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Dolphins avoid Rooney Rule violation in Tannenbaum hire, somehow


One of the various questions that has emerged in the aftermath of the Dolphins naming Mike Tannenbaum the Executive V.P. of Football Operations relates to whether the team complied with the Rooney Rule in filling the position.

The Dolphins apparently didn’t. And the NFL says they didn’t have to.

“We have discussed the hiring of Mike Tannenbaum for a senior football position with Dolphins owner Steve Ross. Mr. Ross has confirmed that General Manager Dennis Hickey retains all of his prior authority over the draft and other personnel matters, and that Mr. Hickey will continue to report directly to Mr. Ross on these matters,” the league office said in a statement. “Any public statement to the contrary is erroneous and does not accurately reflect the reporting structure at the Dolphins.”

So where did the erroneous public statement to the contrary come from? The official announcement made by the team.

“General Manager Dennis Hickey will report directly to Tannenbaum and will continue to lead the personnel and scouting departments and have control of the 53-man roster,” the team said.

In other words, the Dolphins were wrong when the Dolphins said that Hickey will report to Tannenbaum. What they meant to say is that the General Manager will report to Tannenbaum only on issues unrelated to his prior authority over the draft and other personnel matters.

Which, given Hickey’s job duties, doesn’t leave many things on which he’ll report to Tannenbaum.

The more accurate explanation may be that the Dolphins didn’t realize that Tannenbaum’s job falls within the Rooney Rule, as expanded in 2009, and that the Dolphins simply moved the line on the organizational chart in order to avoid a hefty fine and the stigma of failing to adhere to the mandates of diversity in a job search.”

It is now appropriate to require any club filling a vacant position for that club’s senior football operations position (whether described as General Manager, EVP-Football Operations, or otherwise) to interview at least one minority candidate as part of the hiring process,” the league announced when making the Rooney Rule applicable beyond coaching jobs.

Officially, then, Tannenbaum is not the senior football operations employee in Miami, even if his title -- Executive V.P. of Football Operations -- and the press release announcing the hire suggests that he is.