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Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah shares why his time with the 49ers was so special

“One of the best parts about when Kyle and John got there was they allowed us to be ourselves.”

San Francisco 49ers v Minnesota Vikings John Autey / MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images

The 49ers have become the gold standard organization around the league during the tenures of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. There have been countless members of the coaching staff and front office who have excelled in their roles with the 49ers and parlayed that into a promotion into a more prominent role with another organization.

Among those is Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who was with the 49ers organization for seven years from 2013-2019. Mensah started out in the role of Manager of Football Research and Development from 2013-2016 before taking over as director of the same department for the first three years of the Shanahan and Lynch regime.

Following the 2019 season, Adofo-Mensah took a job with the Cleveland Browns as vice president of football operations, followed by his current role as general manager of the Minnesota Vikings, a role he has been in since 2022.

I caught up with Adofo-Mensah in Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine, and I asked him what were some of the things that he valued most from the time he spent with the 49ers organization.

Adofo-Mensah immediately pointed towards the human element of things, and how the current regime in San Francisco has been so successful as a result of empowering players, coaches, and staff at an individual level.

“One of the best parts about when Kyle and John got there was they allowed us to be ourselves, so now fast forward, now I’m a general manager and I work with Kevin [O’Connell] and in our exit interviews a lot of players said the same thing. “This is the most fun i’ve ever had because you guys let us be ourselves”.

This job is hard enough, we have to put in a lot of time, a lot of effort, and having people have to try and act a certain way about who they’re supposed to be takes away from the real goal we’re trying to chase here. So that’s one of the best things I learned from Kyle and John.”

Adofo-Mensah then touched on another priceless lesson he took away from his time in San Francisco, which centered around the symbiotic relationship Shanahan and Lynch share as a head coach and general manager.

Adofo-Mensah went in depth to describe how seeing that connection between Shanahan and Lynch not only assisted him in his role as a general manager, but also how it played a major role in the 49ers cultivating a strong culture at an organizational level under their current regime.

“Their relationship, their connection, knowing to win at a championship level that you had to be connected. People always say alignment, all those fancy words, what does that mean? When it’s tough, when you’ve lost for two years like we did in 2018 and 2019, not backing down from the plan. Showing up in 2019 and being like hey we think we have a championship team, we all knew it in that building. Our job was from Mobile to Miami, thats what we did that season and that’s something i’ll always take with me. I’ll never lose that relationship and that education I learned that year.”

Adofo-Mensah also touched on how his experience working with Shanahan gave him invaluable insight when identifying the requisite qualities he was looking for while tasked with hiring a head coach in Minnesota.

He also mentioned how the 49ers having a deep roster of talented individuals at all levels of the organization has allowed him to forge connections that remain worth their weight in gold, as many of his coworkers have moved on to various roles in front offices and coaching staffs around the league.

“Just seeing great players and great coaches up close. So the first time I hear Kevin [O’Connell] I know what that sounds like because I’ve already been with Kyle Shanahan, I know how really intelligent he is and how he sees big picture. So listening to Kevin was just like okay here we go. This is a start, I know what a head coach looks like. So all those experiences, also my relationship with Brian Hampton, Paraag Marathe, the connection I got to build with Ran Carthon.

“Think about the people that I got to be around. Ran Carthon, Mike McDaniel, Robert Saleh, DeMeco Ryans. There’s no fluke as to why I’m up here on this stage. It’s because I kept an open mind, learned from those guys and that’s ultimately why I got to be here so I’ll forever be fortunate for being in that building.”