Fritz Pollard Alliance welcomes Vikings GM search and hiring of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah – InForum

MINNEAPOLIS — In 2020, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was still somewhat unknown in NFL circles. That started to change after Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry called out Rod Graves.

Graves is the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization that champions diversity hiring in the NFL and releases lists each December to teams of top candidates for executive, head coaching and coordinator positions.

Adofo-Mensah had been hired by Berry to serve as vice president of football operations for the Browns in May 2020 after spending seven seasons in the San Francisco front office. Berry thought Adofo-Mensah had the potential to one day be the NFL’s general manager.

“Andrew was very, very high on Kwesi,” Graves said. “Andrew had called me and asked if I would mind developing a close relationship with Kwesi, and we would talk about football in general, talk about various philosophies, talk about approach.”

Graves met Adofo-Mensah and had three or four more conversations with him. He learned enough to put him on the list of potential candidates for general manager of the Fritz Pollard Alliance in December 2020, and Adofo-Mensah had an interview in 2021 with the Carolina Panthers.

Adofo-Mensah was back on the roster last month, and this month he interviewed the Vikings and Chicago Bears for their open general manager positions. On Wednesday, Adofo-Mensah was hired by the Vikings to replace Rick Spielman, who was fired as general manager Jan. 10 along with head coach Mike Zimmer.

“I think Rod and the Fritz Pollard Alliance are always looking for bright, capable, promising executives who can lead organizations,” Berry said. “Rod will be canvassing the whole league on a regular basis about bright individuals who have that ability. … Two years ago he was just asking for names and suggestions of guys he could connect with. I mentioned Kwesi, and obviously we think the world of him.He did a great job for us while he was here.

“We thought he had, really, a lot of track and an extremely high trajectory and was learning so fast. is very well deserved.

Graves is a longtime NFL executive who replaced retired John Wooten at the Fritz Pollard Alliance in 2019. The organization is named after Pollard, who in the 1920s became the NFL’s first black coach.

Graves was thrilled to see Adofo-Mensah, 40, become the first black man in the Vikings’ 61-year history to hold the title of general manager. That’s not counting Dennis Green, who was Minnesota’s head coach from 1992 to 2001, serving as de facto general manager during his final two years with the team.

“Kwesi is an outstanding professional,” Graves said. “He’s an analytical expert and he’s been very involved in shaping the (Browns’) personnel approach and integrating that into a lot of football decisions. I’m happy for him and I I’m hopeful this will prove beneficial to the Vikings.

Graves was impressed with the way the Vikings conducted their general manager search process. They held initial virtual interviews with eight candidates, and five were diversity candidates, including Kansas City Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles. The Poles joined Adofo-Mensah as the second runner-up for the job and were scheduled to have a second interview Wednesday in Minnesota before being named the Bears’ general manager on Tuesday.

Other diversity candidates the Vikings held virtual interviews with were Browns vice president of football operations Glenn Cook, Philadelphia Eagles director of player personnel Brandon Brown and vice president of football operations Eagles Catherine Raiche. Raiche was a candidate to become the second female general manager in NFL history, following Susan Tose Spencer, who held the position in Philadelphia from 1983 to 1985.

“I’m glad the Vikings went through a process that included a diverse list of individuals with different types of backgrounds,” Graves said. “When you look at their initial slate of candidates, it indicated that they were very open and committed to having a diverse pool to draw from. They have always had a history of diverse leadership.

Graves highlighted Kevin Warren, who is black, as Minnesota’s chief operating officer until he became Big Ten commissioner in 2019. They had a second black coach after Green in Leslie Frazier, who was in position from 2010 to 13 and is now defensive coordinator. Buffalo Bills.

To replace Zimmer, the Vikings have had eight virtual interviews so far, and three have been with diversity candidates. They are Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, who are both former NFL head coaches, and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, a former linebacker of the Pro Bowl.

A source said Friday that the Vikings plan to hold a virtual interview Saturday with another minority candidate, New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

When the Vikings fired Spielman and Zimmer, team owner and president Mark Wilf discussed the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring for positions. general manager, head coach and coordinator.

“We’re certainly proud of our support for the Rooney rule and all of the diversity rules,” Wilf said then. “I think that direction is something the league should go in, and we accept that. We want to have the highest expectations for our general manager and coach, and that includes making sure the net is wide. That includes diversity, which includes all kinds of backgrounds, includes all kinds of experiences.

With the hiring of Adofo-Mensah and Poles, there are now seven black general managers in the NFL. The others are Berry, Terry Fonenot of the Atlanta Falcons, Chris Grier of the Miami Dolphins, Brad Holmes of the Detroit Lions and Martin Mayhew of Washington.

Of most concern, however, for the Fritz Pollard Alliance were the layoffs earlier this month by the Dolphins of Brian Flores and by the Houston Texans of David Culley, leaving Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only black coach in the league. NFL.

“The fact that we are now with only one black head coach makes it clear that the current system does not provide a sustainable path for the growth in the number of minorities as head coaches,” Graves said in a statement. published on January 14 by the Fritz Pollard. Alliance.

There have been nine openings for coaches in this hiring cycle, and three positions have been filled. But none went to a minority candidate.

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