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Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier – April 22, 2016 (Pre-Draft) Download PDF version

Friday, April 22, 2016

Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and General Manager Chris Grier (Pre-NFL Draft)

Mike Tannenbaum:
(Opening Statement) – “Hello everybody. Thanks for coming. I just want to start today by acknowledging something. We recently lost a member of our family. Neville Hall, who was known as known as Mr. Neville, was a valued member of our organization who recently passed away. Neville worked at our facility for the last 12 years. He had an incredible smile, great attitude and big heart and he will be greatly missed by all of us. I just want to turn attention now to our roster. We really feel good about where we are (and) the energy in the building. We’re really happy with the offseason program that started. It’s voluntary but we’ve been really pleased with the attendance thus far. Currently we have 78 players on our roster, 24 of which are new, which is approximately a third of our roster. Our average age is about 25.6 years old. We also have 16 new coaches on our staff. While we’re please where we are, we feel like we have a lot more work to do and next week is the next opportunity for us to add a few young players to our roster. In terms of the dynamic with Chris (Grier), Adam (Gase) and I, it has been terrific. We’ve worked together since January and again there’s great energy in the building. We got a small glimpse of that, we had a local day – Miami Day – and to see the new staff out there was great. I’m really excited to see them start working with our players next week (at) next week’s minicamp. Chris (Grier) has done a tremendous job. (Chris) and his staff have worked incredibly hard and importantly they’ve worked hand in hand with our coaching staff to identify the needs and the fits for our organization to make sure the players fit the scheme that we’re trying to build on in all three phases. So I really tip my cap to Chris (Grier) and his entire staff. They’ve done a great job. So again, we see next week as the next opportunity for us to add players and Chris (Grier) is going to tell us who we are going to pick next week. (Laughter)”

Chris Grier:
(Opening Statement) – “Thanks, Mike. First, I’d like to wish continued success in the playoffs to the (Miami) Heat and (Florida) Panthers organization. It’s an exciting time to be a South Florida sports fan. You guys know I follow hockey. So it’s good to see hockey getting back on the radar down here a little bit. Echoing what Mike (Tannenbaum) said, I’m excited for the draft because our process has been outstanding in terms of communication with the coaches and our player personnel staff. From day one, the discussions, the collaborations and the debates have been outstanding. It’s been a pleasure to work with Coach (Adam) Gase and his staff from day one, when we all got together in early February for the first time, and they laid out the foundation for what they were looking for and our guys have done a great job of doing that. Coach Gase, (Defensive Coordinator) Vance Joseph, (Offensive Coordinator) Clyde Christensen and (Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator) Darren Rizzi have done a great job communicating what they want our team to look like – in terms of every position from speed, height (and) weight. You guys are going to ask some questions here in the future, as we get going, on what we are looking for. We have what we like, but again you have to be flexible in terms of the types of players that we want. The scouts have worked tirelessly throughout the Combine, Pro Days and over meetings to identify the prospects that we like for the Dolphins. I’d like the thank Chase Leshin, our Player Personnel Coordinator, for all of the work that he has done behind the scenes, from Miami Day to the Combine, organizing all of our lists and everything. He’s an asset to our organization. And I’d like to thank (Director of Analytics) Dennis Lock and (Football Analyst) Tom Pasquali for their analytics contributions, as well. Overall, it has been a good, thorough process. I’ve enjoyed working with Mike and the coaches, and I feel we are very prepared for the draft next week. Any questions?”

Chris Grier:
(On if the Dolphins have zeroed in on a position that they will take in the first round) – “No. I said right now we’re going to take the best player for the Miami Dolphins. There are a lot of good players in this draft. A lot of prospects will be there. We’re picking 13th, so we will just follow our board and let the process play out.

Mike Tannenbaum:
“And really our thing here has been, we are coming off a 6-10 season and all through the offseason we feel like we’re not one player away. So there are a number of things we’d like to accomplish at the draft and we’ll see how the board falls to us.”

(On how far in advance they are in contact with other teams regarding trades) — “Yeah, some of those foundations are laid days before. Typically we’ll reach out to teams just to have preliminary conversations, but sometimes the phone rings out of the blue or there’s a strong conviction for us to make a move. You have some preliminary conversations but by and large, at this point, you have to see how things unfold.”

(On if there has been any update or indication from the NFL about the status of DE Dion Jordan) — “(There are) no updates on Dion. He’s not on our active roster. He’s still on that reserve list and if something changes again we’ll let you know.”

(On if he knows if Jordan has applied for reinstatement) – “I don’t. I don’t know where things stand. That’s something that you’d have to check with him or his representative.”

(On if they are more likely to trade down and stockpile picks since they are not one player away) – “As Chris (Grier) alluded to, we are going to let the board dictate that for us. If there’s a player we have a strong feeling on, it’ll be hard to move back; but yeah, if the phone rings, we’ll evaluate that opportunity.”

Chris Grier:
(On if one of their draft picks needs to be a cornerback) — “No, I would say really, you just have to trust your process and working through the board and how you rank them. The story I always tell is that my dad was in Houston with the Texans, and a defensive end wasn’t a great need but they took DE J.J. Watt. They got booed mercilessly (for taking him). But would you pass on J.J. Watt if he was there, knowing that it was maybe a need that people perceived? We are confident that we can go out and play with who we have on our roster right now. I would just say our board will dictate who we’ll take at that pick.”

Mike Tannenbaum:
(On if there is much interest in free agent CB Josh Norman) – “Anytime a free agent becomes available, we’ll look into it and we’ll make the best decision for us. We have nothing imminent with any player right now.”

Chris Grier:
(On whether they are looking for a different cornerback prototype compared to previous years) – “We always take the best player. At the end of the day, every staff really has what they’re looking for in terms of prototypes, etc. You also have to be flexible. If a guy is an exceptional player and an exceptional athlete at that position, maybe you’ll make the exception and take that player. Really, it’ll be whoever the best player on the board is at that time.”

Mike Tannenbaum:
(On how the change in coaching staff affects their draft approach) – “Again, philosophically, I just believe our job is to serve the coaches. As Chris (Grier) alluded to, to have sustained success, you have to have a really good idea of what each scheme is looking for. And then within reason, we have to do the best job we can each year to try to get those players to look perfectly. Now, candidly on opening day, in a salary cap system, is every person going to look identical to what we’d like in a perfect world? Odds are probably not, but we believe in the staff to maximize the strength of each player. They’ve been really fun to be around and to listen to them, to hear them problem solve. So, we’ll keep working hard. We had a guy in DT Chris Jones last week that Vance (Joseph) knew from Houston. Sometimes those (players) aren’t household names, but DT Chris Jones may make a play in the fall that could be meaningful and that’s the part that … Our approach is anytime we have a chance to improve the roster, we will.”

Chris Grier:
(On whether this year’s draft preparation differs with a new coaching staff) – “I would just say that every coaching staff has been thorough in detailing what they want. With this staff – with Coach (Adam) Gase from Day 1 – they came in, they told us (what they were looking for). Vance (Joseph) is a tremendous communicator. Obviously, Adam knows what he wants on offense, and Coach (Darren) Rizzi, as you know, has been here for a while. He’s one of the best special teams coaches in the league. So, they’ve been very clear and direct, and it has been an easy process for our scouts.”

Mike Tannenbaum:
(On who will be the starting cornerbacks in addition to CB Byron Maxwell) – “Ultimately, Coach (Adam) Gase and Coach (Vance) Joseph will decide who will play, but we have guys that have played meaningful snaps. CB Jamar Taylor has played a lot of snaps in this league. CB Tony Lippett is a player we’re encouraged by. (CB Tyler) Patmon has played. Are they all household names? No. And again, we feel like we’re more than one player away. We want to take the best player, and that could be a position we add to. But again, there are players in this building that we feel good about. That’s why they’re here. They’re working hard. Over the course of the season, those players will play. You need depth at that position given the fact that teams are passing the ball more and more.”

Chris Grier:
(On whether they are comfortable at the running back position) – “I think we’re comfortable. I think (with) Coach (Adam) Gase’s history of what he has done with running backs, these guys all fit what he’s looking for in terms of their skillsets. But again, we’ll take any opportunity we can to add at any position if it’s a good football player.”

(On whether trading up in the draft is outside the realm of possibility at this point) – “All options are on the table for us. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

Mike Tannenbaum:
(On how many “players away” the team is) – “We’ll answer that a week from Monday. (Laughter) Look, every team is (players) away. You can start with Denver. They’re the defending champions. For us, I think it’s a tireless commitment to constantly improve the team. Again, the part that’s exciting for us is we’re going to add a whole bunch of players next week, and hopefully they’re going to help. But a lot of the improvement on our team in 2016 is going to come from within. To me, that’s always the most invigorating part of the process, because you get to see the (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach) Dave Pulokas and the (Sports Performance Director) Wayne Diesels impact our players as much as our position coaches. We’ll have to go prove it in the fall, but I think we’re all very optimistic about where we’re headed, and I couldn’t put a number on how many players we need.”

Chris Grier:
(On the offensive line’s depth) – “I think we feel good about it. We added (OL Jermon) Bushrod and T Sam Young and some other pieces (so) that we feel good (with) where we are right now. Again, (I) don’t want to sound like a broken record, but if there’s a good player at that position, we’ll take them. But we feel good (about) what we added in the free agency process.”

(On RB Ezekiel Elliot) – “He’s a good player. He’s a good football player. There are a lot of good football players in this draft. I know you guys all know he came in here to visit. He’s a good kid, so we enjoyed spending time with him. There are a lot of good players in this draft, and he’s one of them.”

(On whether there is anything they learned from RB Ezekiel Elliot’s visit) – “It’s like with all (of) the visits – that and from the combine visits. And our scouts have done a lot of visits with players offsite, at campuses, at their school. (We are) trying to get a feel for the kid and the person just in terms of if they’re made up of what you want in your organization.”

(On the prototype of the player they want to acquire in the draft) – “Really, you just want guys that are competitive, that love football, have passion for the game, are football smart and are driven to succeed. Coaches can’t always push guys. You want guys who are going to push themselves and basically just love to compete. It’s what we’ve talked about from Day 1, just bringing competitive players (in that) we love, that love football.”

Mike Tannenbaum:
“Just taking that a step further, we’re incredibly fortunate that (Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner) Steve Ross has given us so many resources that other teams don’t have. For us (with) that axiom of, ‘The tape sets the floor and character sets the ceiling,’ we want guys that want to be here and take advantage of all these resources that we have to make them feel better, play better, become more flexible, become stronger, become more explosive. So, I think it’s up to us. And again, I think Chris (Grier) and his entire staff has done a great job of … They’re going to come at different shapes, sizes and backgrounds – four-year players, players that have come out early – but do they love football? Do they want to be in the building? Do they want to avail themselves to be as good as they could be? That’s really what a big part of our process is and how they handle adversity, because things in pro football never go perfectly. But that’s really important to us, because again, you’re never going to have the perfect player at every position. But if they can maximize their ability, that’s going to give us the best chance year-to-year to win.”

(On how the draft process will work among the staff) – “Chris (Grier) is running the draft. Chris has put a grade on every player, and we’ve already hashed out where we want to go with things for the most part. We have some more tweaking to do, but we’re really going to let the board dictate, and that has really been based on the final grade that Chris has put on each player.”

Chris Grier:
(On if General Manager Chris Grier will be on the phone with other teams) – “Yeah.”

Mike Tannenbaum:
(On the margin for error with this draft) – “It’s really important. Every draft is important. You want to come out of the draft every year with three, four or five players, because – on the other end – you’re going to lose three, four or five players, because you can’t keep everybody in a salary cap system. You constantly have to manage your indoor and your outdoor. That’s why adding players like OL Jermon Bushrod or S Isa (Abdul-Quddus) … All those guys we’ve added is just part of the narrative. Again, Chris Jones may impact us more than a fifth rounder. I’m not saying he is (going to), but that’s why we’re constantly looking at where they are in contracts (and) what our expectations are. But obviously, the draft and the cost certainty you get – starting with possibly five years in the first round – it’s critical to have sustainability. It’s really hard to win if you don’t hit on a number of picks each year.”

Chris Grier:
(On if the coaches have emphasized certain characteristics they want in prospects more than previous coaching staffs) – “No, I think every staff has always been pretty self-explanatory in what they want and what they are looking for – height, weight, speed, what positions, etc. in terms of makeup and character. So no, this staff, again, they’ve done a great job. I’ve said they’ve hit it 100 miles per hour right from the start. Again, I just have tremendous respect working with Coach (Adam) Gase, Coach (Vance) Joseph and Clyde Christensen. Those are guys that I didn’t know before but I had heard people say great things. Just watching them work every day has really been exciting.”

Mike Tannenbaum:
(On if there was a philosophical change to approach this offseason focused on value) – “Yeah, I think going back to when Chris (Grier) joined the senior management team, talking with Steve (Ross) – and then Chris, Steve, myself, and when we brought Adam (Gase) on board – we’re trying to build something long term and sustainable. Again, we want to be measured and take advantage of opportunities when they are there. I think it is how it played out this year. I think our sense has been that we are going to need a number of pieces, especially with a new (coaching) staff. Again, 24 new players, as of now – that’s a high number. If we sat here in February, that wouldn’t have been the number I would have thought that we would have gotten to. But I think that’s a result of being 6-10 and having a new staff.”

(On if there are any changes with analytics under the new general manager and who will be in the draft room) – “Chris (Grier) has done a great job. Dennis Lock and Tom Pasquali, they run our analytics department and they help with everything. They helped in the coaching search. Really, they help with everything. They help with actuarial projections on cap and cash, trades and players. They are really good and they have been helpful. I think Chris has done a great job of trying to even integrate them more into our process in terms of when a player gets a final grade, they have a say in it. So that’s been one of the things that Chris has brought to the table. In terms of the draft room, it will be pretty small and pretty tight. That’s just something that we both believe in.”

Chris Grier:
(On what will make this draft, led by him, different than past Dolphins drafts) – “I just think at the top – with Adam (Gase), Mike (Tannenbaum) and myself – the collaboration and the communication. You’ve heard me talk about that stuff from day one – the three of us are kind of inseparable. You see us and we are everywhere together. I think (we share) the vision we all have for the team and what types of players we want to bring in. I’m very confident in our process and I’m confident that we will do very well in this draft.”

(On if it is safe to say this will be a defense-heavy draft) – “Like I said, the board is going to play out for us. I think we can go out and play with people right now and compete. But we need to keep adding good players. People say it is a strong defensive draft and I’d probably agree with that. There are a lot of strong defensive prospects; but say for us, again we are just going to take the best player available for us.”

Mike Tannenbaum:
(On if potentially trading up indicates the studies that told the team to trade down were wrong) – “No, it just means that a new set of opportunities present itself and the price and the risk was reasonable. But I’m not sitting here saying that’s what we are going to do. I feel great that CB Byron Maxwell and LB Kiko Alonso are in the building and they’ve been great and they are two players that we project will play meaningful roles for us. We’re going with eight draft choices, two players that we’ve already added, and we’ll just make those best decisions when they are presented. I’ve been around long enough to hear trades that I would have never dreamed of, even going up or back, because people’s perceived values will always be different than ours.”

Chris Grier:
(On how much draft preparation goes into playing out possible situations during the draft) – “There’s so much misinformation out with (mock drafts) as well. For me, I’m just focused on the Dolphins and what we do and the players that we like. You can’t help but see it here; it’s everywhere. It’s how big the draft has become. But for us, we’re just really focused on our process and the Miami Dolphins.”

(On if the second day of the draft holds any significance in building a team) – “I think they’re all very significant. I think – as Mike said – when you’re trying to build something long term for sustained success; you really need to hit on those picks. We’ve done that in the past on occasion. We’ve hit on some guys that’ve been really good players in those third, fourth rounds. We’ve just got to make sure we hit on those first, second (rounds) and just be consistent through the draft. Our scouts, led by (Player Personnel Director) Joe Schoen and (College Scout) Adam Engroff, have done a good job in free agency of finding players through free agency here over the last ten years. And you guys that have been here know that. So I think all the picks are valuable. I don’t think you can win without building your team through a draft.”

(On how much he pays attention to locker room personality in building a team) – “I think it’s important. You want guys that have character. Again, like we talked about, (we want) guys that love football. (We want) the guys that are not playing just for money. They’re playing because this is the game that they love and it’s important to win. So yeah, we do put an emphasis on it. We’ve done a lot of studies on that and it’s very important to us.”

(On his first draft as a general manager and how he feels) – “I’m excited. I just feel heavier because I’ve been eating more and gaining (weight). I haven’t worked out as much as I should (laughs). But seriously, I’m excited. Honestly, I’m not nervous. I’ve been doing it, been in this business for so long, and I think we’re prepared going through our process. No, I’m excited. I thought I would be more nervous than I am, but honestly I’m not. This is how I am every day.”

(On where he would stack up this draft on talent and does that impact how he conducts business) – “No, at the end of the day the drafts the last couple years have all become junior heavy in the first couple rounds. Then after that, you’ll always find value throughout the draft. It’s just a matter of – again, getting the right players for your system and what your coaches want; what you’re looking for. So, at the end of the day, people always say it’s a strong or weak draft. But there’s been so many good players in this league that have come from mid to late rounds on every team that you can find guys that do the hard work.”

Mike Tannenbaum:
“And I think it’s true that three years from now, you can go back and truly evaluate any draft. And that you can really see the strength of it and what it looks like today could be different in a year or two.”

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