Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is the first to acknowledge his background, when it pertains to his current title as Browns Vice President of Football Operations, is unconventional.
Just 10 years ago, Adofo-Mensah held titles such as commodities trader and portfolio manager in various Wall Street ventures. He landed his first football job in 2013, when he was hired by the 49ers as a manager of football research and development, and promptly embraced his radically different office setting.
The skills that made him succeed in the first part of his professional life, though, proved valuable in this ongoing second part. Though his background differs from the majority of front office executives around the NFL, Adofo-Mensah is confident those traits will allow him to thrive in Cleveland and collaborate well within the rest of a department Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry has put his mark upon.
"I think my background was a positive because I did not have any preconceived notions or biases," Adofo-Mensah said Thursday in a video conference call with local reporters. "When I sat in a room with great evaluators that I have been around in San Francisco, I just took everything they told me. I tried to find the intuition behind it. I ask 'why' a lot. You will find that out about me. I wanted to know even the most simple question. You might think it is simple, but I am building the complex bridge that will get me somewhere complex.
"I will pick every person's brain. You find some amazing knowledge from everywhere in this league. I would say that is where my evaluation base comes from."
As Vice President of Football Operations, Adofo-Mensah will work closely with Berry and the rest of the senior football staff to contribute to all roster and strategy decisions. He will also assist Berry with the day-to-day operations of the department. Adofo-Mensah, a former walk-on basketball player at Princeton, came into the NFL with a clean slate football-wise but had his foundation built thanks to extensive time spent with longtime veterans such as Vic Fangio, Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch and a myriad of others.
Still, Adofo-Mensah is adamant he won't be quibbling with a scout's opinion of a player. That's not his area of expertise. Instead, he'll collect and assess the various opinions from the Browns' player personnel staff and help the group arrive at the soundest possible decisions.
"My job is going to be another person who knows enough about everybody's point of view to come together and make a good decision," Adofo-Mensah said. "That is where I see my role, and that is where I see a lot of my value. I have my perspective and I will bring that to the table, but I also have an appreciation for everybody else's perspective, not only from my time in San Francisco but also my time as a trader, to be honest. There are a lot of people who win a lot of different ways, and you come to appreciate that.
"At the end of the day, you are just trying to make better decisions. That is kind of the basis of where I will approach this job from."
Adofo-Mensah evolved in his position over close to seven years with the 49ers, and the team did, too. When Lynch was hired as general manager in 2017, Adofo-Mensah was empowered and eventually promoted to Director of Football Research and Development. What made last year's trip to the Super Bowl so special to Adofo-Mensah was the trials and tribulations the team endured to get there. Just in 2018, with sky-high expectations surrounding the team, the 49ers floundered after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending injury and finished 4-12.
What Adofo-Mensah saw around him during those hard times fortified his beliefs on what it takes to meet the ultimate goal every team in the NFL has.
"You have to have people in the building who are not going to blink, know what that looks like and have a shared vision," Adofo-Mensah said. "All of that stuff sounds good when you read it, but then living that experience over these last three years – 2017 was not easy and 2018 was not easy. I saw John and Kyle never blink. Nobody else beneath them blinked. We always knew we were building toward something. Seeing that up close, I just know that is what it takes to win and I will never back down from that.
"It takes talent to win in this league. It takes great coaching. It takes great development. It takes a lot of great things. Seeing that up close and knowing that you need an aggressive mindset to win on the margins in every aspect of football operations is an invaluable experience I will never be able to replicate. I think that is what I will bring to the Cleveland Browns."