The New Culture of the Minnesota Vikings
From the moment Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired to be Minnesota’s next general manager, it started. Not from a traditional football background, Adofo-Mensah was immediately tied to analytics. It’s not new for this town after the Minnesota Twins went a similar direction in hiring Derek Falvey for their front office. Then, Adofo-Mensah dropped the desire for a collaborative culture during his introductory press conference, and the parallels got deeper.
When the Vikings sent both general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer packing, my immediate desire was for an organizational shift in philosophy. This always seemed to be the most desirable head coaching position because of the offensive talent. Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen may be among the most talented trios of skill position players in the NFL.
While Zimmer’s tenure saw a significant period of success, in the beginning, his insistence on being dug in against change and adaptation is ultimately what ran its course. Needing an offensive-minded leader seemed imperative. No longer could the offense be predictable. There shouldn’t be a reason that Jefferson or Thielen get lost for periods during a game. Flipping the script seemed like the proper thought process.
Then Adofo-Mensah was hired, and it hit me that this isn’t about the type of coach at all as it is the type of leader Minnesota wants to get behind.
By definition, analytics are nothing more than information from processed data. It doesn’t mean that an individual is playing the game from a keyboard or that athletes are no longer human beings. Tying that idea to collaboration brings forth a desire to successfully employ information most optimally.
Taking a step back over to the diamond quickly, this scenario has come full circle for the Twins. Paul Molitor was the manager when Falvey was hired. Open to additional data but unable to completely convey it to his players, the Twins saw a guy like Ryan Pressly go to another organization with a harmonious balance between a forward-thinking process and the collaborative ability to communicate it. The results reflected an increase in ability and ultimately led Minnesota to push the level of their collaboration in hiring Rocco Baldelli.
Back to the Vikings, and we’re again met with the reality that a new head coach is less about the background or preferred area of expertise as it is the ability to collaborate and disperse information.
Kevin O’Connell is the opposite of what Zimmer was in that he leads one of the better offenses in the sport, has youth on his side, and would signify a shift towards that change in philosophy. While it’s great that someone is coming in from the opposite side of the ball, the need for execution remains rooted in the same principles.
Minnesota’s best path forward is paved with a head coach and general manager working in lockstep. From there the responsibility of the coach will be to employ a staff that can be empowered and embraces a like-minded set of norms. Allowing the front office to present statistically relevant information and then being able to deploy it in opportune circumstances on the field is what must happen from the staff as a whole.
When a bow is finally put on this process, the one thing Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has to get right is a desire for advancement fueled by an approach focused on inclusion between all relevant parties. The Vikings will not win on Sundays just because they throw more or run less. They will though if they employ a leader willing to be open-minded and all about communication.
Vikings Territory: Explained: Predictions and Analysis for Vikings-Lions