Vikings’ First Round of GM Candidates are Young, Diverse

Photo of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah: Cleveland Browns

It took the Minnesota Vikings a bit longer to whittle down their general manager search to a number they felt comfortable interviewing. But on Wednesday night, finally, names began to surface. So far, Minnesota has reportedly contacted SEVEN candidates to interview for Rick Spielman’s old job. Vikings owner and president, Mark Wilf, said this week that they planned to find their GM before hiring a head coach but that both processes had already begun.

According to Courtney Cronin (ESPN), the Vikings interview team, which is headed by Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Miller and includes Rob Brzezinski, will interview a candidate pool that started at approximately 40 candidates. The Wilfs wanted to “cast a wide net” and they certainly have. But the finalists, so far, have one thing in common. They’re young and diverse.

Here are the seven finalists, so far. More interview requests are expected to be sent out over the next week.

Brandon Brown | Age: 33 | Eagles Director of Player Personnel

Brandon Brown has been in the NFL for 7 years, according to his LinkedIn profile. The last five of those seasons have been spent with the Philadelphia Eagles. Before that, he recruited and scouted at Boston College. He played four years of college football at Fordham University and then got his JD at Barry University Law School.

Brown is credited for much of the success that the Eagles have had in recent drafts but if he’s the guy who wanted Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson in 2019 then I’d have a lot of questions for him to answer.

  • Indianapolis Colts (2015-2016)
    • 2015-2016: Scouting Assistant
    • 2016-2017: Scout
  • Philadelphia Eagles (2017-Present)
    • 2017-2018: Assistant Director of Pro Scouting
    • 2018-2020: Director of Pro Scouting
    • 2020-2021: Director of Player Personnel

Catherine Raiche | Age: 32 | Eagles VP of Football Operations

As a female candidate, it was big news on Thursday morning when we found out Catherine Raiche was approached to interview for the open Vikings GM job. If hired, she would be the first and only woman hired at the position since 1983 when Susan Tose Spencer was hired by her father to GM the Philadelphia Eagles.

Raiche’s only been in the NFL for three years, working all of them with, coincidentally, the Eagles. Before coming to the big show, she cut her pro football front office teeth in the Canadian Football League. While there, she worked for two different teams (Montreal, Toronto) from 2015 to 2019. She even spent one season in the XFL with the Tampa Bay Vipers.

Catherine Reiche’s first career was as an attorney. She worked in business law from 2012-2015, before jumping into football.

  • Montreal Alouettes – CFL (2015-2018)
    • 2015-2017: Coordinator of Football Administration
    • 2017: Assistant General Manager
  • Toronto Argonauts -CFL (2018-2019)
    • 2018-2019: Director of Football Administration
  • Tampa Bay Vipers – XFL (2019)
    • 2019: Front Office
  • Philadelphia Eagles (2019-Present)
    • 2019-2021: Football Operations Coordinator
    • 2021: Vice President of Football Operations

Ryan Poles | Age: 36 | Chiefs director of player personnel

If the Minnesota Vikings want to hire a youngster who’s loyal, Ryan Poles is probably their pick. He has some of the most experience out of all the candidates named so far and he’s spent all 13 of his NFL seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Hired as a scouting assistant in 2009, Ryan Poles spent the next decade-plus climbing up the Chiefs’ front office ladder, holding positions all throughout their scouting department on his way up.

Poles became more well known as a possible GM candidate when he interviewed with the Panthers last offseason and reportedly “stunned” them, eventually ending as one of their finalists.

  • Kansas City Chiefs (2009-Present)
    • 2009-2010: Scouting Assistant
    • 2010-2016: College Scouting Coordinator
    • 2012-2018: Director of College Scouting
    • 2018-2021: Assistant Director of Player Personnel
    • 2021: Executive Director of Player Personnel

John Spytek | Age: 42 | Bucs VP of Player Personnel

Spytek is one of the more experienced candidates that the Vikings have set up interviews with. An 18-year NFL front office veteran, John has held positions with the Broncos, Browns, Eagles and Lions.

His bio on the Bucs website says he has worked with top league executives including John Elway, Andy Reid, Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert, John Harbaugh & Gary Kubiak.

Spytek is credited, in-part, for reeling in Tom Brady (Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson), drafting guys like Antoine Winfield Jr (Who Rick Spielman passed up) and then keeping all 22 starters on roster after the Bucs’ 2020-21 Super Bowl victory.

  • Detroit Lions (2004-2005)
    • 2004-2005: Operations Intern
  • Philadelphia Eagles (2005-2010)
    • 2005-2006: Scouting Intern
    • 2006-2010: Assistant College/Pro Scout
  • Cleveland Browns (2010-2012)
    • 2010-2012: Director of College Scouting
  • Denver Broncos (2012-2016)
    • 2012-2013: Southwest Area Pro Scout
    • 2013-2015: National Pro Scout
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2016-Present)
    • 2020-2021: Vice President of Player Personnel

Glenn Cook | Age: 37 | Browns VP of Player Personnel

Glenn Cook is one of two Cleveland Browns front office executives the Minnesota Vikings will interview for their general manager position. He played four years of college football at Miami (FL) where he started 17 total games.

He never played pro football but did play a short stint of minor league baseball, after being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 46th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. In 2012, he took a job with the Green Bay Packers, where he cut his teeth in their pro personnel department. He then joined the Browns in 2016 as assistant director of pro scouting and was promoted to vice president of player personnel in 2020.

  • Indianapolis Colts (2011-2012)
    • 2011-2012: Scouting Assistant
  • Green Bay Packers (2012-2016)
    • 2012-2015: Assistant Pro Scout
    • 2015-2016: Pro Scout
  • Cleveland Browns (2016-Present)
    • 2016-2020: Assistant Director of Pro Scouting
    • 2020-2021: Vice President of Player Personnel

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah | Age: 40 | Browns VP of Football Operations

The other Browns executive set to interview is Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton (where he played basketball) in 2003. His first dive into the professional workspace was on Wall Street where he was a trader and portfolio manager. He earned his master’s degree in economics in 2013 from Stanford.

After leaving Stanford, he got a job with the San Francisco 49ers. From 2017-2020, he served as their director of football research and development, before being hired by the Browns as vice president of football operations.

Adofo-Mensah is partly known for his analytics approach to scouting quarterbacks. He gave a presentation at a GM and QB Coaching Summit last summer on how he works analytics into his scouting. Both the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers have requested interviews with Kwesi.

  • San Francisco 49ers (2013-2020)
    • 2017-2020: Director of Football Research and Development
  • Cleveland Browns (2020-Present)
    • 2020-2021: Vice President of Football Operations

Eliot Wolf | Age: 40 | Patriots Front Office Consultant

Wolf is one of the more experienced front office executive currently on the Vikings interview list. He’s been in the NFL since 2004, when he joined the league with the Packers as a “Pro Personnel Assistant”. Green Bay would be his home for the next 14 seasons, as he methodically climbed his way up their football operations ladder.

After spending all of those years with the Packers, Wolf was passed up for an outside hire (Brian Gutekundst) when Green Bay replaced GM Ted Thompson in 2017.

After one year with the Browns as their Assistant General Manager, the organization made sweeping organizational changes which eventually landed Wolf in New England. He’s served as a “Front Office Consultant” to Bill Belichick in the two seasons since.

  • Green Bay Packers (2004-2017)
    • 2004-2008: Pro Personnel Assistant
    • 2008-2011: Assistant Director of Pro Personnel
    • 2011-2012: Assistant Director of Player Personnel
    • 2012-2015: Director of Pro Personnel
    • 2015-2016: Director of Player Personnel
    • 2016-2017: Director of Football Operations
  • Cleveland Browns (2018-2019)
    • 2018-2019: Assistant General Manager
  • New England Patriots (2020-Present)
    • 2020-21: Front Office Consultant

Big Changes

With these first six interviews, it’s clear that the Minnesota Vikings are looking to make a statement with their hire for General Manager. Three of the six candidates are black and one is a woman. Darren Wolfson (KSTP, SKOR North) has reiterated multiple times over the last month or so that skin color is an important factor to what the Wilfs are looking for.

White, black, brown, purple, blue, pink, yellow, rainbow, boy, girl or otherwise, I just want someone who’s going to help Vikings Nation taste that Super Bowl champagne.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan