Ben Leber says new Vikings general manager is more than a ‘moneyball’

Courtesy of Vikings

Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber (addressed the idea that newly hired general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is just an analysis guy,

When Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman received three-year contract extensions with the Minnesota Vikings in the summer of 2020, Zimmer compared Spielman to himself, calling him “a football guy.”

“Rick is a football guy,” Zimmer said in August 2020, according to Vikings.com. “He loves the process of finding players, understanding the patterns, understanding what we’re looking for in each particular position and then being able to pass that on to the scouts. And then working with us and the coaches. I think the biggest compliment that can be given to a general manager is that he loves football.

The ‘Football Guys’ fallout just one year after their contracts were renewed opened a new era for the Vikings.

And the newly hired managing director, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, has nothing to do with his predecessors.

Adofo-Mensah, coming from an analytical background, is more of the “moneyball guy” – a nickname that carries over to the fanbase for better or worse. Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber broke down the tag and how the movie reference is moot in the NFL.

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Leber defends GM who is more than Moneyball

Following the leak of the Vikings’ hiring of Adofo-Mensah, Leber took to Twitter to dispel the idea that Adofo-Mensah is just a headache.

“I know the term ‘analysis’ is an eastern label for Kwesi’s approach, but I’m not buying all that Moneyball football strategy. Football doesn’t have the same quantitative reps baseball does,” Leber said, referring to football’s relatively low playing time compared to baseball.

His original tweet was taken as a swipe at Adofo-Mensah. However, he clarified that for Adofo-Mensah to rise to a general manager position in just nine years as an NFL leader, he must have something more than just the “Moneyball” approach.

“It wasn’t meant to be negative. It’s the exact opposite. I keep hearing criticism of his ‘moneyball’ approach and I think he’s more than that,” Leber added. Trying to dispel the idea that it’s just calculating numbers.”

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Scouting Background

Spending the last two seasons as vice president of football operations for the Cleveland Browns, Adofo-Mensah was considered general manager Andrew Berry’s right-hand man.

The duo pieced together the fifth-best 2021 rookie draft class, per ESPN. Cornerback Greg Newsome (#26 overall) and second-round linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (#52 overall) landed on PFF’s 2021 All-Rookie Team. The Browns also saw contributions from late-round rookies Anthony Schwartz and Demetric Felton.

Before Cleveland, Adofo-Mensah helped the San Francisco 49ers rebuild a Super Bowl-caliber roster still intact today after the Jim Harbaugh era.

After four years as head of football research and development, Adofo-Mensah was promoted in 2017 to director of the department that informs both squad management and scouting practices.

San Francisco won the 2017 draft gold, selecting George Kittle in the fifth round. The 49ers also drafted All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner in the third round of the 2018 draft. In his senior year at San Francisco, Adofo-Mensah was in the draft room that selected Nick Bosa No. 2 overall and Deebo Samuel in the second round. Both players made the Pro Bowl in 2021.


Vikings insiders reveal Zimmer’s reluctance to accept scans put players at risk

Star Tribune beat reporters Ben Goessling and Andrew Krammer recently spoke about the growing acceptance and ambiguity around analysis in the NFL on the Access Vikings Podcast.

“These buzzwords – analysis, data – are thrown around and few of them are detailed in sports writing about what it actually means, how it actually manifests on the pitch. One way is to go through this GPS tracking data (on players’ shirts) where it’s ‘Hey, this guy’s done a lot of mileage, a lot of stress. His hamstrings are about to give way at this point. Coach, let’s not force it too hard on a Wednesday,” Krammer said. “And Mike Zimmer might say, ‘Bah. What are you talking about? We practice today. We have to play on Sunday.

Goessling chimed in, referring to Anthony Barr worsening his hamstrings again in Week 13, which the team may not have taken proper precautions.

Here is the rest of their exchange regarding the past diet, comparing Spielman:

Goesling: Or like a 40 degree day in December when he comes back from a hamstring injury… Just to throw one over there.

Kramer: With the coach not receptive to (analysis), this stuff has happened too often and can’t happen with the 10th head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

Goesling: A lot happened…we hint at it here, but a lot happened and we’ll probably have more to say about it in the future…but a lot happened.

Star Tribune reporters credited Spielman with accepting the scans. Yet they compared his understanding of them to caveman Geiko, saying he just wanted the player and not the data surrounding the decision at the end of the day.

“Rick wanted to do what you always did as a scout,” Goessling said. “I’m not saying it’s the wrong way to do it, but if it’s the only way to do it…you see other NFL teams saying ‘Hey, we see baseball. We even see hockey. There are other sports that are more advanced.’ You can embrace these numbers and try to learn from them.

Whether the Vikings will find a coach receptive to Adofo-Mensah’s data-driven experience remains to be seen.

Kramer left a message at the Vikings property as the team looks to follow up on his next hire in the coming days.

Get out of his way and let him pick the next head coach,” Kramer said of Adofo-Mensah. “Because you have to make sure these guys are in tune.”


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