The first-year GM openly admitted that he has a good, but not a great quarterback in a recent USA Today Sports interview.
While it’s no revelation that Cousins, entering his 11th NFL season with a 59-59-2 career record, has yet to produce the marks of a winner, Adofo-Mensah broke down his decision to tie himself to the veteran quarterback through the 2023 season while also keeping possibilities open for a change at the position in the future.
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KAM Admits Nervousness at ‘Burning Down’ QB Position
Inheriting a talented roster with both young and veteran players, Adofo-Mensah has embraced a term he coined as a “competitive rebuild” of the roster — living in both the present and future when assessing the current pieces and building a team in his image.
But the one position where Adofo-Mensah admitted he was tentative to tear it all down and start fresh was at quarterback with Cousins.
“I’ll be frank,” he told USA Today Sports on July 22. “The one asset where you get nervous about not burning it down is quarterback.”
Cousins is coming off a 2021 campaign where he threw for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions — numbers that are undeniably a mark of “a good quarterback,” Mensah admitted. But “we don’t have Tom Brady,” Adofo-Mensah acknowledged, and “we don’t have Pat(rick) Mahomes.
“(The Super Bowl) is more likely to win if you have that quarterback,” Adofo-Mensah said. “It’s very unlikely to have that quarterback.”
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‘I Know That’s Hard for Fans to Hear’
Adofo-Mensah committed to Cousins with a one-year, $35 million contract extension that lessened Cousins’ cap hit on the 2022 cap sheet by nearly $10 million — freeing up funds to help add veterans to the defense including defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, linebacker Jordan Hicks and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. The deal secures Cousins’ future in Minnesota through the 2023 season pending no exemption a no-trade clause in the contract.
But Adofo-Mensah could have gone the other way — stripping away the former tenant’s pieces and leaving his mark immediately on the franchise. He could have traded away veterans to acquire draft capital and gamble on a first-round quarterback.
Despite his deep analytics background as manager and director of the San Francisco 49ers football research and development department, Adofo-Mensah, embracing both analytics and the football savvy of his staff, understands the odds of finding “that quarterback,” a Brady or Mahomes, is still a risky gamble that could hemorrhage the future of the franchise.
“I believe in decision science and our abilities,” Adofo-Mensah said. “I don’t believe that I can pick the next Pat Mahomes that much better than anybody. If you give me five chances, I think we’d be better and we’d get four out of five rather than (others’) three out of five. But one shot, your odds are at best 65%, so they study this.
“It’s a little overconfident to think we’d be able to find the next one with certainty.”
And while the Vikings did entertain trade talks for Cousins this offseason, no moves were made as Adofo-Mensah intends to make it work with majorly the same roster that’s failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons.
“If it were a seven-game series, yeah, best team wins,” Adofo-Mensah said. “That’s ultimately why when you’re team building, you never want to go full Rams. Because you need to give yourself three chances at it, four years at it. I know that’s hard for fans to hear.”
Adofo-Mensah will take a fifth swing at making it work in Minnesota with Cousins, who has gone 33-31-1 with the Vikings since 2018, making one playoff appearance in four years.