Q&A with Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel


The Miami Dolphins are taking their media relationships with fan sites to new levels and over the weekend we, along with a few other sites, had an opportunity to ask Dolphins’ CEO Tom Garfinkel some questions.

The questions ranged from uniform options to stadium renovations as well as the Super Bowl vote expected later today and the Dolphins efforts to better their community.

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Here are the questions from all of the sites that were involved with this Q&A. Please be sure to visti their sites as well for more Dolphins content.

PhinManiacs: The owners are voting on the Super Bowl tomorrow. How do you see our chances of getting one?

It used to be that there were 4 or 5 places where all the Super Bowls went and we were one of them. Now there are so many modern stadiums and cities that recognize the value of have the Super Bowl and who are very aggressive in what they do to attract one. It’s just a much more competitive landscape. But now with Steve’s more than $450 million private investment we will have a world-class stadium that can compete for these events. There is no better place for a Super Bowl than South Florida and Mike Zimmer and Rodney Barreto and the rest of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee have worked hard put together a very impressive bid. I don’t take anything for granted, but I know we’ll be very competitive and I like our chances.

PhinPhanatic: There has been a lot of discussion in the media about the stadium construction and whether or not it will be completed in time to play. What can you tell us about the project?

This is a massively complex project and it’s an extremely tight schedule. There is no way it’s possible to get it done in this timeframe unless Steve Ross is the one doing it. The expertise that Steve and his team at Related have brought to the project is extraordinary. I can say with confidence that there is nothing more we could be doing to make sure it’s done on time. We’ve had between 250 and 400 workers onsite doing shifts working 24 hours a day, seven days a week since January.  We’re over budget as a result, but Steve is committed to doing everything we can to get it done on time. And when it’s done, it’s going to be more spectacular than I think people even realize.

PhinPhanatic: When you see how much has been done up to this point since January and how much there is left, it looks like there is still a lot of work to be done and not a lot of time left. What can you tell us about where the schedule sits today?

We are currently still on schedule to get the project to game-ready condition before August 25th. It’s not a linear progression. The most complex and time-consuming part of the process was getting the corners constructed and erected. Now that the corners are done, things will start moving faster. Now it’s pretty much lift and bolt, lift and bolt. Again, the schedule is tight and things could change based on a number of factors, but we are doing everything humanly possible to get this done on time; without compromising safety.

The Phinsider: A lot of fans have opinions on the uniforms. How does the uniform process work and should we expect to see any changes soon?

Uniforms are a polarizing topic. For example, some fans think we should wear white/white every home game because it’s the tradition and some fans give us feedback that we wear white too much. Some fans love the old logo and some don’t like it and prefer the new one. Generally speaking, I tend to be a traditionalist, but I also believe that brand evolution is a good thing and brand revolution is almost always a bad idea; especially when you have one with as much rich history as ours. The current uniforms were done before I got here, but I thought it was a nice modern evolution and not a revolution of the brand. In terms of process for uniform changes: once a new uniform design is put in place, it’s required by the league to stay the same for a number of years. When the window opens for it to potentially change and this includes any change – even the slightest modification – you have to submit a notice for consideration of a potential change to the league. And once changed, the new design stays in place for a number of years. That notice is two years ahead of any changes you may want to make. In terms of the alternate, each team is allowed an alternate uniform design, and once that is put in place, it is your set alternate for a number of years. We submitted the throwback design back in late 2013; in anticipation of honoring our 50th season by having what we thought was the best classic uniform the Dolphins ever had – the original aqua jerseys. We were very deliberate about every detail, including the black shoes and gray facemasks. So we have the throwbacks as our alternate now for a few years and I agree with fans that they are spectacular. Per league rules, we are only allowed to wear the alternates for two games a year.

The Phinsider: As you mentioned, some fans want to see more aqua jerseys and some prefer the tradition of always wearing white at home. How does the uniform color selection work and what can we expect for 2016?

The head coach and football operations really have the final say on the color of uniforms that are worn on game day. Historically there was a mindset that the white jerseys are cooler in the hot weather and so we always wore white for home day games. On the road, we wear the opposite of what the home team wears, so it’s usually white as well. Consequently, we end up wearing white for 14 or 15 games a year. We asked and football operations agreed to wear the aqua/aqua against the Bills in 2014 and against the Patriots last year. The players and fans loved it. We have to submit the jersey colors to the NFL before the season but the color of the pants can change during the season. Adam, Mike, and Chris are very collaborative and open to change and mixing it up. It’s not 100 percent set yet, but we anticipate the uniforms this year will be as follows:

– Aqua jerseys for preseason home games.
– White jerseys for preseason away games.
– White jerseys for Cleveland, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Arizona home games. Tennessee will be our Breast Cancer Awareness game.
– Throwbacks for Buffalo home game, which will be our alumni game.
– Aqua jersey for New York Jets game, which will be our Salute to Service game.
– Throwbacks for San Francisco game.
– Aqua jersey for New England game.
– Color rush for Thursday night away game at Cincinnati (NFL will announce colors).

PhinManiacs: It seems like the Dolphins have taken a different direction than most teams in terms of content creation and distribution. What is the thought process with regard to the changes with the Finsiders and the addition of new content like Dolphins Daily and Madison Avenue? And what can we expect moving forward?

Content is created and consumed differently today and we are in the middle of total disruption of the media landscape. It’s affecting our society in profound ways. Look at politics. Live sports content is the most valuable content there is right now because it’s the last true appointment viewing. In 2015, 45 of the 50 most-watched shows of the fall season were NFL games according to USA Today. Traditional mediums are declining and new digital and social platforms are exploding, with new ones emerging at the same time. As a result, we want to use these platforms to create more access and provide more information to our fans than ever before. The Finsiders was a three-hour radio show. The Finsiders had 800,000 listeners for the entire 2015 calendar year. For context, one coach’s speech on Facebook last year had 1.2 million views and the first 25 episodes of Dolphins Daily had combined viewership of over 2.3 million. With that said, one thing we’ve heard from fans is that they miss the longer format, so we’ll soon be rolling out a new program called The Audible that will be a longer-form show that fans can interact with. We also are working on a redesign of our website where we better aggregate all the content from different platforms into one place. We’ve invested heavily into our content team and I think we have a tremendous group of talented and creative people there. We don’t use an agency; we produce everything in house. The feedback we’ve gotten so far has been great and the content is being consumed at huge levels compared to what it was previously; that in some ways is the most important feedback we receive. Again, there are so many great stories within this organization and we want to share those stories with fans. We want them to know the players and the people in this organization and the new platforms allow us to do this.

PhinPhanatic: The Dolphins are very active in the local community. What can you tell us about those efforts and what we can expect to see moving forward?

At our core, the Dolphins are a public trust and we are stewards of that trust. I believe we have a responsibility to be involved proactively as a positive force in the community and I’m proud that our owner, employees and players feel the same way. When I got here, the Dolphins Cancer Challenge was already in place and I was blown away by how impactful an event it is. 100 percent of the participant fundraising from the Dolphins Cancer Challenge goes directly to cancer research to change people’s lives here in South Florida. This year we will give more than $5 million to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami. This is a staggering amount. I’m sure there is one somewhere, but I don’t know of another team in sports that is raising and giving charitable contributions of this scale. I’m looking forward to when we can give $10 million to Sylvester. Last month Dolphins players and executives teamed up with 5,000 volunteers and AARP Foundation and packed a million meals for hungry people in South Florida. And this past weekend we held our 20th Fins Weekend to raise money that will go directly to City Year Miami mentoring programs at two local schools in our backyard in Miami Gardens. All of these efforts are an important part of who we are.

PhinManiacs: I know that you are not involved with football decisions, but you were a part of the head coach selection process and you were in the draft room. Being close to it, what is your impression and observations of where the team sits now and the changes that have been made?

Mike (Tannenbaum) led the head coach search process and I thought he did a great job of putting together an incredibly thorough and detailed process. The head coach hiring decision was Steve’s to make, but after interviewing all of the candidates, everyone involved agreed that Adam was the right choice. I’m very excited about Adam and the staff that he has assembled. Adam is high energy and very intelligent. He understands people and how small decisions can impact culture and performance in a big way. He relates extremely well to players and he is convicted about what he believes yet open minded at the same time. He eats, breaths, and lives football and is competitive as they come. The staff he has brought in has a calm confidence about them. They expect a lot and know what it takes to win and that’s all they are focused on. They are collaborative and they are teachers, and when I talk to them individually they all share the same philosophy and vision for the type of team they want to have. In terms of the draft, sitting in and observing the draft process and the draft itself, I can’t say enough about Chris Grier and his team and the process they put in place. Mike and Chris and the scouts identified players they were convicted about and they went and got those players. I’m not qualified to watch film and evaluate the players but I can say that the evaluation and decision making process and how the draft played out is vastly improved and was very impressive to watch. Probably most importantly, what I see is everyone really on the same page and working together. There is healthy debate but the personnel department is working to deliver players that fit the coaching staff’s scheme and profile for the kind of players they want. The number one goal of this organization is to honor the proud winning tradition of this franchise and win championships. I can tell you unequivocally that it’s our owner’s first priority. It takes time, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress towards that goal in the last several months. I’m excited about 2016 and beyond.