The Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings both hired Black candidates to fill their vacant GM positions. Ryan Poles, 36, will lead the “Monsters of the Midway,” after 13 years in the Kansas City Chiefs organization. He was once an undrafted free agent by the team in 2008 and will now replace Ryan Pace in the executive position.
"This isn’t a good hire by the Bears. This is an incredible hire by the Bears."
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 26, 2022
Division rival Minnesota then hired 40-year-old Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the former Browns VP of football operations as its GM. KAM is a former Princeton basketball player who graduated with a degree in economics and also attended Stanford. The former Wall Street trader and portfolio manager is considered an analytics guru. He represents the innovative paths African-Americans are taking to attain executive jobs in pro sports.
They join Andrew Berry (Browns), Martin Mayhew (WFT), Chris Grier (Dolphins), recently hired Detroit Lions GM Brad Homles who signed a five-year contract on Jan.14, and newly-minted Atlanta Falcons GM Terry Fontenot (Jan.19) as the only Black GMs in the league. That’s six more Black GMs than there are head coaches, with Mike Tomlin being the lone Black representative.
Both have their work cut out for them, as they now have to hire a head coach to lead each respective franchise.
Many Believe Poles Chose Bears Because Of QB Justin Fields: Franchise’s First African-American GM
Poles was highly sought -after and had the pick of several jobs, but many believe he chose the Bears because of the opportunity to cultivate the development of quarterback Justin Fields. Viewed as a rising executive, Poles has worked under three different successful GMs (Scott Pioli, John Dorsey and Brett Veach) during his tenure with the Chiefs.
Poles also had a direct effect in rebuilding the K.C. offensive line after last season’s embarrassing 31-9 Super Bowl loss to the Bucs. The team drafted starters Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith.
We have hired Chiefs' Executive Director of Player Personnel Ryan Poles as our General Manager.
Welcome (back) to Chicago, Ryan! 🐻⬇️
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 26, 2022
Poles spoke in an interview following his hiring.
“I am extremely grateful to George, the McCaskey family and the rest of the Bears organization for this opportunity. The Chicago Bears are one of the flagship franchises in the NFL and are recognized as one of the most prestigious clubs in all of sports. It’s an honor for me to join a such a well-regarded organization. Together with my family, I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running to help this organization, its fanbase and the city what they deserve: a winning team and Super Bowl trophy.”
KAM Has His Work Cut Out In Twin Cities: Played A Vital Role In Browns Resurgence
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah broke into the league in 2013 with the San Francisco 49ers. He doesn’t have a background as a football player, but he’s a master with math and methods. He worked in the Bay until 2019 as manager of football research and later as director of football research and development.
In 2019, he joined the Cleveland Browns under GM Andrew Berry. The Browns drafted Baker Mayfield in 2018 No. 1 overall and experienced a significant turnaround in 2020, going 11-5 and winning their first playoff game in 26 seasons.
The relationship between Berry and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah developed into a brotherhood, with a deep mutual respect.
“Big thanks to Andrew Berry, my big bro,” Adofo-Mensah said according to Yahoo Sports. “I think everybody in their life needs somebody who sees more in them than they see in themself, and for me that was Andrew Berry. When he brought me for that role, man, I don’t know, I was like, ‘You sure?’ I believed in myself, but he’s always challenged me, pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone.
“He’s been incredible to me, and I’m proud that he’s a mentor of mine. I’ll miss those late-night texts about 2026 trade scenarios. But no stone unturned, that’s the standard, that’s what we’ll live by at the Vikings, and I learned that from him.”
With the Vikings, he’ll have to sort through the team’s cap situation, which isn’t very friendly. He also has a franchise-changing decision to make concerning the future of 33-year-old veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins. He’ll weigh the risk and rewards of keeping Cousins and will need all of that past expertise to sort out these situations.
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) January 26, 2022
Back in 2020, KAM explained his analytics-heavy approach to leading and making personnel decisions.
“We try to win on the margins, and so we are trying to extricate every little winning possible advantage we can find across football operations and use the evidence to support that,” he said.
The NFL’s coaching ranks currently have one Black head coach. With the addition of two Black general managers, who both have to implement new coaching staffs before next season, you’d have to believe that at least one of these new GMs will give a Black man an opportunity to run the team.
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