In an attempt to provide direction and experience to their football operations, the Miami Dolphins have hired Mike Tannenbaum to a senior position in their front office, as first reported by FOX Sports.
The former New York Jets general manager has served as a Dolphins consultant since last summer. Tannenbaum also has been an agent for NFL and NBA coaches as a member of the firm Priority Sports, which hired him shortly after he was fired by the Jets following the 2012 season.
"It was a hard decision from the standpoint that my business is going really well, but football is in my blood," Tannenbaum said. "I spent two years away from it and missed it dearly. I missed the competition. I missed getting in a foxhole with a bunch of people who are committed to a cause."
The Dolphins have named Tannenbaum their Executive Director of Football Operations. General manager Dennis Hickey will report to Tannenbaum while head coach Joe Philbin will continue to report to owner Stephen Ross. Hickey is entering his second season as the Dolphins GM. He replaced Jeff Ireland, who left the franchise following the 2014 season.
Tannenbaum represents Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who has interviewed for multiple head-coaching jobs this offseason. He also represents Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, a candidate for the vacant Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coordinator position. Sources have said Tannenbaum is expected to continue representing those clients through the end of their candidacies before transitioning into a full-time role with the Dolphins on Feb. 1.
The 45-year-old Tannenbaum put together three playoff teams, two of which made it to the AFC championship game under coach Rex Ryan, in his seven-year run as GM of the Jets. The end of his tenure was marred by a Tim Tebow-influenced mess, though sources have said owner Woody Johnson was a driving force behind the Tebow signing.
When the Dolphins hired Tannenbaum last summer, they said he would provide services on a number of projects, "innovation, analytics and sports science." Tannenbaum traveled to games on Ross’ private plane and it was clear he was a trusted advisor to the owner.
"I am excited that Mike Tannenbaum has joined the organization full time," Ross said in a statement. "He is an experienced executive and leader that understands all facets of the sports landscape. During his time as a consultant this past season, I was able to see his impact firsthand through his commitment and passion for innovation and using every possible avenue to find competitive edges."
Tannenbaum’s hiring as executive vice president of football operations represents the latest leadership change for the ever-floundering Dolphins. They haven’t been to the postseason since 2008, haven’t won a playoff game since 2000 and haven’t reached the Super Bowl since the 1984 season.
Hickey became general manager a year ago, and the team has had seven coaches since 2004. Philbin’s job was in jeopardy after Miami finished this season 8-8, but he’ll return for a fourth year.
Tannenbaum said Hickey will continue to have final say regarding the roster and draft. Tannenbaum said his goal is to help by focusing on the big picture.
"I’m a collaborative decision-maker, and I know we’ll get the best result with everyone’s input," Tannenbaum said. "Dennis Hickey and Joe Philbin have done a really good job. They’re organized, they care deeply, and I’m excited to help them."
Still, the change means less authority for Hickey, who received mostly good grades for his work in 2014. His highest-profile acquisitions — tackle Ja’Wuan James and receiver Jarvis Landry in the draft, and tackle Branden Albert in free agency — made significant contributions.
Miami was in playoff contention each of the past two seasons before fading in December. Tannenbaum said he’s encouraged by the talent pool and the improvement of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
"I don’t think we’re far away," Tannenbaum said. "I don’t think this is a rebuild by any stretch. There are a lot of exciting things when you look at the roster, and it starts with the quarterback. His trajectory is one that has everybody excited."
Tannenbaum was hired as the Jets’ director of player contract negotiations in 1997 and worked in various roles before replacing Terry Bradway as general manager in 2006. He helped the Jets reach consecutive AFC title games in 2009 and 2010.
With a knack for navigating the NFL’s salary cap, Tannenbaum made plenty of splashy signings and trades in New York, acquiring Tebow, Brett Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. The high-profile trade for Tebow was perhaps his biggest mistake.
Tannenbaum’s record in the draft was mixed. He selected such eventual stars as Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and David Harris, but also took Mark Sanchez, Vernon Gholston and Vladimir Ducasse, who were high-round picks that didn’t pan out.
After leaving the Jets, Tannenbaum said, he learned a lot building a business as a sports agent. Among his clients was Steve Kerr, who signed a $25 million, five-year deal to coach the Golden State Warriors and has led them to the NBA’s best record.
"I’m sure he’s going to miss the basketball tutoring I used to give him on a daily basis," Tannenbaum said with a laugh.