Monday Morning Quarterback, a website and column that has been made famous by Peter King, featured Miami Dolphins’ Executive Vice-President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum in an interview about a wide variety of things. One of the main topics was whether or not he thought he would ever get a second chance to run a football team.
“Getting fired hurts a lot,” he told Jenny Vrentas, who was filling in for King. “You need to have a lot of conviction and belief and self-confidence [to run a team], and I had all those things. I felt like I was the best man on the planet to run the Jets. Woody Johnson felt differently, and I totally get it. I’d been the voice of that franchise a long time. But it was devastating. I had the range of emotions, from being really angry, like, why did this happen, to humility and self-doubt. I questioned everything. Could I have been a better listener? More prepared? Were there missing conversations with a head coach or owner?”
According to Vrentas, Bill Parcells called Tannenbaum within 48 hours of being fired. He told him that what matters in life is what you do after you get knocked down and that he is there for him if he ever needed anything. Today, the two still remain in close contact and often talk multiple times per week.
However, it wasn’t Parcells who helped Tannenbaum regain his composure and self-esteem after he was fired from the Jets. Instead, it was Winston Lau, who is an executive coach. There in New Jersey near the Starbucks facility, Lau asked him plenty of uncomfortable questions but in the end, Tannenbaum said it helped him become a better person and leader. In particular, Lau talked to him about the idea of being a servant leader – serving others instead of expecting people to serve you.
“I felt like it was transformative,” Tannenbaum said in the MMQB column. “Because here I am, my office is a quarter mile from MetLife in East Rutherford, and now I’m meeting this guy who’s turning into my sounding board at a Starbucks a mile from my greatest successes and failures. I always left those coffees completely stimulated. Trying to take self-doubt, and not the depression, but the uncertainty, the unknown of what the future holds, to make me better and more prepared if and when I got another chance.”
In the column, Tannenbaum said he has considered why some of his Jets’ teams were loaded with franchise-type players but didn’t produce. He said he has learned that he needs to pay attention to the entire dynamic of the team, which pulls back the curtain a bit on this past offseason. He also said that he was too loyal to players and team employees when he should have moved on sooner. He has learned his lesson since and has vowed to be more deliberate with his decisions.
For example, Vrentas talks about when they were ready to pull the trigger on the Kenny Stills trade. Tannenbaum asked the college scouting director his opinion and what kind of player they could get with he draft pick they had planned to give up. After discussing everything and weighing all the pros and cons, Tannenbaum made the trade and felt good knowing that he had all the information possible.
“Not to say we weren’t methodical at the Jets, because I know we were, but now I’m taking that to a whole other level.”
That includes never taking his foot off the pedal. When talking to Vrentas, he mentioned that he keeps a slew of motivational items. For example, as Vrentas pointed out, he had an aqua-colored band that he had used to tag his band at Sun Life Stadium tucked into his top desk drawer. Why? The New York Jets were embarrassed and beat on that day in 2011, which would soon turn into a downward spiral during the 2012 season.
Now, in his Miami office, Tannenbaum has a metal gas pedal mounted on a slab of wood. This was sent to him on his first day in Miami by a former Jets employee as a reminder to never let up. In an accompanying note, it read, “Never forget to keep your foot on the gas pedal.”
Tannenbaum has certainly done just that since coming to Miami and has no intention of slowing down. Be sure to check out the entire MMQB column for even more details about him and what makes him tick.
This story was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs