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Minnesota Vikings narrow GM finalists down to two, who are they?

Andrew Buller-Russ

In search of Rick Spielman’s replacement to be the next general manager, the Minnesota Vikings may be nearing a conclusion. Although they have interviewed a total of eight candidates for their vacant GM role, they have narrowed down the finalists to just two. Who are they?

Down below, we briefly break down the background of each candidate, as well as speculate on who may then be hired to replace Mike Zimmer as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

Ryan Poles, Kansas City Chiefs executive director of player personnel

A popular general manager candidate around the league, Ryan Poles was also a finalist for the Giants vacancy before they settled on Joe Schoen from Buffalo. Poles has already interviewed with the Vikings once and is expected to do so once again on Wednesday. During his virtual meeting with team officials, Poles reportedly was “impressive“.

Poles is just 36 years old but has quickly risen to become a respected football mind within the league and was seen as a finalist for the Panthers’ GM opening last season. Currently, Poles works as the executive director of player personnel with the Kansas City Chiefs and has been credited with helping rebuild their offensive line into one of the best units in the league.

Beginning his career as a scout, Poles now works closely with Brett Veach when prepping for the draft, and has stuck around through three different GM tenures with the Chiefs. Clearly, the organization can see his value, having him on staff since 2009.

Interestingly, Poles blocked for Matt Ryan at Boston College, sharing the same alma mater as Brian Flores. Also notable, the Chiefs have offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy on the staff, who worked for the Vikings in the past and still has ties within the organization. We can’t forget about Doug Pederson either, who was with the Chiefs as their offensive coordinator from 2013-15 when Poles was also in KC.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Cleveland Brown VP of football operations

As you’ll see in the next section, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would be more of an analytical hire, instead of the typical approach the Vikings are used to with Rick Spielman. Teams are continually increasing the amount of analytics used within their approach to determining player values, scheme fits, an athlete’s potential and many other aspects involved in building a football team. A new approach could uncover some radical ideas that just might be genius.

Speaking of geniuses, Adofo-Mensah, at 40, isn’t much older than Poles and comes with a degree in economics from Princeton and has a master’s from Stanford. He also worked on Wall Street. It’s safe to say, he’s probably good with the books. Let’s not discount his experience as a college basketball player either, he knows what it’s like to compete, just like Poles does.

At the same time, Adofo-Mensah isn’t purely an analytics-based hire.

Adofo-Mensah has been in the NFL since 2013, getting his start with the 49ers as their manager of football research and development. Seven years later, he’s risen to become the VP of football operations for the Browns, it’s quite the ascent.

It sounds like Adofo-Mensah has all the requirements needed to run a football team. The Panthers also interviewed him for their GM role last season, just like Poles.

As far as potential ties to a future head coach. Current 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel has become a candidate around the league in the past few years and has already interviewed with the Miami Dolphins. Adofo-Mensah worked in the same organization as McDaniel from 2017-19 and could look to interview him for the head coaching vacancy should he get the job in Minnesota.

Both Minnesota Vikings candidates bring unique backgrounds

The Vikings have a tough decision to make, so it’s no surprise to see that they cast such a wide net. It may not mean much in the grand scheme, but some believe the organization is taking a measured approach with their process.

With the Minnesota Vikings set to interview Adofo-Mensah on Tuesday and Poles on Wednesday, fans should learn who the top decision-maker within the front office will be soon enough. Once a GM is hired, next up is the head coach. The Vikings have already conducted interviews with four candidates, and that list is expected to grow over the next few weeks.