Yes, that might be a bit of a bold proclamation in some folks' eyes, but I believe it.
And here's why you should think about it, too.
Aside from the obvious 3-13 to 10-6 turnaround, which sets the team record for greatest turnaround with a +7 win differential, it's how both of these men and their respective staffs overcame long odds and tremendous obstacles to pull off a double-digit win season.
First, unlike several previous drafts under the Jon Gruden/Bruce Allen era, Mark Dominik and his staff turned in a star-studded draft from top to bottom in 2010 in what could become the next building-block-type draft. Although Ndamukong Suh has had a whale of a season and has drawn most of the national attention, third overall pick Gerald McCoy gradually developed into a productive player at 3-tech. His presence was clearly missed following his bicep injury, as the run defense fell apart. The future is bright for McCoy in this defense. NT Brian Price was dubbed as one of the most disruptive players, if not the most disruptive player, at rookie and training camps. His rookie season was derailed at its inception, but the potential is certainly there for next year. Rookie WRs Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn will give the Buccaneers a dual-threat combination on the outside for many years for Josh Freeman. Williams broke the team record for receiving TDs in a season with 11 and is a Pepsi Rookie of the Year Finalist. He very well will be remembered as the biggest steal of the entire 2010 draft. CB Myron Lewis, and 7th-round picks LB Dekoda Watson, FB Erik Lorig, and S Cody Grimm all saw substantial playing time this season, the latter 3 of which started at some point during the season. To have three 7th-round picks all start and contribute is just unheard of.
However, it's not just what Dominik and company did in the April draft. They got in done in both "drafts".....the draft itself and signings after training camps break and players are released after roster cut downs. The latter "draft" saw the Buccaneers land LeGarrette Blount after the Titans passed him through waivers to try to sneak him on the practice squad. That might have been the best acquisition in the entire NFL this season. Just a great job of Mark, Dennis Hickey, and the scouting/personnel department keeping an eye on what's out there and acquiring some useful talent. In addition to Blount, the Bucs snagged WR Dezmon Briscoe from the Bengals' practice squad and landed G Ted Larsen after the Pats cut him after the preseason. Larsen proved to be a vital cog in the offensive line this season. Derek Hardman. Al Woods. Frank Okam. These guys all produced at key times (although none were perfect by any means....these are practice squad guys after all). His main offseason free agent signing, S Sean Jones, proved to be fruitful, as Jones provided a steady presence in run support and has been adequate in coverage. Coupled with either Tanard Jackson or Cody Grimm next season, the safety position seems to have taken a step forward from where it was a year ago.
So what did Raheem do with this collection of outcasts and babies? He turned lemons into lemonade. Water into wine. Despite having the youngest and cheapest lineup in the NFL at the start of the season, Raheem opened up competition for all positions and instilled a tough-as-nails mindset with his young team by proclaiming a "Race to 10" mantra, which most folks laughed at. The season started off in a roller-coaster fashion with some nice wins and a pair of manhood-testing beatdowns. However, despite losing key contributors on a near-weekly basis, this team kept on winning. Tanard Jackson, gone. Gerald McCoy, see ya next year. Price. Talib. Grimm. Faine. Joseph. Black. Graham. Benn. Stroughter. Etc, etc, etc. When all was said and done, the Bucs started 11 rookies on the year and became the first team since 1970 to start 10+ rookies and sport a winning record. Going into the Saints' game, the Bucs had promoted 13 players to the active 53-man roster.
Yet, Raheem kept getting the most out of these guys, week in and week out. He got them to play their hardest, if not always their best, and that's the most you can ask out of a coach.
For that, I endorse Mark and Raheem for the 2010 Exec and Coach of the Year awards.
ENJOY WITH ABSOLUT RESPONSIBILITY®