second round and right guard Trey Smith in the sixth round. Both started every game for a team that will face the Bills on Sunday in the AFC Divisional playoffs. Poles also played a role in the Chiefs taking tackle Lucas Niang in the third round in 2020. Niang started nine of 12 games in which he played this season but suffered a season-ending patellar tendon tear during a Week 17 loss to Cincinnati.
Adofo-Mensah, who played college basketball at Princeton and later earned a master’s in economics from Stanford in 2013, was the director of football research and development for the 49ers before joining the Browns in May 2020. Prior to taking his first job in football in 2013 with the Niners, he had been a commodities trader and portfolio manager on Wall Street.
Adofo-Mensah’s background sounds like what we are seeing with new baseball executives, but his knowledge and use of analytics is considered a strength in today’s NFL. It was no secret that former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer bristled about how much some relied on analytics. Spielman definitely used them but his background had been in scouting.
Anthony Poisal of the Browns’ website wrote about a presentation Adofo-Mensah put on last June as the NFL and Black College Football Hall of Fame hosted its annual Quarterback Coaching Summit and inaugural Ozzie Newsome General Manager Forum.
Adofo-Mensah’s session, in particular, offered a unique glimpse into how he uses advanced statistics to grade quarterback talent. After sharing his personal story of how he rose from a trader and portfolio manager on Wall Street to working in NFL front offices with a data-driven approach to finding talent, he shared a few of the equations and metrics used by the Browns — and across other NFL teams — that provide a quantitative view to grading a quarterback’s short, medium and deep ball accuracy.
“(Analytics) is about evolution, not revolution,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We take this framework that has been used for years, and we’re just applying it to different things. We’re creating decision rules, and we’re determining how those decision rules will help us in the future.
“Hope is not a strategy. There are lots of things that can occur in the future, and it’s our job and obligation to study them, understand the risks and choose a course of action that will put us in a good situation no matter what happens.”