Mike Tannenbaum is entering his 16th season with the New York Jets, and since 1997, has served in a variety of administrative football management positions. Currently, Tannenbaum serves as the team’s Executive Vice President/General Manager, with responsibility for managing football operations, including the coaching staff, overseeing pro and college scouting, and supervising salary cap management and contract analysis, video and football technologies, equipment, operations, training and medical personnel, training camp, and turf management.
During his tenure as General Manager, Tannenbaum has established himself as one of the most successful and respected leaders in football. In the six seasons since Tannenbaum took over as GM, the Jets have been a .500 or better team in five of those six seasons and have twice reached the AFC Championship Game. Furthermore, he has acquired eight players who've gone on to play in the NFL's Pro Bowl and structured some of the most innovative contracts under the CBA.
Prior to his current role, Tannenbaum served as the team’s Senior VP/ Football Operations/Assistant General Manager, overseeing the team’s pro personnel department and professional scouting, and serving as the lead negotiator for player contracts, as well as being responsible for the management and strategic planning of the Jets’ salary cap . Tannenbaum also was the team's Assistant General Manager/Director of Pro Personnel from 2001-03, the team’s Director of Pro Player Development/Contract Negotiations during the 2000 season, and the team's Director of Player Contracts from 1997-99.
Before coming to the Jets, the Needham, Massachusetts native graduated cum laude from Tulane Law School where he earned his certificate in sports law. While in law school, Tannenbaum worked as an intern with the New Orleans Saints. Then, following his graduation from Tulane, Tannenbaum worked as a player personnel assistant with the Cleveland Browns in 1995 before returning to the Saints in 1996 as a Player Personnel Assistant.
In addition to his role as Executive Vice President/General Manager of the Jets, Tannenbaum was selected to the NFL General Managers Advisory Committee in 2008, appointed to the Board of Directors of the Sports Lawyers Association in 2008, and is also a member of the American Bar Association in the Sports and Entertainment division.
Question and Answer:
What was your favorite class and/or professor at Tulane?
Sports Law-Gary Roberts
What was your favorite thing to do in New Orleans?
Walk down in the French Quarter
What's your fondest law school memory?
Being accepted by the Saints as an unpaid intern while studying sports law
Why did you choose Tulane?
For the Sports Law program.
What are the ways in which Tulane helped to prepare you for your career, specifically which courses and professors were the most important for you?
Antitrust and Sports Law gave me real world experience from the people who handled the cases.
How did you land your internship with the Saints while attending school?
I was relentless--they said no at least six times before they said yes.
What was your job search process like during your 3L year, which eventually led to a position in the personnel department of the Cleveland Browns?
I sent a book of my free agent analysis to each team.
What would you consider to be your "big break" moment while you were trying to break into the sports industry?
Being hired by the Saints as a full time employee in January of 1996.
When you were in law school in ‘93, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a new CBA, which implemented a salary cap. How important was that for you, as someone who at that time was trying to break into football?
I was lucky—I was in the right place at the right time; I tell that to students all the time
What made you decide to leave the Saints to take the position of Director of Player Contract Negotiations with the Jets in ‘97?
It was a dream to work for Coach Parcells.
How would you say your negotiating style has evolved over the years?
I’ve become more patient and a better listener.
As a GM, how would you describe a typical work day?
7 to 7; I try to plan as much as possible, but I put out a lot of fires throughout the day.
What is the best part of your job?
Winning, and seeing a disparate group of people come together
What is the worst part of your job?
Losing--because you feel like you did everything you can to win, and it is a disappointment.
Do you think that there is a misconception in the NFL about those on the football side of the front office who come from a legal background?
I don’t worry about that; I just try to do out-work and out-prepare my competition.
If you could give one piece of career advice to current students, what would it be?
Be the first one in and the last to leave, the answer is always yes with a smile, and that is half the battle to be successful.