Vikings GM’s Top 3 Achievements — on His 1st Anniversary

The Vikings Will Have One Particular and Major Free Agent Decision in 2023
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

On January 10th, 2022, the Minnesota Vikings parted ways with longtime general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer.

The Vikings had finished the 2020 and 2021 seasons with 7-9 and 8-9 records, respectively, creating a stalemate of mediocrity in dire need of rejuvenation.

Vikings GM’s Top 3 Achievements — on His 1st Anniversary

One year ago today, January 26th, 2022, or about two weeks after the Spielman and Zimmer departures, the Vikings tabbed Kwesi Adofo-Mensah for general management duty, ushering in an era of analytics, progressivism, and youth.

So, with one year in the books, these are Adofo-Mensah’s top three achievements as the big boss (ranked in ascending order of impact).

3. Saying “No Thanks” to a Full Rebuild

Top 3 Achievements
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The who’s-who of prominent and successful NFL franchises — like the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs — never “burn it to the ground” and rebuild. That’s what the New York Jets and Houston Texans do, and they’re habitually mired in doldrums, despite numerous cracks at rebuilding. The idea may work in the NBA or MLB, but there is no prolonged pattern for intentional rebuilds to thrive, even if the Cincinnati Bengals version worked in 2020. Call it a one-off.

Adofo-Mensah arrived in Minneapolis preaching a “competitive rebuild” philosophy where an NFL team can “do both” by staying competitive in the now while preparing for the future. Again, this is executed by the Patriots and Chiefs and has a track record of triumph. In fact, the Vikings are in a spot right now like the 2017 Chiefs where it can utilize QB1 Kirk Cousins’ services and plan for the afterlife — like Kansas City did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes. The team need not intentionally fire up 3-14 seasons just to take a swing at the No. 1 overall pick.

How was Adofo-Mensah’s competitive rebuild strategy rewarded? Thirteen wins and an NFC North title for the first time since 2017. He knew what he was doing — evidenced by 13 damn wins — and will now plot next steps after establishing legitimacy with the strategy.

2. The T.J. Hockenson Trade

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

On November 1st, 2022, Adofo-Mensah traded a 2nd-Round pick from 2023 and a 2024 3rd-Round pick to the Detroit Lions for tight end T.J. Hockenson, a 2023 4th-Round pick, and a conditional 2024 4th-Round pick.

That’s a move down two rounds this April and one in April 2024.

Adofo-Mensah pulled that off for a man who will own TE1 duties in Minnesota for the next 4-6 years (once Hockenson is extended). And Hockenson wasn’t some ornamental piece to the Vikings 2022 offense. The guy sometimes felt like a savior, particularly when opposing defensive coordinators “sold out” to stop Justin Jefferson.

Hockenson produced 60 receptions for 519 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns in 10 games with the Vikings — not a bad opening salvo.

Moreover, spread throughout an entire regular season and per-target basis, Hockenson could’ve — and still might in 2023 — tabulate a 100+ catch, 1000+ yard season in Minnesota. That’s the goal.

Adofo-Mensah viewed Hockenson as a sure thing — and guess what? He was.

1. The Hire of Kevin O’Connell

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings nearly hired Jim Harbaugh from the Michigan Wolverines about one year ago but appeared to get cold feet at the last minute.

Insert Kevin O’Connell, who helped the 2021 Los Angeles Rams win a Lombardi.

O’Connell fundamentally and indisputably changed the Vikings culture with his mere presence and infectious optimism. By the way, his team won 13 games, a feat only achieved in a single season by the Vikings twice before — in 1998 and 2017.

Dennis Green orchestrated an 11-5 record in 1992, and until 2022, Vikings fans believed that was the Holy Grail of rookie coach performance. O’Connell bested that by a couple of wins and inspired his team to win the NFC North.

Aside from fringe, perpetually unhappy Vikings fans, no one laments the hire of O’Connell. And he was a “Kwesi special.”


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.