'Cleveland, you have a rock star': New Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah praises Browns boss Andrew Berry

·9 min read
New Minnesota Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah
New Minnesota Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

In his introductory press conference with the Minnesota Vikings Thursday, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had a message for Northeast Ohio fans as he praised his mentor, Browns General Manager Andrew Berry.

“Cleveland, you have a rock star in that seat. Please appreciate him,” Adofo-Mensah said.

Named to the Vikings’ GM post on Wednesday, Adofo-Mensah spent the previous two seasons as Browns vice president of football operations. Berry hired Adofo-Mensah to be his top assistant in May 2020 after Adofo-Mensah spent seven seasons rising through the ranks with the San Francisco 49ers, leaving as their director of football research and development.

Adofo-Mensah, 40, expressed his thanks to many inside Browns headquarters, but credited Berry for pushing him to a level the former Wall Street commodities trader never thought he could achieve.

“Big thanks to Andrew Berry, my big bro,” Adofo-Mensah said. “I think everybody in their life needs somebody who sees more in them than they see in themself, and for me that was Andrew Berry. When he brought me for that role, man, I don’t know, I was like, ‘You sure?’ I believed in myself, but he’s always challenged me, pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone.

“He’s been incredible to me, and I’m proud that he’s a mentor of mine. I’ll miss those late-night texts about 2026 trade scenarios. But no stone unturned, that’s the standard, that’s what we’ll live by at the Vikings, and I learned that from him.”

Adofo-Mensah also extended his thanks to the Haslam family — Jimmy, Dee, J.W., and Whitney — for “allowing me to grow and flourish.”

“To coach [Kevin] Stefanski and his staff for a continuing education. We get to learn at the highest level in this sport, and those guys elevated me to a different place,” Adofo-Mensah said. “To my Browns family for welcoming me to the group and inspiring me to build and be a part of our front office, as great as the culture that they have. To my legends in football ops, the unsung heroes in the NFL, Tuesdays won’t be the same without you. Nothing to add, that’s a phrase we use a lot in our meetings.”

Adofo-Mensah said Berry threw him into the fire in terms of scouting, which set him up for the Vikings’ top job.

“It was a boot camp in scouting,” Adofo-Mensah said. “In San Francisco, I was in those draft meetings, I was watching, I was listening to the coaches but I wasn’t responsible for doing those things myself. And now I’m asked to be in those meetings and Andrew wouldn’t let me fall back on my skillset. ‘Nope, you’re going to watch the players. You’re going to write reports and learn all those things.’

“What I loved about that was you get to do it your way. He’s always like, ‘Hey, listen to everybody else, but take what they teach you and apply it the way that somebody who is like you would apply it.’ So I’ve come up with some great things. It's probably my favorite part of my NFL experience and kind of learning something that I didn’t know.”

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Adofo-Mensah oversaw several departments in Browns football operations, which was hectic but invaluable.

“I think people underestimate ... when you’re early in your career you just have time, time to do what you want. Then all of a sudden, your day is cut up, it’s taken from you,” he said. “Sometimes at 7 p.m. you get to sit back and breathe and do work. That was a great dynamic to learn from, being able to compartmentalize at times and also be able to switch gears and focus and do things. It’s really just preparing me for this role. That was a big step up when I got to Cleveland.”

New Minnesota Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, right, is introduced at a news conference with Vikings president Mark Wilf
New Minnesota Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, right, is introduced at a news conference with Vikings president Mark Wilf

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Berry said in a Zoom call with Vikings media that Adofo-Mensah did everything from tape evaluation and college visits to participating in free agency and draft meetings.

“Kwesi can really do it all, and I think he's probably being a little bit humble in terms of his evaluation ability because he didn't come up as a traditional scout," Berry said. "Scouting is a trained skill and something that I feel like I've had a lot of good teachers and mentors throughout my career.

"But Kwesi's a very quick learner, and I think his ability to speak multiple languages, if you will, makes him kind of a natural bridge and ambassador really across the football operations spectrum. I think that's kind of where his superpower, so to speak, resides.”

Berry added that as Adofo-Mensah learned to study talent, there were no limits.

"You push him off to the deep end and he very quickly learned how to swim," Berry said.

The Vikings will be a dive into the deep end for Adofo-Mensah, charged with hiring a coach to replace the fired Mike Zimmer as well as preparing for free agency and the draft.

“The first thing I kind of warned him about is when you first take the job, there’s not a ton of time to relax and kind of smell the roses or reflect, because he’s going immediately into a head coaching search," Berry said. "There’s a little bit of a feeling from the first — at least for me — three or four weeks where you’re just drinking from a fire hose."

Adofo-Mensah said he hoped to become an economics professor at Stanford, but he didn’t do well on the macroeconomics portion of the university’s certification test and decided to attend a sports analytics conference at MIT. That’s where he met Brian Hampton, now the 49ers’ vice president of football administration, and San Francisco hired Adofo-Mensah in 2013.

After former 49ers assistant Gregg Knapp died in a bicycle accident in July, Adofo-Mensah said he had a conversation with Browns linebackers coach Jason Tarver, a good friend who worked for the 49ers from 2001-10 and 2015-17.

“He was talking about coaching and the tragedy that happened this offseason,” Adofo-Mensah said of Tarver and the death of Knapp, 58, the passing game specialist for the New York Jets. “He’s got a really intense way of talking sometimes. He said, ‘You know, Kwes, he said yes to me.’

“I think that’s a so profound way to say it. At some point, somebody has to say yes to start your dreams. For him that was Knapper. For me, that was [49ers EVP of Football Operations] Paraag Marathe and Brian Hampton, and I’ll always be indebted to them. They gave a passionate, lanky football fan a chance to live his dream, and I’ll always be thankful for that.”

Vice President of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah before a NFL football game between the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns on October 17, 2021 at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns lost 37-14.
Vice President of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah before a NFL football game between the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns on October 17, 2021 at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns lost 37-14.

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Adofo-Mensah had two interviews with the Vikings, the second on Tuesday, and he said he and the Vikings brass clicked from the start.

“From the moment I jumped on the interview ... it was just an immediate fit, it just felt right,” Adofo-Mensah said. “I was catching up with AB afterwards and I was like, ‘Man, they were so detail-oriented, so process-driven’ and he said, ‘It sounds like you found your people.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, it made sense, man.’

“I came down from my study, it was a Zoom, it was snowing in Cleveland so I couldn’t get to the office. I came downstairs and I was kind of like skipping. My fiancé is like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, there was like energy from it.’ She went on Etsy at that moment and bought a vintage Viking hat that she’s wearing over there right now. I think she knew before I did that I’d be here.”

Berry said he warned Adofo-Mensah that the interview process was a two-way street, and fit was a huge component when deciding on his first GM job.

"I could just tell with the way that Kwesi was buzzing after the interview where, in my mind, I was like, ‘OK, this is really the right place for him. It seems like it’s going to fit like a glove,'" Berry said.

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Adofo-Mensah became emotional during his 35-minute press conference, especially when talking about his mother, who also attended.

“My superhero. She’s incredible,” he said. “Growing up it was always, ‘You can do anything. It didn’t matter what it was. It was always, ‘Did you try your hardest? Did you practice? Did you prepare? It was always process over results. She was the first person who taught me that.

“She always had this phrase ... Sorry, I didn’t think I was going to cry, I was telling her not to cry. ... ‘All I can do is work.’ When I roll up my sleeves, that’s when I’m most comfortable.”

Vice President of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during practice on Sept. 8, 2021.
Vice President of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during practice on Sept. 8, 2021.

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Adofo-Mensah mentioned he kept the voicemail from the last thing his late father said to him after the 49ers recorded four takeaways and beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 2014 season opener.

“It’s something I listen to all the time,” Adofo-Mensah said. “He said, ‘I’m proud of you. Your boys made a statement.’

“Sometimes when I need a little extra, I play the voicemail because I think there’s more statements to be made. That’s the work I always strive towards.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read more about the Browns at www.beaconjournal.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Minnesota Vikings GM praises mentor Cleveland Browns Andrew Berry

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