Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will never forget some of the first meetings he had with Browns EVP and GM Andrew Berry when he joined the front office in 2020.
At first, Adofo-Mensah was caught off guard. He spent the last seven years with the 49ers in their football research department and was used to handling a variety of quantitative tasks to help the team decide on transactions and evaluate players. Berry was certainly impressed with Adofo-Mensah's work — that's why Berry picked him as VP of Football Operations a few months after he was hired — but he wanted Adofo-Mensah to do even more in his new role in Cleveland.
Numbers weren't enough. Berry wanted Adofo-Mensah to lead. He wanted him to learn how to not only evaluate players, but manage a staff and complete some of the daily tasks that Berry completed, too.
"He wanted me to really step outside of my comfort zone," Adofo-Mensah said Friday in an interview with Cleveland Browns Daily. "(He said) 'You can use how you see the world and incorporate it, but I'm going to make you learn this other side of the business.'"
Adofo-Mensah learned quickly.
The Browns bid farewell to Adofo-Mensah on Wednesday after he was named the General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings, news that surprised no one in the Browns' front office and fulfilled a vision Berry saw in Adofo-Mensah throughout their two seasons together in Cleveland.
Adofo-Mensah returned Friday to CrossCountry Mortgage Campus to say one final goodbye to his now-former coworkers and express his gratitude to those who helped him grow. He had plenty of people to thank, and he wanted to make sure his appreciation was properly communicated.
"I could go on and on and on," he said after he rattled off the names of nearly a dozen coaches, executives and front office members. "I've been fortunate and so blessed … The Cleveland fans should know that they have great people behind here. This is an incubator for front office talent."
Check out the best photos from the 2021 season by the Browns photo team
Adofo-Mensah never thought he'd rise to the level of NFL general manager when he broke into the league in 2013 with the 49ers. He wanted to focus more on short-term tasks than long-term desires and absorb as much knowledge and insight as possible, but as Adofo-Mensah continued to help front offices find success, he became increasingly popular among the league, and a promotion toward one of the 32 general manager jobs became evident.
Berry realized that shortly after the two met each other in 2019 at the scouting combine. Adofo-Mensah had only been in the league for six years, but Berry could tell he was already on the fast track toward a more prominent role in an NFL front office. When he brought him to Cleveland in 2020, he knew a promotion elsewhere could happen sooner than later.
He was right.
"Kwesi's infectious energy, critical thinking skills, collaborative spirit and expertise across the football operations/player personnel spectrum made a lasting footprint here in a short period of time," Berry said. "These same characteristics will make him an exceptional leader, problem-solver and roster architect for the Vikings."
Now, Adofo-Mensah will be competing against Berry. He's currently slated to make his first draft pick at 12th overall, one spot ahead of the Browns in the first round. The Vikings, though, are an NFC team and thus aren't scheduled to face Cleveland until 2025, so Adofo-Mensah doesn't have to relinquish his rooting interests in the Browns for a while.
That's how Adofo-Mensah prefers to depart the franchise. He plans on taking the lessons learned and building his own new chapter in Minnesota, but he'll be remembering Cleveland throughout the journey.
"I love this place," he said. "I'm going to miss it. It's going to be tough. I'm glad I'm going to be on the other side of the playoff table from you guys because I'm going to be rooting for you guys every day."