Well, things have certainly changed for the better since the last time we ran an article about Dolphins Executive Vice President of football operations Mike Tannenbaum. In that December 2015 piece, we had to defend T-Baum from his many critics, who argued that extending former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to a big money contract somehow outweighed the five Pro Bowl players he drafted in a six year period as the Jets' GM.
Today, the Dolphins are coming off a 10-6 season and their first playoff appearance in eight years. What's more, they've finally found a head coach who can help get the franchise back to respectability. Neither of these two important accomplishments would have happened without Tannenbaum. As a columnist for the Miami Herald once said, "Understand one thing about Mike Tannenbaum: he swings for the fences". Remember when the Dolphins signed Ndamukong Suh two years ago? The move was met mostly with disdain around the league, other than from the teams that were competing against the Dolphins for the right to sign Suh, but let's be honest: without Ndamukong Suh, Miami doesn't so much as sniff the postseason in 2016. Nothing, nada, zilch. You could make a very strong case that the Dolphins wouldn't have made the playoffs last year without another of Tannenbaum's moves, the drafting of fellow DT Jordan Phillips. Former Miami GM Dennis Hickey wanted to take running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round of the 2015 draft, but Tannenbaum insisted on Phillips. Being forced to wait until the later rounds to take a running back resulted in Hickey drafting Jay Ajayi instead.
If Adam Gase is able to turn the Dolphins into a perennial playoff contender, chalk up another to Tannenbaum. After all, who do you think hired him, Stephen Ross? Listen, I love Ross, because he wants to win so badly, and ponied up so much of his own money upgrading the stadium when the local municipalities wouldn't give him so much as a dime's worth of tax breaks or financing for those upgrades. But Ross, who had already whiffed on trying to bring Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher to Miami, mostly just rubber stamped the Gase hire; it was Tannenbaum who brokered the transaction. Indeed, Gase cited Tannenbaum's presence as a major reason why he chose the Dolphins as the team he wanted to coach when there were several other teams vying for his services. Because head coaching salaries aren't widely disclosed, it's difficult to determine exactly what the Dolphins are paying Gase, but according to one source, only three head coaches, Tennessee's Mike Mularkey, Cleveland's Hue Jackson and Tampa Bay's Dirk Koetter, made less than Gase last season, so the team obviously didn't wave bushels of money at him to bring him to South Florida. Tannenbaum probably thought to himself, "You want control of the 53 man roster? Fine, just coach the goddam team. If you don't win, you'll be gone anyway, and so will I." Again, Tannenbaum swings for the fences.
Because it's much easier to root for the players and coaches than for a guy who wears a suit and tie during the week and sits in the press box on Sundays, executives like Mike Tannenbaum often don't get the credit they deserve, but this Dolphins franchise clearly has T-Baum's fingerprints all over it, and outside of the failed Mario Williams signing a season ago, nearly every move he's made has panned out, many of them fabulously. But the man who once worked as an assistant under Bill Belichick is a long, long way from being done. Despite having spent more than two decades in the National Football League, he's still just 48 years old. For both he and team he presides over, the future looks exceedingly bright. It's an exciting time to be a Dolphin fan.