With GM choices, Vikings and Bears set up major philosophical battle

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The final step in the Vikings' announced plan for choosing a general manager was hijacked Tuesday night when the Chicago Bears hired away one of the Purple's two finalists on the eve of his scheduled trip to the Twin Cities for a second interview.

Whether that becomes a good thing, a bad thing or an ugly thing will be fascinating to watch unfold as these NFC North rivals do battle in hopes of boasting the better visionary NextGen GM and finally overtaking the division bullies in Green Bay.

Because of the Vikings' transparent search, the public knows a wide, diverse net was cast during the process of replacing Rick Spielman. The public knows that eight candidates were interviewed virtually and that only two finalists — Browns Vice President of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Chiefs Executive Director of Player Personnel Ryan Poles — would be brought to Minnesota for second interviews.

Adofo-Mensah went first on Tuesday. Even he said he wasn't expecting to be hired a day later since the original plan called for Poles to interview on Wednesday.

And what an ideal end to the search that would have been. The Vikings would have kicked the tires on two young, seemingly brilliant minds that come at the job in different ways with totally different backgrounds. Would it be Poles, the 36-year-old Traditional Football Guy, or Adofo-Mensah, the 40-year-old Analytics Guy?

We'll never know how that would have played out for the Vikings if they were given the time to meet Poles in person and woo him. Instead Poles was interviewing Bears coaching candidates Tuesday and Wednesday, and settled on Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on Thursday.

The perception held by some is the Bears not only got their guy for GM but also dictated the final moves that led to the Vikings' hire. The reality is both teams seem genuinely thrilled by their selections. Who comes out happier in the end will start unfolding eight months from now when all the decisions made by these two start accumulating W's and L's.

So, game on!

Adofo-Mensah, who won Thursday's introductory news conference in a rout, was asked whether the perception of him as a second-fiddle hire adds an extra level of urgency to the Vikings-Bears rivalry.

"If you know me, there's no extra need for competition," he said. "That's how I'm wired. I've heard great things about [Poles]. I think he'll do a great job there. But our job here is to win divisions, make the playoffs, pursue championships. That wouldn't change if he was hired there or not."

How the Vikings and Bears perform in the next few years could, however, determine how two days in late January 2022 will be remembered in Chicago and Minnesota, two places that ended up with two distinctly different GMs.

Poles, 36, played left guard at Boston College. He was undrafted in 2008, tried to make the Bears, failed and returned to Boston College to be a recruiter. A year later, he joined the Chiefs and began the traditional climb from scouting assistant to college scouting coordinator to assistant director of player personnel to executive director of player personnel.

Adofo-Mensah, 40, played basketball at Princeton. He got a master's degree in economics at Stanford. He worked on Wall Street before joining the 49ers' progressive analytics department in 2013. He was their director of football research and development when they reached the Super Bowl in 2019. He then joined the Browns in 2020 as vice president of football operations and right-hand man to Browns General Manager Andrew Berry, another Ivy Leaguer (Harvard) and overseer of the league's most analytics-driven franchise by far.

In Poles, the Bears get a piece of the hottest franchise in football. Poles has learned under Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach and future Hall of Fame coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs have won six straight division championships, two straight AFC titles and a Super Bowl … and they're about to play in their fourth straight home AFC Championship Game.

In Adofo-Mensah, the Vikings get a piece of the 49ers, who also are on the doorstep to Super Bowl LVI, and a Browns team that surprised everyone in 2020 before taking a step back this season.

The optics probably favor the Bears right now. Adofo-Mensah can change that by hiring the right coach and making the offseason moves that bring more success on the field than his predecessor in Minnesota and his newest rival in Chicago.

Game on!