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Is Mike Tannenbaum on Borrowed Time?

Travis Wingfield

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“Somewhere in that tripod, something is not working,” he said. “The mix is not right. Something along the line is breaking down, whether communicating with players or getting them to play or acquiring players or scouting or evaluation, something is off. At the top of the organization, they have to figure out what the hell it is. Other teams have figured it out.

Dysfunctional organizational structure was the politically correct labeling of Louis Riddick’s thrashing of the Dolphins’ brass back in November. The referenced tripod includes Head Coach Adam Gase, General Manager Chris Grier and Executive VP of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum.

Process of elimination allows us to remove Gase from internal scrutiny. As Simon Clancy said on his March 1stappearance on the Locked On Dolphins podcast, Ross believes he has found “his Don Shula.”

Chris Grier’s storied background as a well-respected scout lends credence to his hand in some recent fulfilling draft classes.

That leaves one fall guy. Stephen Ross’ right hand man for the more than three years, Mike Tannenbaum, has overseen the 22 victory and 26 defeat record since his arrival.

Assigning blame without intimate knowledge of the inner-workings of the organization could be construed as speculation, but connecting the dots helps uncover the mystery.

Mar 11, 2015; Davie, FL, USA; Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Attracting the biggest free agent to hit the market since Peyton Manning was Tannenbaum’s signature move. Dishing out the largest non-quarterback contract in league history paid Ndamukong Suh $60 million for three years of service. While Suh consistently performed at a pro-bowl level, that allocation of resources crippled the Dolphins’ ability to properly fill out a competitive roster.

Tannenbaum’s connection to Suh’s agent, by way of his partnership with Priority Sports and Entertainment, was the lynchpin for the mega-deal. He pushed Ross to make the deal happen to help catapult the Miami defense to another level.

The next three seasons, the Dolphins’ best scoring-defense ranking was 18th(19thand 29ththe other two years). While Grier and his scouting department were filling out the roster with young starters like Kenyan Drake, Xavien Howard and Laremy Tunsil, Tanenbaum has been chasing his tail with substantial salaries for inconsequential players.

Andre Branch, Kiko Alonso and T.J. McDonald were all issued hefty paychecks within the last 15 months. Fast forward to the 2018 off-season and each of those players have been replaced. Barely a year removed from the Branch and Alonso deals, and eight months after the mysterious McDonald extension, each has been asked to take their place at back of the line.

Charles Harris was the team’s first round pick in 2017. The team’s best pass rusher (Cameron Wake) is 35-years old, so a contingency makes logical sense. But when veteran Robert Quinn, along with his $11 million salary, were acquired for a fourth round draft pick, that’s a self-prescribed mea culpa from the Dolphins’ EVP regarding the Branch contract.

One round later, Miami selected Ohio State Linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Fast forward another year, Miami doubled down on Buckeye ‘backers by drafting Jerome Baker. A pair of day-two picks isn’t a good look for the prized-pony from the 2016 draft trade back from pick eight to thirteen – Kiko Alonso.

T.J. McDonald got paid for his work in training camp and pre-season prior to serving an eight-game suspension. Just eight games later, the Dolphins decided the 11thpick of the 2018 draft would serve as his replacement.

The Ben Volin report suggests that Stephen Ross attempted to intervene with the drafting of All-American Safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Citing frugality and a desire to acquire more picks as the point of contention for Ross, Volin asserts that the man who has spared no expense in the spirit of winning wanted to pinch pennies opposed to making a selection with the 11thallotment.

Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

That report flies directly in the face of every principle Ross has stood for since purchasing the Dolphins a decade ago.

What Volin may have not realized, however, was an inadvertent discovery of turmoil between the Dolphins’ owner and EVP of Football Ops.

Winning is the ultimate antibiotic in the National Football League – it cures every internal illness. The 2016 post-season appearance (the club’s first since 2008) permitted Ross to loosen the reigns on Tannenbaum, enabling him to break open Ross’ checkbook.

When Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season, it meant another $10 million from Ross’ pocket to pay for an atrocious fill-in at the quarterback position.

As a result of this spending spree, the Dolphins had to cut costs in the 2018 off-season. The marquee name joining the exodus was the man Tannenbaum implored Ross to pony up for in 2015, Ndamukong Suh.

Going full circle, a three-year run brought Tannenbaum from a position of emphatically banging the table for the future Hall of Fame defensive tackle, to spearheading his departure.

Known more for their “wins” in March than during the fall and winter, the Dolphins are annually putting chips in the free-agent pot. In 2018, however, there’s a different feel. Bargain buys, character and scheme fits and players that, on the surface, appear to be hand-selected by Coach Gase and Chris Grier, a changing of the guard appears imminent.

Stephen Ross isn’t interested in sacrificing wins to save money, but building a billion-dollar estate draws parallels to constructing a championship football team.

And you don’t arrive at either destination with bad investments.

@WingfieldNFL

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    FR

    May 8, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Travis excellent review and conclusion. I liked what has been done this off season, Landry walks and they get 2 solid players a 4th and I believe a 7th.
    Suh gone his salary would be enough for 3 outstanding players.
    Tannenbaum should be gone

  2. Avatar

    Carlos Armendáriz

    May 8, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    Good read Travis, and interesting points, we may also have to add that Grier clearly stated (maybe jokingly or not so much) that they had to keep Tannebaum on check so he wouldn’t make any deals by moving up the draft, thats maybe why they stayed put on all picks for the first time since Tannebaum been here, that also signals a change of guard.

  3. Avatar

    Ronald Hiatt Jr

    May 8, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    Good write up Travis, you came to the same conclusion I did. I had this thought since the end of the season. My favorite picks this draft are Fitzpatrick, Gesicki, Smythe, Armstrong, and Ballage. Baker is a LB with athleticism but lacks instincts Griffin was twice the Lb that Baker could be, 1st Griffin has instincts can play either OLB spot whereas Baker is just WLB. Lance Zerlien wrote Baker is going to be an average backup or below average starter, he also states he is worried about the missing hand is why he graded Griffin so low. Ignoring everything and looking at production Griffin 33.5 tfl Baker 18 tfl Griffin 18.5 sacks Baker 7 sacks both 3int, Griffin 10 pd Baker 3 pd. So fear of 1 hand we pass and ignore our eyes.

  4. Avatar

    MiamiMike

    May 8, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Damn fine article, good read.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.

All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.

Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.

Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.

His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).

Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Linden Stephens
Linden Stephens defending Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster

The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.

While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.

Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.

Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.

Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.

Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.

Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.

Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.

On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.

Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.

In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.

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Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins set to run it back in New York

Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3

DolphinsGiants

The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.

The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.

Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.

Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.

Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.

The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.

A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.

The Scheme:

Offense:

Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.

The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.

The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.

Defense:

James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.

The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.

New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.

The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.

The Players:

Offense:

Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.

Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.

New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.

Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.

This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.

Defense:

Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.

On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.

Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.

The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.

This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.

The Medical:

(Coming Friday)

The Opportunities:

If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.

If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.

The Concerns:

The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.

Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.

The Projected Outcome:

It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.

Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.

A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.

Dolphins 27
Giants 13

@WingfieldNFL

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