On the day Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier was introduced, he proclaimed: “The talk of dysfunction within this organization is over.”
For years it was written and said that the Dolphins had numerous executives and coaches struggling for power, without clearly defined structure and lacking a sense of trust and aligned purpose.
With the NFL draft less than two weeks away, it’s worth examining how the power trio formed prior to last season — Mike Tannenbaum, Adam Gase and Chris Grier — not only guided the Dolphins to an unexpected 10-win, playoff season, but has increased the odds of draft success.
“I think it’s a matter of values,” Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel said recently. “I think people share the same values, so when we’re all in a room and I listen to the conversations that are taking place, there’s a lot of healthy debate, but there’s a lot of respect and there’s similar philosophies and values in what they want to do.”
Healthy debate, but respect.
And finally, clarity. The changes in organizational structure made by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross prior to last season have helped improve internal communication, external perception and, seemingly, results.
- Gase has final say on the 53-man roster. But, of course, roster transactions are made after thorough consultation with Grier and Tannenbaum, the Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
- Grier reports to Tannenbaum, whose most important job is to have a big-picture lens for the organization’s direction. Tannenbaum’s experience negotiating free-agent contracts, executing trades, and his experience as an agent are also beneficial to the organization.
- Grier, Miami’s long-time director of college scouting, is the man with final say on draft choices. The draft is his baby. It is his show.
“I’m in charge,” Grier said, when asked to explain how the team operates in regard to the draft. “I work with the scouts at the board, set the value…”
Grier’s response was not intended to sound egotistical. It’s important to the members of the Dolphins’ organization that there is a clear understanding of roles.
So, with Grier in charge, what are some things to know about Miami’s approach to the overall draft, and the 22nd selection in the first round on Thursday, April 27?
- In general, Miami wants to choose the best available player. But they don’t deny that need plays a role when choosing one of say, five clustered players as a selection nears. “You have to set your board and what you believe, but you’ll always work around in terms of needs,” Grier said.
- The Dolphins have trust in Grier’s extensive scouting expertise. Gase said, “He’s the guy we really lean on.” Miami’s 2016 draft focused not only on talented players, but players who fit the specific schemes Gase wants to utilize on both sides of the ball. That collaboration between front office and coaching staff is critical.
- Gase said Grier can be a “voice of reason” for he and Tannenbaum. Grier does portray an extraordinarily calm demeanor. Gase can be feisty and emotional. Grier said Gase told him he’ll take a closer look at any draft-eligible players he suggests because: “Whoever you believe in, I trust in you.”
- Most of the debating about ranking players on the draft board — including off-field or injury red flags — occur prior to the draft, making the draft-day war room less frenetic. “You just kind of listen to the board,” Grier said.
Between 2004 and 2015, some of Miami’s many decision-makers included Rick Spielman, Randy Mueller, Jeff Ireland, Bill Parcells and Dennis Hickey.
Tannenbaum was brought in by Ross first as a consultant, then as the head of football operations. There was a reported disconnect between Tannenbaum and Hickey, somewhat understandable due to the dynamics. But the Dolphins now suggest the complete opposite is true as it relates to the communication and trust among the Dolphins’ power trio.
“What you’ve seen is a front office and the coaches working together like we haven’t seen it in a long period of time,” owner Ross said recently. “Certainly not since I’ve owned the team. When you talk to people that have been around there, they haven’t seen that type of chemistry in decades. I think this is really the difference. And I think when you talk to people, when I talk to people, the one thing that makes a winning organization is everybody is on the same page.”
On the day Grier was introduced as general manager, he used a phrase Ross would repeat more than a year later. “We’ll create an environment where everyone is on the same page,” Grier said.
After years of reports about blurred lines and clashing personalities, it seems the Dolphins have a trio of decision makers with personalities that mesh and strengths that complement each other.
That should benefit Miami throughout the season. And also at the NFL Draft.
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