Dominik Proving to be Underrated

Mark Dominik is front-loading contracts.
Mark Dominik is front-loading contracts. /
Mark Dominik is proving to be a talented GM.
Mark Dominik is proving to be a talented GM. /

I haven’t really been thrilled with the performance of a Bucs GM in some time. I liked Rich McKay but I also understood it was probably time for a change when the Bucs (Jon Gruden) removed him/he left. McKay now resides in Atlanta as the Falcon’s team president (and former GM).

Bruce Allen was terrible. I have very little positive to say about Allen, he was basically just the holder of the GM title while Gruden made the majority of the team’s personnel decisions. But under his “watch” the Bucs allowed their once-vaunted defense to age and atrophy, they never managed to find any semblance of a franchise quarterback and the offense slowly started to stagnate as Cadillac Williams suffered injury after injury.

I wasn’t crazy about the new Mark Dominik/Raheem Morris regime at first either. In retrospect, they made the correct choices. But at the time their decisions to go younger and get rid of veterans like Derrick Brooks proved largely unpopular. Unfortunately, being a GM puts you in the public eye in a negative light a lot more often than in a positive one. Got a trouble player, tough personnel choice? It’s usually the GM who gets trotted out in front of the media answer the questions on why he’s gone. During draft time one of the GM’s jobs is to dig as deep as humanly possible to find any character issues or flaws in a players. That’s an incredibly insensitive proposition, and even the slightest indiscretion can blow up in your face as Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland found out with Dez Bryant this off-season.

But Mark Dominik seems to have a pretty firm grasp on this whole GM concept. Since coming aboard as the Bucs GM, he’s had no problem making the difficult choices and early returns on his player evaluation look impressive to say the least. Dominik reminds me a lot of Packers GM Ted Thompson in his methodology and results. He’s a hard-working GM who isn’t worried about popularity, he’s worried about wins. I’ll tell you what too, Dominik has found a few gems along the way.

Just look at players that are contributing heavily this season with the Buccaneers and how Dominik went about acquiring them and it paints a picture of the ingenuity and talent that Dominik is bringing the Bucs front office.

You can’t give Dominik sole credit for opting to draft Josh Freeman, Raheem Morris’ tenure as the head coach at Kansas State and the familiarity that gave him with Freeman were the main reasons for the choice. But I do give Dominik a little credit for listening to his coach. Kind of ironic a Kansas Jayhawk and a Kansas State Wildcat are the two men at the helm for this Bucs team, but no complaints so far.

If the Bucs current trend of success continues, this past off-season should be enough to garner some Executive-of-the-Year consideration for Dominik. Starting with Mike Williams in the 4th round of this year’s draft, Tampa has really found some diamonds in the rough. Dominik did an insane amount of research in determining whether Mike Williams would be a good fit for the Tampa offense and more importantly whether he would mesh well with team chemistry.

Dominik turned over every rock, calling his former coaches and mentors, at one point even digging so far into Williams history that he ended up speaking with Mike William’s old teachers.

"“They went all the way back to my third-grade teacher. She texted me like, “An NFL guy came to talk to me.” They went all the way back as far as third grade,” Williams said. “They did a lot of research.”"

What Dominik found was a player that wasn’t of poor character, but perhaps more questionable motivation. Under Raheem Morris and the Bucs, Williams has thrived, currently leading all rookies in receiving with 32 catches for 470 yards and four touchdowns. Drafting Arrelious Benn was an easy move, spending the time to find perhaps the steal of the draft (and arguably a better receiver) two rounds later is the impressive one.

Mike Williams an offensive rookie-of-the-year candidate.
Mike Williams an offensive rookie-of-the-year candidate. /

Then look at what Dominik has done on the waiver wire this season. The past two weeks the Bucs have been able to plug in rookie guard Ted Larsen and have had arguably their two best rushing games of the season. Larsen was a sixth round pick by the Patriots this year, but was cut by New England in the final days of the preseason. Dominik quickly scooped up Larsen and the team started to bring him along slowly. His progress has been so promising that the Bucs were able to jettison Keydrick Vincent, a player in his 30’s and go with the much younger Larsen to back up the line. That’s a bottom of the roster move, but those are the types of transactions that make a team stronger over time.

And of course you can’t leave out LeGarrette Blount. Since getting more involved in the Buccaneers rushing attack Blount has added a truly dynamic element to the offense. Of course Blount saw his draft stock plumment after his much publicized haymaker in Idaho, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Titans and then let go. It almost went below the radar when the Bucs grabbed him.

Fast forward to week eight when Blount goes for two scores and 120 yards on 22 carries. That’s three players that Dominik seemingly fished out of no where and got huge returns on in just their rookie season. It’s easy to have a solid rookie class when you pick in the top five. But when you find a player that looks promising enough to potentially develop into an alpha receiver and the team’s running back of the future, both in the same year and you do it in round 4 and over the waiver wire. Well, you earn a tip of the hat.

I don’t know many NFL Executives having a better calendar year than Dominik is right now. I haven’t heard any national pundits comment on this. Let me be the first. It looks like Mark Dominik is actually a damn good GM.