By Max Luckan
It’s sort of a phenomenon. Many NFL teams are copying each other, using the same model for building a winner, and the central aspect of that model appears to be the general manager. In recent years, the prototype has become a young, well-rounded, abstract thinker–something of a Renaissance Man. This prototype has been popping up all around the league. The Indianapolis Colts hired Ryan Grigson, a 40-year-old former director of player personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles. So far, the Colts sit at 8-4 and are contending for a playoff spot. Or, the job Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith has done with the Texans currently sitting at 11-1. Another example would be Thomas Dimitroff, general manager of the Atlanta Falcons, who are owners of an 11-1 record as well. All these executives have similar characteristics.
That list includes Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, who was promoted to the position in 2009 at age 38. Dominik fits the description perfectly. He’s young, yet has experience, and has done a phenomenal job down in Tampa so far. Many would argue that he’s done a mediocre job, but it’s not like former GM Bruce Allen left Dominik with a Super Bowl contender at his hands. Sure, a 3-13 record in 2009 and a 4-12 record in 2011 is discomforting for Bucs fans, but it is vital to remember that building a sustainable winning environment takes time.
A general manager is judged on his decisions. Mainly, the coach he hires, the free agents he signs, the players he drafts, and the trades he makes.
To that end, Dominik should certainly be considered among one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL. Some picks don’t work out, but the complexities of picking the “perfect” player make the task extremely difficult.
When Dominik drafted Mark Barron, a safety, with the seventh overall pick, many were confused. No matter what they think, however, it is certain that Dominik and director of player personnel Dennis Hickey did their homework on Barron. Too many factors went into the decision to draft Barron, but the point is, the move has worked so far. And the same goes for running back Doug Martin, whom Dominik had to get back in the first round for. These decisions have become typical for the “new-age” GM. While the decisions are sometimes unorthodox, the reward for taking calculated risks can be great.
It would be foolish to ignore the misses, however. Dominik will always have the decision to draft Brian Price looming over him, and the signing of Albert Haynesworth, which was just shy of a catastrophe. But these misses happen.
The great general managers are able to, obviously, limit the misses, but also are able to calculate where and when they can afford to take a risk. And of course, the great ones always have a backup plan in mind.
In 2012, the Bucs have vastly improved and Dominik deserves a lot of credit for that. The Bucs are in the thick of the playoff hunt just a season after going 4-12, which shows how vital good talent evaluators such as Dominik are, and how so much falls on the shoulders of the GM.
The good decisions make Dominik look like a genius, and the bad enhance the weight on his shoulders, but for the moment, he’s getting a lot of credit for making excellent decisions, and rightfully so.
Even rival general managers respect Dominik and the job he’s done.
“Mark is highly respected for his leadership,” Arizona Cardinals general manager Rod Graves said. “He has done an outstanding job assembling an exceptional staff and an exceptional team. He’s earned the success that he has acquired.”
Clearly, Dominik is even highly touted by his colleagues, which speaks volumes to the job he’s done so far.
And for right now, Dominik appears to be making the right moves, which have the Bucs heading for a bright future, one that could be filled with plenty success.
For more Local Football Bloggers, and the latest Buccaneers news and analysis, see CBS Sports Tampa.
Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.