Mike Tannenbaum has ownership of everything now.
The Miami Dolphins’ coach.
Their general manager.
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And their best defensive player.
In just a year on the job, the Dolphins’ football czar has transformed the organization to meet his vision.
Smart. Young. Diverse. Flashy.
But what’s missing? Results.
And that’s the only thing, moving forward, that matters for Tannenbaum’s legacy in Miami — and his long-term job security.
“The object of the exercise is to win football games,” said Dolphins vice chairman Matt Higgins, who is owner Stephen Ross’ most trusted adviser. “There's no prizes for getting close in transforming the business but falling short on the football side. It's very important. The reason [Ross] bought the team is to go to the Super Bowl. I think we've done a lot of great things in the Dolphins, but none of that compares to putting together a winning team.”
The Dolphins weren’t that in Tannenbaum’s first year on the job. They went 6-10, but the issues went deeper than just their record.
This was an organization in turmoil. Player vs. player. Coach vs. coach.
New GM Chris Grier, on the day he was hired, hinted at the dynamic when he proclaimed:
“The talk of dysfunction in this organization is over. We will be thorough in our [coaching] search and create an environment where everyone is on the same page, with the same beliefs, talking the same language and creating a model of consistent winning for the Miami Dolphins. We will earn your trust back both on and off the field.”
Tannenbaum led that search. And like he did with coveted free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh last March, he delivered.
Adam Gase was the big fish in this year’s coaching pond. And even though some believed Gase-to-Miami was destined from the start, Higgins insists that was not the case.
Instead, the organization trusted Tannenbaum’s process — vetting some two-dozen candidates, making 237 phone calls, and conducting 42 hours of interview — to determine the best fit.
Once it became clear Gase was that fit, it was up to Tannenbaum to seal the deal.
“I don’t know how many times Mike said, ‘It’s 75 [degrees] and no state income tax,’” Gase joked Saturday. “About a hundred?”
Gase is something Philbin never could be: Tannenbaum’s guy.
Tannenbaum inherited Philbin, but did his best to support him — even though his advice often fell on deaf ears.
An example: This time last year, Tannenbaum strongly suggested to Philbin that if he wasn’t going to fire ineffective defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle — as many players wished he would — Philbin should at least hire a strong assistant who could capably fill in mid-season if Coyle again failed.
Philbin dismissed the advice, and Tannenbaum’s worst fears were realized. The defense was even worse in 2015 than 2014, and Ross fired Philbin along with Coyle after four disastrous weeks.
“I believe in servitude leadership,” Tannenbaum said recently. “We are here to serve the head coach. My football mentor is Bill Parcells, he gave me a one-line job description, ‘Go get the effing coach players,’ and that was it.”
Tannenbaum added: “At the end of the day, our job is about getting the head coach players. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about dysfunction or who likes what. It’s about serving the head coach and getting the players that we can put the best product on the field. That’s really at the end of the day what our job is.”
And he plans on keeping that job for a very long time.