The 49ers had “high hopes” for Kwesi Adofa-Mensah. Now he is on the opposing team.


That thought crossed my mind as John Lynch and Kwesi Adofa-Mensah stood together on the TCO Performance Center practice courts during Thursday’s joint practice between Lynch’s 49ers and Adofa-Mensah’s Vikings:

“Have there ever been two general managers with more different backgrounds talking to each other than these two guys?”

Lynch was walking off the field when the thought occurred to him. He smiled and immediately removed the question from this reporter’s forehead.

“Actually,” he said, “I think the big similarity is that we came from very different walks of life to become grandmasters. Yes? None of us were the old fashioned intelligence assistants.

“Of course, Kwesi got into analytics from another side, but I also got into broadcasting. So I think we’ve gotten closer on that.”

Roger, it is.

But come on, John. Kwesi is a skinny basketball player from Princeton. Nine years ago he was a commodity trader on Wall Street. A guy who never played football. You played 15 NFL seasons, went all-pro twice and won the Pro Bowl nine times and entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of only 16 safeties in the NFL’s 103-year history.

“Yes,” Lynch said, “but I think we both believe in building a great team around us and want to listen to them.” We want to hear them because the work is so huge.

“When I got to town and spent some time with Kwesi, he said, ‘Oh man. Now I understand much more. I never knew about all the problems of this job.”

Adofa-Mensah was in the 49th from 2013 to 2019, he was the head of football research and development – aka “analyst”. Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were hired in 2017.

“Being a broadcaster and hearing more about analytics, I was intrigued and felt, ‘Okay, how can we apply this to football like they do in baseball?'” Lynch said. “So Kwesi was really a blessing for us. In the previous regime, Kwesi was there but not used very much. Kyle and I were like, ‘Why would we no use this guy?’

“And then when we were near Kwesi, and [current Vikings Vice President of Football Operations] Dimitri [Washington], and saw how gifted he really was, it was a no-brainer. I think that all intelligent and successful people are able to make the complex seem very simple. Kwesi not only knew how to have all these formulas and stuff, but he also knew how to make them really work.’

Adofa-Mensah also quickly caught Shanahan’s attention. His curiosity knew no bounds, and his questions about football amazed even the most knowledgeable purely football people.

“I think Kwesi has a very unique skill set: someone who is smart as a whip but also has great people skills,” Lynch said. “I always thought it would serve him well. Then Cleveland came and took him away.”

It was 2020. The progressive analytics bug has bitten the Browns hard under GM Andrew Berry.

“I saw it all coming, but I still think Andrew caught us off guard when he came in and offered Kwesi the No. 2 job in Cleveland,” Lynch said. “We had high hopes for Kwesi. We planned to raise it higher, but we were beaten. I am very grateful to Andrew for identifying him.

“It hurt to lose him, but he built such a tremendous program that Demitrii took it and grew from it.”

After seven seasons in San Francisco, Washington joined Adopho-Mensah in Minnesota this offseason.

“The good thing is that Demitrii has brought other people up behind him as well,” Lynch said. “I just love seeing people succeed. I’m proud of these guys.”

One area Adofa-Mensah is learning on the job is media relations. After giving an interview to USA Today in the offseason — and admitting afterward that he’ll start taking his new wife’s advice, who told him to “say less” – Adofa-Mensah did not give a one-on-one interview on the record.

“Talking to the media, that’s one advantage I had on Kwesi from playing so long,” Lynch said with a laugh.

The USA Today interview grabbed headlines that made the new GM cringe. Most notable were comments about the quarterback position and how he called Kirk Cousins ​​”a good quarterback,” but added that “we don’t have Tom Brady and Pat Mahomes.”

“He probably learned a lesson, maybe thought some things weren’t for the record,” Lynch said. “I can tell you that Kwesi’s heart is pure and he is a good man. He respects people. Anyone who took anything negative from this is wrong.

“I got a couple of people calling me after that saying, ‘Hey, I thought you said this guy was a good dude?’ I said, “I promise you he is.” He’s fine. He will learn from it. He’s going to be great with the media, just like he’s going to be great with the Vikings.”

The 49ers had “high hopes” for Kwesi Adofa-Mensah. Now he is on the opposing team.

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