After an active trade deadline, Vikings general manger Kwesi Adofo-Mensah spoke to the media about a multitude of topics, including the trade deadline, Kirk Cousins, Jaren Hall and more.
Intro and trade deadline discussion
“Good afternoon. First, I want to start out by saying my thoughts are with Kirk. I just texted with him. He got out of surgery [today], and obviously this is the first time I’m getting to talk since that unfortunate play. He was playing really great football for us these last four games. Kevin had already talked about he’d been playing some of the best football in the league. So, it was unfortunate to see that happen. But it was really, I don’t want to say ‘refreshing,’ but what reenergized me was talking with Kirk and, the way his mind works, he’s so process-oriented and so intentional, he’s talking about
being back at OTAs, doing all the different things and what his schedule’s going to be, and that’s how his mind works, so that’s how my mind went. How do we think about the issue we have this season and next season and all those things? We always go back to process and intent, and that’s what I did.
Obviously after this trade deadline, we made a couple moves. We acquired Josh Dobbs, somebody that I’d gotten to know from the draft process, and then I have some close compatriots in Cleveland who talked glowingly about him and his time there. He’s a great player to add. Really excited to have
him here. And then obviously Ezra [Cleveland] went to the Jaguars. I first want to thank Ezra. He’s played a lot of good football for this organization before I got here, and obviously this year. It was just a situation where we had added depth at that position, and we felt like it was a move we could make. With that, this was a trade deadline, you know, as a GM I pay attention to a lot of other sports. I used to ask myself a lot, if you’re in that situation where you’re the team that has some long-term challenges and you’re getting kind of close to the deadline, what do you do? I’ve come to observe other people’s [approaches], and it’s a really interesting thought experiment until it comes to your front door. But i sat there and studied, and I looked at all the different scenarios and the different situations, and I came to the conclusion that first and foremost, when [Vikings Head Coach] Kevin [O’Connell] and I came together, we said we were always going to play meaningful games in
Minnesota. And to play meaningful games, you need really good players to do that. So to not have those players, there has to be a real reason, something probabilistically that you think will get you meaningful games sometime in the future. I just never really saw that opportunity at this time. And I really leaned on the leadership of this team. I had some guys reach out to me, this was before the game. We’re sitting in the playoff position before the game starts, and they’ve kind of reached out to me and said, ‘Kwes, we’re gelling. We love this team. We love being here.’ They didn’t need to do that, but I love the relationship I have with those guys that they felt comfortable enough to reach out through different channels to say that. Obviously won the game the way we did, and ultimately, I made the decision that we made to stand pat and keep going the way we’re going. “
Do you think they didn’t want to be traded, or they didn’t want you to trade anyone?
“I took it more to mean they liked this team as it’s constructed.”
Did you bring Josh [Dobbs] in here to eventually be the starter, or did you bring him in here as an insurance policy?
“That position, and honestly like any position, you try and upgrade the talent in the room. So, liked what he had in terms of what I’ve seen from him on film. We also really like Jaren Hall; we like Nick Mullens. This is not to say anything about our quarterback room. Just with Nick coming back from his
injury, there’s a little uncertainty there, so I don’t to say ‘insurance’ and then he ends up playing and, ‘Well, Kwesi didn’t know.’ You always try to upgrade the talent in the room with whatever chance and opportunity to do so.”
You mentioned Kirk [Cousins] talking about OTAs and things next year. Obviously, he would need a contract to do that here. Has this year and the way he’s handled it, way he’s played, changed anything in your mind about the possibility of bringing him back?
“And like I said when we broke off talks the first time, every option was still available to Kirk. And coming back was one of the really good options we had. So, him playing this well the last four games, and I talk about the last four games in terms of offense’s and defense’s efficiency were the top 10 in the league, right? So, the teams that play in the end typically are in that ballpark. So again, an unfortunate happening that it happened when it did, but we expected in Year 2 for him to take that step. I think Kevin and I have said that in the past. So, seeing it happen was just more our expectation of a good player getting more comfortable in the system and taking ownership of it. He actually said it himself. It’s understanding why Kevin game-plans the way he does and his process and different things. So really unfortunate it happened, but again, all options are open as they were before the injury.”
How do you characterize the interest you got, the calls you got, about Danielle [Hunter]?
“You know, I try to keep my calls with other teams confidential, but look, he’s a talented pass rusher, he’s leading the league in sacks, there’s gonna be phone calls. Whether it’s just parts of conversation or more direct. But ultimately, we decided what we decided, and we’re ready to go forward.”
How important was it to keep your options open at quarterback moving forward?
“Yeah, I think you always want to – when you can – we’ve talked now and, I feel like I’m going to be a meme somewhere when I use the term ‘competitive rebuilds,’ but I think at the end of the day, you want to identify where you need to be and where you’re at. And how do you fill that gap? And how do you fill that gap in a way that allows you to compete today and give yourself odds of getting to that ultimate space? So typically, flexibility helps you in all those matters, right? Unless you’re certain. So that’s kind of what we wanted to do, and I think ultimately the move we made is reflective of that.”
So, you want Kirk [Cousins] back next year?
“I mean, Kirk played great. I think my ‘want’ for Kirk to come back isn’t just a ‘me’ thing. You know, it’s a negotiation. You come together at the table, and you try and see if everything works together, and we’ll have that dialogue when the time comes.”
How does his injury play into the whole process of what you’re gonna do?
“Yeah, that’s tough. I had a great conversation with his agent. I have a good relationship with him, and we talked about those things. It’s funny given my background because that was my job, right? To try and predict when these things can happen. Ultimately, we all know you can’t predict injuries. We do know there are markers and different things like that. I will say, Kirk’s process – and I know what his age is, but his process makes him younger. You saw also on the Quarterback show what he puts into his body. I kind of compare it to somebody like LeBron [James], who knows that his body and his mind are the things that make him super valuable, so he puts a lot of time into them. I don’t think he’s a normal 35- year-old person in that regard, and you talk about an Achilles injury, how does that impact his game and his particular skill set? These are all things that we’ll think about when we go into those discussions.”
Did you have a lot of quarterback options out there available, or did you focus on Josh pretty quickly?
“You know, when you have a quarterback injury in the NFL, your phone becomes the most popular phone, I think, in the Minnesota area. A lot of people want to come here because they love Minnesota. A lot of people want to play for Kevin. A lot of people want to come be on this team and this offense. So, there were a lot of options. But again, this whole time we stuck to our guns – ‘This is what we’re trying to do. This is what we’re trying to get to.’ It kind of whittles it down to the number of options we actually, truthfully considered. And then once you’re there, you just kind of study it. You know, I sat in an office because Jaren, I believe a lot in Jaren Hall. I think he’s a really good player. Now, the problem is, when you project something, you don’t know – you don’t expect him to start in his rookie year at this time. I can’t say we expected that. I can tell you that Grant Udinski and Chris O’Hara are out there on the practice field with him every day after practice like he was going to be the starter. So, I had that in the back of my head – the confidence that’s instilled by watching him do those preparations and things we saw about him in the process coming out. And then Nick Mullens, who I’ve been with in San Francisco, and he started a lot of meaningful football games for them and played winning football. So just adding players like that really helped with that, and that’s kind of where we are and that’s where we continue on.”
How did your view of the trade deadline change from 1-4 to 4-4?
“You know, it’s interesting. When we were 1-4, it’s not about, you know – football’s hard because it settles in this binary fashion, win or lose. You can play three amazing quarters. I’ll take our first game, you know, look at the underlying metrics of that game – but we lost that game, so I’m not trying to say we didn’t lose those games, but you try to look at the underlying metrics. This isn’t baseball. I always try to liken it to, when football is 16 games and baseball is 160, it’s like 10 games. So, you lose 10 games in baseball, that’d be meaningful. But that’s one game for us, right? So, we don’t have a chance to go 5-5 and win the first half and the second half. So, you’re kind of trying to split the difference of the one game, and what does it really mean? What are the underlying metrics? And I have a lot of stuff that I look at. I thought we were a better team than a 1-4 team. I didn’t expect us to turn the ball over the way we did. I don’t think anybody on this team did. So, to see it reverse itself and play itself out, for us to be 4-4 sitting where we are now, is really encouraging because that’s, quite frankly, the team we thought we would be. So, I don’t want to say it changed from 1-4, because I don’t think I’m always as low as 1-4, and I probably won’t ever be as high as when it’s really good, because football has a mean reverting aspect to it in some sense.”
How do you know that Jaren Hall is ready to start?
“Ultimately you don’t know that anybody’s ready until they get out there. But I can tell you the poise that he has, every interaction I’ve ever had with him. Obviously, we scouted him. I went to see him in person last year, and everything you know about his background, his story, he is poised. We asked the players after the [Packers] game, when he played in the game, ‘What was it like?’ And they were like, ‘It was not too big for him.’ You know, I think that’s the first test you always look for. And look, your first snaps come backed up at Lambeau Field. That’s not, I would say, the ideal situation. On a third down, he stood in there and he converted a pass. You always look for those small signs, because sometimes the data is not going to be large, and you have to make decisions. But I know when I made this decision, I say in my office – I think I was going to say this earlier – but I listened to Creed. I was thinking about Kirk, I listened to Creed, and I watched my college cutup of him, I watched my preseason cutup of him, I watched his practice cutup, I read all our reports and analysis, and look – it’s not gonna look the same as
Kirk Cousins, right? Kirk Cousins is one of the best throwers this league has. He’s really experienced. But I think there’s a way that he can play, that we can function. I think there’s a way that Nick Mullens can play that we can function. And that’s what I came to conclusion-wise. I think this offense, this scheme, I’d be remiss without talking about Kevin and what he does for that offense and how he sets people up to succeed. A lot of that is my confidence in him – and the staff, and Wes Phillips, and Chris O’Hara and everybody we have here. So I’m excited to go see it, just like you guys. I’m gonna be watching on Sunday morning. That’s what we do with this football season. Those first four games of the year, you have a projection, but those things exist in your mind. I’m learning about this football team the same way you
guys are, and what I’ve learned is something I’ve really liked, and I’m glad we’re gonna be able to play some meaningful football games, and we’ll see what happens.”
Why didn’t an extension with Justin Jefferson happen prior to the season?
“You know, with a negotiation, I hate to always give you this answer, but it’s just two people trying to come together and see if their needs can be met. At the time, it didn’t feel like there was. There’s a reason they don’t normally get done two years early. I’ll kind of leave it at that. You can look at salary
caps and contracts and new money and all that stuff. There’s just reasons why it’s harder to do in those periods of time. But the dialogue was always super positive. We think he’s the best receiver in the league, and we want him to be a Viking for a long time. I think that’s how you start, and we’ll figure out the rest.”
The circumstances for this trade deadline were so unique for you because of the winning streak and then losing Kirk; is that something you have to loop in and talk to the ownership about what they want to do and how they see the season going?
“Yeah, absolutely. I’m very big, just because of how I do my own process, I look at every scenario. I just map them out: ‘This is what it looks like if we do this, this, this.’ And ultimately at the end of the day, what came down for me is, I didn’t think that playing for this year did anything material to seriously impact anything in the future. Once I presented it that way, I think the decision was pretty straightforward and the owners understand where it’s coming from. But I use them, and I tell them all the time on the sideline, they’re successful in what they do, so to not lean on them sometimes would be foolish on my part. They have a really good business sense, they’ve been in this league longer than I have. So, I do lean on them, but they ultimately make the decision set up for them, and I explained my logic and they understood.”
How did you zero in on Dobbs? You talk about the options you have … I mean, he had started every game [for Arizona]. How did you know that he’d be available?
“Yeah, I have a great staff. I don’t know that I said it in my intro, but part of the reason why I’m so – look, we might have challenges in the future that it’s going to take creativity and performance on the margins, but I just believe in our staff. I believe in our coaching staff. I believe in the people in this building and the football operations and our player development staff to solve all those issues. So that was a big part of it. But my personnel staff had identified that he was somebody they had liked before, and then when they saw he maybe wasn’t starting, the ideas kind of clicked that maybe he’d be
somebody who was available. And those dialogues always come down to relationships. J.G. (Cardinals Head Coach Jonathan Gannon) and K.O. (O’Connell) have a relationship, and I have a relationship with [Cardinals General Manager] Monti [Ossenort] – and you’re kind of just talking and you formulate those things. And ultimately, I have to go do my process and understand to acquire the player what that should be worth, and how that fits into what we’re trying to do. And then once that happened, we talked, we had a good conversation, and we came to a deal.”
Did you talk to him during the process of the draft? Did you have any sense to who he was?
“Yeah, I had known him. I used to build all those draft modules, so Dobbs, I can remember him coming out with the rocket science, so it was like, ‘Kwesi, you’re gonna love this guy.’ I guess people thought it was a nerd or something back then. I might be. I’ve known Josh Dobbs, and I’ve got some Tennessee alums in my life that, obviously, are a big fan of Dobbs. So, I’ve known him, I’ve known about his skill set, and then obviously I paid attention to Cleveland, just because I have a lot of close friends there and we
talk all the time. So, I had seen him play there and just really appreciate his skill set. And you can see, because of their offense, you can see some of the stuff he does in terms of what we do. Just somebody that was on our radar, and when an opportunity came at a price we were okay with, we went for it.”
Kirk had a traumatic injury; where do you think on the other side of this it kind of leaves your program, the biggest-possible picture you have, if at all – where does this leave you, I guess?
“Yeah, obviously it adds a curve ball. I can’t say that I thought maybe the most durable quarterback we have in our league was going to [get hurt] – and anybody who would tell you that would be misinforming you. So, it does add a little uncertainty. But I don’t know, I just – we studied, we have this way where we look at every scenario – our draft picks, all the different players we have under contract, and ultimately, we didn’t, for the term, it doesn’t really change that picture. If anything, seeing Kirk play that way, as I think the question was asked earlier, that’s what we thought it was going to look like. And that’s, by the way, without Justin Jefferson, seeing what that offense looked like. Seeing [Jordan] Addison improve. So again, we’ve got games to play, and I’m excited about this team, but that’s where that wistfulness maybe comes from, of seeing what that looked like up close. But no, I don’t think it
changes our long-term picture at all, other than just focusing on Kirk the player, the person, trying to get him better, lift his spirits up and welcome him in to be the leader he is for this team.”
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