Mike Tannenbaum is grateful. For the love, support and advice his parents, Marilyn and Richie, gave him growing up. For the four years he “wouldn’t trade for anything” working with and learning from legendary NFL coach Bill Parcells. For his time as general manager and senior vice-president of football operations with the New York Jets. For his time as executive vice-president of football operations with the Miami Dolphins. For each and every opportunity that’s come across his desk.
While he’s no longer in an NFL front office, Tannenbaum remains active in football. He founded football think tank The 33rd Team in March 2019, joined ESPN as an NFL Front Office Insider a month later, and recently started as an adjunct professor teaching the business of the NFL at Columbia University.
Despite juggling a multitude of jobs and responsibilities, including serving as a senior advisor with both Bruin Sports Capital and Patricof Co, as well as on the board of directors with X2 Performance, Tannenbaum is still giving back by providing others with invaluable experience, opportunities and support.
“A big passion of mine is helping others where they want to go,” Tannenbaum said. “About 15 years ago when I first became the GM of the Jets, my family and I started a scholarship at UMass where we paid the living expenses for people who want to work in sports but could only get unpaid or low-paying opportunities. It was a way to give back because I started as an unpaid intern early in my career.
“… It’s really important. To the small extent we can help others pursue their dreams. I named the scholarship after my parents who always made sure I had everything I needed before they ever had theirs. They always taught me about the power of selflessness and sacrifice, and that’s really important to me.”
Guiding and supporting the next generation of football executives is one of the reasons Tannenbaum created The 33rd Team, a football think tank consisting of former general managers, head coaches and graduate students who provide in-depth analysis of the NFL.
During weekly calls, approximately 50 participants watch tape and discuss salary cap, trades, budget and strategic planning. The 33rd Team also created a newsletter that’s shared with and read by NFL executives. Not only does The 33rd Team help transitioning NFL coaches and executives stay up to date with league happenings and news in anticipation of their next gig, it also serves as a networking platform for future football executives; one student was recently hired by the Jets.
“There’s 32 NFL teams and we’re the next one,” Tannenbaum said. “We’re going to comport ourselves and act a certain way and bring thoughtful ideas to the table. … I say the work we do has to be at the standard of an NFL team, so that’s how we came up with the name of The 33rd Team.”
Following six days of NFL Draft coverage with ESPN where he was analyzing prospects, discussing trades and even providing insight into Aaron Rodgers’ saga, Tannenbaum said his duties there will lessen over the next few months before training camp ramps up ahead of the regular season. But the work is never done; now ventures including X2, Bruin and Patricof come to the forefront. Not only that, but Tannenbaum is actively engaged in conversations and advising people on everything from SPACs to the impact of sports betting.
He said he gets his work ethic from his parents; his father worked for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in New York City then the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston for 30 years, as well as Parcells, who used to be at his desk each morning at 5:30.
“I like working. I like being stimulated and I don’t like to sit around. That’s not who I am,” Tannenbaum said. “I want to set a good example for my kids to understand that when you want to get some place, you have to work, you have to grind. … I’m always trying to put myself in a position where a) I can add value and b) I can continue to learn. As long as an opportunity can check those two boxes, I’m interested.”