Kwesi Adofo-Mensah gets to remake the Vikings quarterback position.

Fourteen months ago, the Vikings were concluding a season in which they won 13 games with a rookie head coach and easily won a flawed division.


This week, they lost their franchise quarterback and best defensive player, creating the possibility that they will be the worst team in the NFC North in 2024.


Kirk Cousins isn’t worth what the Falcons paid him, and allowing him to leave seems logical.


But his departure, and that of star defensive end Danielle Hunter, means that Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will have to find his future quarterback and rebuild a flawed roster in short order, and he will be doing so coming off two poor performances in his first two drafts.


Adofo-Mensah now sits on the hottest seat in Minnesota sports, and that seat no longer features a safety belt.


This is no longer a competitive rebuild. It is a reconstruction. And if he can’t immediately find a franchise quarterback under difficult circumstances — picking 11th in a draft in which the top three or four prospects could go in the first 10 selections — the Vikings could reside at the bottom of the division for years.


The Lions are for real. They may not have the high-end talent to win a Super Bowl in the Patrick Mahomes era, but they are built to last.


The Green Bay Packers again quickly transitioned from franchise quarterback to franchise quarterback. Jordan Love’s Packers, like the Lions, aren’t guaranteed to win big, but they’ll be a factor in the division for years.


The Chicago Bears have the most desirable situation of any losing NFL team, with the first and ninth picks in the draft and the acquisition of star receiver Keenan Allen. 


This summarizes the Vikings’ current plight: If the Bears hadn’t traded Justin Fields, the Vikings would enter the 2024 season with the fifth-best quarterback in a four-team division.


Sam Darnold is at best a placeholder and at worst the kind of placeholder who fools his team into investing faith in him for a longer term without reward.


The biggest question facing the Vikings when they fired Rick Spielman and hired Adofo-Mensah was, “Can Kwesi cook?”


This week’s developments mean that Adofo-Mensah will need to turn his draft capital into a young quarterback who can develop quickly, win big and save his job.


On Friday, the Vikings traded their second-round draft pick in 2025 to acquire the Texans’ first-round pick in 2024, the 23rd pick overall. That gives them a chance either to trade up in the first round to take a quarterback or to take an impact nonquarterback at 11 and still select one of the second-tier quarterback prospects at 23.


If Adofo-Mensah emerges from this draft with a promising quarterback, he will have bought himself some time. If he doesn’t, another general manager will take over the rebuild.


Desperately needing a quarterback can lead to terrible decisions. The Vikings had the 12th pick in the 2011 draft. They desperately needed a quarterback. Their need caused them to overrate Christian Ponder’s poise, maturity and accuracy. Ponder got his coach, Leslie Frazier, fired, and led the Vikings to invest another high draft pick in a quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) and resume their high turnover at the position.


That turnover led them to sign Cousins to a then-record deal for guaranteed money. Then they won one playoff game in Cousins’ six seasons — as many as they won in Case Keenum’s one season as their emergency starter.


Needing a quarterback can set a franchise back in two ways:


If the quarterback can’t play, everyone will likely get fired.The pick used to take the quarterback who can’t play could have brought in a star at another position. After the Vikings selected Ponder, seven future Pro Bowl players were drafted in the first round in 2011.


This draft represents a difficult but fair test for Adofo-Mensah and his staff. In one of his first media interviews on the job, Adofo-Mensah called Cousins “a good quarterback,” then added, “We don’t have Tom Brady,” and, “We don’t have Pat Mahomes.”


Now he doesn’t have Cousins, his safety belt, either.


Jim Souhan is a sports columnist for the Star Tribune. He has worked at the paper since 1990, previously covering the Twins and vikings 

Gideon Canice

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