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Dolphins almost run afoul of Rooney Rule with Tannebaum hire

The MIami Dolphins violated the Rooney Rule when they hired Mike Tannenbaum, then they didn't.

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The Miami Dolphins hired Mike Tannenbaum as the team's new Vice President of Football Operations on Tuesday, installing him over General Manager Dennis Hickey and adding a level of football operations knowledge between the team's scouting staff and owner Stephen Ross. In doing so, the team added someone with knowledge of the game to assist Ross in the day-to-day running of the football side of the franchise. They also violated the Rooney Rule.


The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for all senior football operations positions, essentially head coach and general manager, or anyone acting with general manager type powers. Installing Tannenbaum over Hickey, as was repeatedly stated yesterday, even if Hickey kept the title of GM and the scouting and roster management pieces of the job, essentially added a senior football operations position to the Dolphins staff, with some of the responsibilities previously given to Hickey (i.e., reporting to Ross).

Concerned with the potential Rooney Rule violation, the NFL contacted Ross to discuss Tannenbaum's hire. In a released statement, the league clarified that the Dolphins did not violate the rule, but it is because of a quick change from Ross:

"We have discussed the hiring of Mike Tannenbaum for a senior football position with Dolphins owner Steve Ross. Mr. Ross has confirmed that general manager Dennis Hickey retains all of his prior authority over the draft and other personnel matters, and that Mr. Hickey will continue to report directly to Mr. Ross on these matters. Any public statement to the contrary is erroneous and does not accurately reflect the reporting structure at the Dolphins."

So, Dennis Hickey still reports to Ross. Joe Philbin always reported to Ross. Now Tannenbaum reports to Ross, but does not have anyone reporting to him, at least when it comes to actual football operations. So, what will the Vice President of Football Operations do, with no control of football operations? Your guess is as good as mine at this point.