The weekend report that Dolphins V.P. of football operations Mike Tannenbaum is all but certain to be fired is if anything becoming more certain as Week 17 approaches. So if/when Tannenbaum goes, what happens next?
At this point, no one knows. Chris Grier serves as the G.M., but he doesn’t have true G.M. powers. As Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald explained it over the weekend, coach Adam Gase holds the contractual final say over the team.
Salguero also suggested that the Dolphins should offer Gase an extension and a raise, along with a reeling in of his authority. And that may become a necessity, given what the Dolphins could be planning for the future.
Per a league source, Vikings assistant G.M. George Paton and Bills assistant G.M. Joe Schoen are among those who could be interviewed for a position in Miami, possibly for the same title Tannenbaum holds. But if Miami isn’t able to offer a new employee control over the football operation, the Vikings and Bills (and any other team with a current front-office employee under contract) would be able to block the process.
That’s why the Dolphins need to wrest power from Gase, either voluntarily or involuntarily, if the goal is to hire a high-level executive from another NFL franchise. And that gives Gase plenty of leverage over the team, since Gase sacrificing his say becomes the key both to keeping him and to adding a high-end candidate, regardless of whether the title is G.M. or V.P. of football operations.
The wild-card in all of this becomes Grier. After the retirement of Ozzie Newsome, Grier will become the only minority G.M. left in the NFL, and there soon will be plenty of external pressure placed on the league both to rectify the situation and to not exacerbate it. The league could then turn that pressure toward the Dolphins, and the Dolphins may feel compelled to find a way to keep Grier, even if the new head of football operations (whatever the title) wants to hire his own staff.
Looming over everything is the lingering belief that owner Stephen Ross would be interested in hiring Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Before hiring Harbaugh, however, Ross would have to: (1) fire Gase; (2) conduct an inclusive coaching search that satisfies the Rooney Rule; (3) work out compensation with the Ravens in the event Harbaugh is hired; and (4) negotiate a contract with Harbaugh. Absent deft and discreet back-channeling, Ross may have to pull the plug on a coach he’d otherwise prefer to keep and then hope that Harbaugh can eventually be landed.
However it plays out, the expected termination of Tannenbaum will become the first in what ultimately could become a messy pile of dominoes that will land Lord knows where. Which basically summarizes the state of the Dolphins over most of the past decade.