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Wilfs Make A Clean Sweep - But Who Will Be the New GM and Head Coach?

A list of potential GM candidates

Wild Card Round - Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

It was well telegraphed in the last week or so that Mike Zimmer would be fired on Black Monday. It was a surprise that the Wilfs also parted ways with general manager Rick Spielman, who’d been with the organization twice as long and seemed to have more trust from the Wilfs in running the personnel side of football operations.

But the Wilfs opted for a clean sweep and total regime change, clearing the way for what they described as an internal search for a new general manager and head coach.

Those jobs with the Vikings will easily be the most coveted of all the head coaching and general manager openings this off-season, given the Vikings status as one of the premier franchises in the league, stability, state-of-the-art stadium and facilities, large fan base, and the pieces already in place on the roster.

“We Believe It Is Time For New Leadership To Elevate Our Team So We Can Consistently Contend For Championships”

In their statement, the Wilfs made clear what their goals for the franchise are- and have been- to consistently contend for championships.

The words ‘consistently’ and ‘sustained’ are operative here.

They also said, “our comprehensive search for a new general manager and head coach will begin immediately and be led internally.” That leads to the question of which, if any, current Vikings’ personnel will assist the Wilfs in that search. One name that leaps to mind as a candidate in that regard is Rob Brzezinski, current EVP of Football Operations. He has been an NFL executive for 29 years and has been with the Vikings for 23. The Wilfs kept him on after cleaning house shortly after they took ownership of the team, and he has been promoted a couple times since then. But he has been more of a numbers guy rather than a talent evaluator, managing the Vikings salary cap and negotiating contracts. Chief Operating Official Andrew Miller might also be involved, although he is more on the business side of operations- marketing, finance, real estate, etc., rather than a football guy.

But the Wilfs have been owners for 17 years, and doubtless have plenty of connections and ideas about potential candidates for both jobs. Indeed, they’ve likely been contemplating these moves for at least the past month or more, and doubtless have already made some low-key inquiries into who might be available. They may even have particular people in mind for both jobs. Maybe even one person for both jobs- who knows?

In any case, a new general manager is usually chosen first in these situations, and he in turn is consulted in the choosing of a new head coach. But the Wilfs may also be considering the structure they want going forward regarding the football side of operations.

Since the Wilfs became owners of the Vikings, they’ve gone from the Triangle of Authority, which they had for six years, to naming a GM to run the personnel side alongside a head coach. And since Mike Zimmer has been head coach, it’s been a head coach/de facto coordinator arrangement.

It may be that the Wilfs want a different structure, with a true head coach without coordinator duties, that also has some degree of authority over personnel decisions, with two full-fledged coordinators running both sides of the ball. In today’s press conference, Mark Wilf said that they will focus on hiring a general manager first, who will then have input into who the next head coach will be.

Top General Manager Candidates

It was somewhat surprising to see the Wilfs fire Rick Spielman as well as Mike Zimmer, so I hadn’t put together a list of some of the top candidates for GM openings this off-season. A list of some top heading coaching candidates is here. Here is a list compiled by Jonathan Jones at cbssports.com. Italics afterward are my comments on each candidate. Below are the top candidates from that rather extensive list.

Joe Hortiz, Ravens director of player personnel: He’s been a top lieutenant for Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta for years, and he’s been in this role for seven seasons. Hortiz is very well respected in the college scouting community. If you’re looking to pilfer a GM from the ranks of another organization, none better to pilfer from than the Ravens. They’ve been the best drafting team since Hortiz has been there, and pretty sharp in free agency too. Not sure how much credit Hortiz merits in all that, but he’s certainly learned and worked with a couple great GMs in Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta.

Ed Dodds, Colts assistant GM: Dodds was highly coveted last offseason but had the privilege of waiting for the right job. If the right one opens up this offseason, I’d expect him to be a top candidate. Dodds has earned a strong reputation around the league, but like George Paton did, is waiting for the right opportunity. The Vikings’ GM job could be just that.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Browns VP of football operations: He was a hot name last cycle and could very well land a job this time around. Adofo-Mensah has a Wall Street background and excels at the numbers part of this business. Assuming the Vikings retain Rob Brzezinski, they don’t need someone of Adofo-Mensah’s background. They need a guy who’s good at evaluating talent.

Joe Schoen, Bills assistant GM: Among all the names on this list, no one’s name was mentioned more than Schoen’s. Considering the diverse amount of voices and backgrounds cultivated to make this list, that speaks loudly. The right hand of Brandon Beane in Buffalo, Schoen is going to be a GM either this year or next. A leading contender, but is he the best candidate? Maybe.

Dave Ziegler, Patriots director of player personnel: He took on the role of de facto GM with the team after Nick Caserio left for Houston. He totally changed the Pats draft process in 2021 and helped Belichick spend big in free agency. Probably on the rise as a GM candidate as a result, but is that enough of a track record?

Some other leading candidates...

Ryan Cowden, Titans VP of player personnel: Cowden took a successful career with the Carolina Panthers to Tennessee six years ago and has helped the Titans to three playoff appearances. He interviewed for the Washington GM last year.

Mike Borgonzi, Chiefs assistant GM: It’s a matter of time before folks begin getting plucked out of the Chiefs front office, and I was surprised it didn’t happen last year. Borgonzi has been a key part of Brett Veach’s extremely successful group in KC.

Malik Boyd, Bills senior director of pro scouting: Boyd’s been in the scouting ranks for nearly two decades. He got an interview for the Houston job last year.

Brandon Brown, Eagles director of player personnel: One of the fastest “risers” in all of personnel. Brown played in college, has a law degree, a college coaching background, scouted for the Colts and oversees Philly’s pro scouting department.

Ran Carthon, 49ers director of player personnel: Carthon received this promotion last year and manages the Niners pro scouting department. A former NFL player, he ran the Rams pro personnel department before joining San Francisco five years ago.

Glenn Cook, Browns VP of player personnel: Cook, a former stud linebacker at the University of Miami, has been an instrumental and quiet part of Cleveland’s turnaround under GM Andrew Berry.

Ryan Cowden, Titans VP of player personnel: Cowden took a successful career with the Carolina Panthers to Tennessee six years ago and has helped the Titans to three playoff appearances. He interviewed for the Washington GM last year.

Quentin Harris, Cardinals VP of player personnel: A former Cardinals safety, he’s been in Arizona’s scouting department for 14 years and got the promotion to VP this past offseason.

Brandon Hunt, Steelers pro scouting coordinator: Hunt has been a top candidate to replace Kevin Colbert should he move on. Being part of a team that, up to this point, has had no losing seasons should mean something to team owners hoping to establish consistent success.

Jeff Ireland, Saints assistant GM: Those stellar Saints drafts the last several years? Yeah, that’s Ireland. Enough time has passed since his tenure as Dolphins GM where he should get a serious look at another top gig.

Dwayne Joseph, Raiders director of pro personnel: Joseph has been in pro scouting for 20 years. If and when the Bears GM job comes open, he’s likely to get a call there.

Dan Morgan, Panthers assistant GM: The former All-Pro linebacker just joined the Panthers staff in this role after serving three years as the Bills director of player personnel and should get GM looks soon.

Omar Khan, Steelers VP of football and business administration: He’s been with the Steelers since 2001 and is a key part of what Kevin Colbert has built there.

Trent Kirchner, Seahawks VP of player personnel: He was a GM candidate for the Texans last year and the Colts before that.

Adam Peters, 49ers assistant GM: Peters was a finalist for the Panthers gig last season and was promoted to AGM shortly after that. He’s logged 18 years in the NFL.

Ryan Poles, Chiefs executive director of player personnel: He’s been with the Chiefs for more than a decade and has played a large role in Kansas City’s drafts recently. He made the final four for Carolina’s GM job last year.

John Spytek, Buccaneers VP of player personnel: The third name (listed alphabetically, remember) from this Bucs front office on this list. He has nearly two decades in the league with a previous stop in Denver as a national scout during their run with Peyton Manning.

Eric Stokes, Washington Football Team senior director of player personnel: Stokes is a well-respected scout who spent time as Miami’s AGM in 2014 and 2015.