Mike Tannenbaum and Stephen Ross

Dawn Aponte’s Dolphins Departure Smells of Internal Politics

Dawn Aponte, who drew scorn from Miami Dolphins fans during the Joe Philbin vs. Jeff Ireland debacle, will leave the football team to join Stephen Ross’ RSE Ventures. The move signals another step toward politically streamlining the organization.

Hmmmmm….looks as though some of our earlier predictions continue to play out inside the hallways at Dolphins HQ.

Aponte’s departure to another Ross venture indicates support from the billionaire. He clearly offered an intriguing exit. That’s good news for Aponte and perhaps for Ross who keeps a quality employee. On Dec. 21, we correctly predicted (among other things) Tannenbaum would insulate himself from potential coups.

1. Mike Tannenbaum Solidifies Power: The latest of owner Stephen Ross’ consultants operates as Executive VP of Football Operations. Being the latest hire, Tannenbaum automatically remains blameless for anything regarding 2015.

If Tannenbaum understands office politics, he will quickly move to solidify his position via a number of tactics. He should seek to control personnel and coaching while also fighting to become the No. 1 voice in Ross’ ear. With front office players such as Dawn Aponte, Dan Marino and whichever consultant Ross has hired, Tannenbaum must evolve into the “alpha employee” in the organization. The organization could benefit from an “alpha” structure to help stem mistrust among employees and coaches. We’re just not all that impressed with Tannenbaum’s resume.

In 2013, Aponte sided with then-head coach Joe Philbin as GM Jeff Ireland’s career shattered. Many Dolphins fans considered Aponte’s Philbin alliance as pure power politics. And while Ireland had done enough to seal his own fate, Aponte simply aligned herself with the candidate most likely to survive the aftermath.

From a strategic point of view, Aponte’s decision to back Philbin could’ve yielded her more organizational power or would at least disassociate herself from a potential front office purge.

The situation, which really evolved from Ross’ mishandling of his executives and consistent use of “consultants,” created a hiring headache. Ross’ track record failed to attract top GM candidates.

As we know, the situation yielded Dennis Hickey, who was being squeezed out in Tampa. He hardly appeared as a franchise-altering addition. To be fair, Hickey oversaw two NFL Drafts with middling results. His presence serves as nothing more than a harmless blip on the Dolphins’ historical timeline.

Mike Tannenbaum appeared on the scene as another of Ross’ consultant hires. After spending a year as Ross’ Jimney Cricket, Tannenbaum parlayed his consulting gig into a football operations leader.

And here, it appears, we see the possibility that Tannenbaum consolidated his political power. It appears as though the former Jets GM now oversees general manager Chris Grier — who can take up much of Aponte’s salary cap and contract work — along with head coach Adam Gase.

This type of consolidation is EXACTLY what the Dolphins needed in order to streamline the internal command chain. Aponte’s departure — and we’re not saying she was detrimental to the organization — cleans up the power structure. If you’re Tannenbaum, attaining “coup-proof” protection supports career longevity.

From a football perspective, it’s a former Jets GM creating the political power base. As a result, Tannenbaum could offer middling results and remain in place while underlings serve as scapegoats.

So Aponte’s departure signals a massive step in the right direction for Ross. Again, not because Dawn Aponte is leaving, but because front office politics just got a little cleaner.

We sincerely wish Aponte success in her new position.