The last post here asked a lot of questions about the hiring of Mike Tannenbaum as the Dolphins executive vice president of football operations. Some of those questions were put directly to Tannenbaum late Tuesday afternoon.
This is what he said:
(By the way, Tannenbaum says "again" a lot.)
(Opening statement) – “Hello everybody. First of all, thanks for your patience today, I know there was a lot of news that came out at different times of the day, so thank you for your patience. I’m really excited, I want to thank Steve (Stephen) Ross publicly for giving me an incredible opportunity. I want to thank my wife for agreeing to do this. I want to thank my partners at Priority Sports who have given me an incredible experience over the last two years. Moving forward I’m really excited to work with Dennis Hickey and Joe Philbin, and help the team move forward and hopefully get to the playoffs in 2015. With that, I’d be happy to answer any questions.”
(On when he joined the Dolphins as a consultant, if he had his eye on a front office position and how was this position first brought up, did Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross approach him) – “The consultancy just started as that. Steve was interested in pursuing sports science, knowing that all of the jobs are done on a day-to-day basis doesn’t always allow to look into innovation, so he asked me to do it. I was building a business over the last couple of years and I really wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I learned a lot, I learned a lot about myself, learned how to run a business and, after being in pro football, starting off as an unpaid intern while I was in law school, those two years were incredible for me to step away. The year that I spent as a consultant was really in conjunction with my role with Priority Sports and I had no other expectation except to keep building a world class business.”
(On how this current job was brought up with Owner Stephen Ross) – “I talked to Steve all of the time, Matt Higgins, Tom Garfinkel, there are a lot of people that obviously I’ve gotten to know. The conversations were just really over the last couple of weeks. We didn’t get anything finalized until recently. It was a hard decision from a standpoint that my business is going really well. I built it with some really great people, but football is in my blood. I spent two years away from it and I missed it dearly. I missed the competition, I missed getting in the foxhole with a bunch of people that are committed to a cause. At the end of the day, I was very comfortable with that’s who I am. I decided to walk away from something I built from scratch because I know that’s what I wanted to do and I’m excited that they gave me the opportunity.”
(On what his vision is for getting the Dolphins out of the middle of the pack) – “Again, let’s look at the team right now, I think Dennis Hickey and Joe Philbin have done a really good job. The cupboard is not bare by any stretch. You look at Dennis’ draft, Jarvis Landry and Ja’Wuan James, Branden Albert was a really good signing until obviously he got hurt. Going into the last two weeks of the season, the team was right in the middle of a playoff run. They have a really good young quarterback that got better this year with Bill Lazor. I saw Bill Lazor coaching at the games, his trajectory is one that has everybody excited. I don’t think we’re far away. I think it’s really critical that we have our self-evaluation of where the roster is, it starts with that. I think to have sustainable success, you really have to know your roster well. Then we have to attack our needs aggressively. That’s a combination of the draft, trades and free agency. We’ll put a good plan together, working together.”
(On if he will be in the Dolphins facility consistently and if he has the power to hire and fire coaches) – “Effective February 1st, I will be down there. My family will move down after the school year. Coach (Joe) Philbin will continue to report to Steve Ross, and everybody else will report to me. Based on my track record at the Jets and being a GM (General Manager) there, I’m a collaborative decision maker. I know we will always get the best results with everyone’s input. That’s how we will continue to do things. Again, I had the benefit of watching Joe and Dennis (Hickey) work the past year. They are good at what they do. They have character. They are organized. They care deeply and I’m excited to help them."
(Can you explain how the Miami Dolphins got better today?) – “It’s going to start with a good offseason program. When I got to the Jets in 1997, a team that had won one game (the previous year), and Coach (Bill) Parcells came in and he just talked about the value of offseason program. I believe in that and I’m really excited about the things we are going to do and we can add from an innovation standpoint. A lot of the progress we make will be every day. It’s going to be small steps, about getting stronger and faster in the offseason, but there are a lot of high-character guys on this roster that care about football deeply. When we assess or needs, again, we’re going to look at the offseason as a continuum and, when there is opportunities, be in free agency, trading up in the draft, trading back in the draft, whatever we think is in our best interests, we’ll move quickly to try to improve the team.”
(On if his February 1 start date is a result of his ability to be able to negotiate coaching contracts for his clients at Priority Sports) – “That transition has already taken place, so I’m just taking the time to wrap up some loose ends, but Rick Smith of Priority Sports will be heading the coaching division. Again, that transition has already started."
(On if he is no longer involved with Priority Sports) – “No, I am, but, again, I’m not running the division anymore and I’m just really trying to wrap up some loose ends and get things together. I’ll be down in Florida by February 1st.”
(On if he’ll exclude himself from any negotiations of his clients with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills) – “Again, I’m not going to be the person that’s leading those negotiations. That’s going to be Rick Smith.”
(On if General Manager Dennis Hickey will have final say on draft picks) – “Yes, he will. But I also know that, when you look at any draft board, it’s a representative effort of a lot of people. Everybody’s going to have input, but ultimately who we pick and when we pick, the roster decision will rest with him. Again, I’ve seen him work. I know he’s a collaborative leader. That’s my belief. Any debates, usually you like to have those before draft day. When you make decisions on draft day, you try to make those as seamless as possible.”
(On how he assesses his draft selections he made during his time at the New York Jets) – “When you look over the 16 years I was there and the seven years as GM (General Manager), I am proud of our record. Not every pick worked out. It usually doesn’t. I go back to what I said earlier that I wouldn’t trade the last two years for anything. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve really had a chance to reflect and spend time with college coaches, basketball coaches, player procurement, be it whatever sport. There are a lot of different things you can learn. I spent a lot of time with R.C. Buford of the (San Antonio) Spurs, for example, and how they do things or Steve Kerr or David Blatt. It’s been great and there are some ideas and things that I will be certainly talking to Dennis about how we can be better. I wouldn’t trade my experience with the Jets for anything. It was great, and I’m excited to bring some ideas to the forefront with Dennis.”
(On his impression of the talent on the Dolphins roster this past season and if he thought they were a team that underachieved) – “I think there is good talent. I think there is a really good foundation. I don’t think this is a rebuild by any stretch. In a salary cap system, no one is going to be perfect at every position. When you have injuries, especially multiple injuries at one position, those are sometimes easier to overcome at certain positions than others. The assessment starts going forward with what we collectively think our needs are and then we will go forward from there.”
(On if he said General Manager Dennis Hickey had final say on the 53-man roster) – “The roster decisions rests with Dennis, correct.”
(On what areas of the football operations he will have a final say in, specifically) – “Again, Dennis and all of the other departments will be reporting to me and, again, I think this is a real opportunity. Look, I sat in the seat of Dennis and knowing what that GM (General Manager) job entails, one of the things that I hope and I know Steve (Ross) hopes, is Dennis will have more time to worry about scouting and all of that entails and running the scouting department. There are a ton of administrative things that come across your desk that I’ll handle, working with Dawn Aponte and then, again, trying to take the big picture, when we see opportunities in analytics or innovation, trying to tie all of those things together. There are a lot of departments that go on in running a football team.”
(On what Owner Stephen Ross is referring to when he said in the press release about how he was able to see his impact first hand through his commitment and passion for innovation and using every possible avenue to find competitive edges and what his biggest accomplishment was this season as a consultant for the Dolphins) – “I appreciate that comment. I think more than anything, he probably just saw somebody that was passionate about football, that loves football. We did a lot of things, from working with Dennis (hickey), we’re not ready to announce, but we’re going to bring in a sports performance director. Again, there was a lot of research we could bring back from Europe. We started an analytics department and working with the people in the building. Look, we have a long way to go, but we started something in terms of trying to give ourselves a competitive advantage and Steve deserves the credit, he told all of us, no stone is unturned, if we can get a competitive advantage, he’s interested in it. So whatever small part I played in that, I’m proud of that.”
(On if he was involved in getting the analytics and nutrition departments started) – “Yes, I was. That was in conjunction with Dennis (Hickey) and a whole bunch of other people. When you want to put these things together, there just are a lot of moving parts, from trying to find candidates and the structure and things like that. There were a lot of people that helped, but those were some of the areas that I did consult on.”
(On if he is confident that General Manager Dennis Hickey will remain with the team) – “Yes, Dennis is the GM. He did a good job. I’m hoping that, with me coming on board, it’s going to give him more time to spend running the scouting department, watching tape and, again, being in his shoes, I know there are a lot of different things that you have to deal with and hopefully those things will make his day more efficient for him.”
(On what would make him a more successful executive this time around than his time as the New York Jets General Manager) – “First of all, I’m not the GM. I am proud of the fact that we got to three championship games in New York and fell a little bit short three different times. I think the last two years, again, having to start a business from scratch, I learned so much about the value of being a great listener, being open minded, listening to ideas and opportunities. I think a lot of those things apply to leadership and being a good manager and empowering others and inspiring others. I had seven years as a GM in New York, which was great. I was very appreciative of that opportunity. But with that said guys, my entire career had been spent in pro football, starting with driving people to the airport as an unpaid intern while I was in law school. To take those two years away, I wouldn’t trade that for anything. To have the privilege of working with guys like Steve Kerr, Danny Manning and David Blatt and Dan Quinn, each one of those guys made me a better person, a better leader. I’m excited to be able to go back and work with people like Dawn (Aponte) and Joe (Philbin) and Dennis (Hickey) and Tom Garfinkel. There are a lot of good people in the building and I don’t think this team is far away. Whatever value I can bring, hopefully, collectively, we can get to the playoffs in 2015.”
(On if it would be detrimental for Joe Philbin to go into this season as a lame duck coach, and if so, would he like to extend him for at least a year) – “We are not going to talk about contracts now. I did not know Joe Philbin very well, despite the fact that we are two Massachusetts guys, heading into this year, but I really enjoyed getting to know Coach over this past year. His attention to detail, being prepared, I think he is a good coach and I am excited to work with him. Again, there is a good foundation, you look at the way they developed the quarterback, him and Bill Lazor this year. There’s a lot of exciting things when you look at the roster and it starts with the quarterback.”
(On where President and CEO Tom Garfinkel falls in all of this and if he is under his purview) – “No, Tom is the President and CEO of the organization. So I just got to know Tom. He is really a very interesting guy when you look at his different experiences, from NASCAR to baseball, I was constantly picking his brain about, ‘Tell me about the baseball draft. Tell me how they were run and how they go about picking players.’ When you have the privilege of these jobs, it’s great when you can share these experiences, especially when it transcends other sports, so I am really excited to work with Tom as well.”
(On if President and CEO Tom Garfinkel answers to him of vice-versa or if nobody answers to either one) – “I do report to Steve Ross and so does Tom. But again, I think the bigger picture is we are all here to work together to try to get to the playoffs this year."
(On if he counseled Steve Kerr to take the Golden State job rather than the Knicks job) – (laughing) “I am really happy that things worked out for Steve Kerr. I am sure that he is going to miss the basketball tutoring that I used to give him on a daily basis, but I think he will be OK without it (joking). He is a remarkable person, I mean he is, as good a coach as he is, he is a better human being and, boy, he is a good friend and that was a real privilege.”