It couldn't have been easy for the Glazers to fire someone who's been with the Buccaneers almost as long as they have, but today they did just that as they relieved Mark Dominik of his duties as general manager. Dominik joined the Buccaneer organisation in 1995 as a pro personnel assistant before being made a pro scout in 1998. He was moved up to a more managerial role in 2000 as pro personnel coordinator before being made director of pro personnel the next year, a position he held until finally being promoted to GM following the 2008 season.
Mark Dominik's legacy with the team is a mixed one. His first head coach, Raheem Morris, was already in position when Dominik was promoted; the hiring of his second head coach, Greg Schiano, was reportedly a decision made by the Glazers in conjunction with Dominik rather than Dominik by himself. There is some speculation that he was restricted in his spending budget during the 2010 and 2011 offseasons; he had to balance a poor cap shape that was left for him by Bruce Allen. All those factors go some way to explaining why the team 28-52 under his management. If you've been watching NFL Network since the firing was announced, you'll have heard Dominik praised multiple times for the talented roster he's built for someone else to inherit.
When assessing Dominik's time in the top job, it's fair to consider all those factors, and there's a lot of truth in what Mike Silver et al have been saying on NFLN about the roster Dominik has built. And yet, Dominik also made many mistakes and poor decisions in his years at the top of the front office, and it is that which ultimately cost him his job.
When Dominik first took over in 2009, there was a decision taken internally - whether by the Glazers, Dominik or Morris is still unknown to this day - to purge the roster of veterans, with one particular cut still resonating for many Bucs fans today: Derrick Brooks. With many of the team's veteran players - all, really, with the exceptions of Ronde Barber and Jermaine Phillips - gone, Dominik began to acquire talent for the roster. He traded away second and fifth round picks to the Browns for Kellen Winslow, while offering him a contract extension to make him the highest-paid tight end in the league. He chased Albert Haynesworth, reportedly offering him an even bigger contract than the $100 million, 7 year offer Washington was made, but was turned down. He gave Derrick Ward a $17 million - Ward was later cut in the 2010 offseason. He also re-signed Michael Clayton to a large, and completely undeserved, contract extension.
Dominik's first draft hardly produced a field of studs - Josh Freeman aside, only third rounder Roy Miller, and seventh rounders EJ Biggers and Sammie Stroughter, made any kind of impact from the Bucs, and none received a second contract for the team.
2010 was Dominik's best year in charge, despite a pre-draft free agent haul highlighted by linebacker Jon Alston, who never took the field for the Bucs in his one year with the team and retired following his release. It was a year where Dominik found a lot of talent from rookies that fuelled the team's only winning season under his watch, from drafted impact players like Gerald McCoy, Mike Williams and Cody Grimm to undrafted free agents such as LeGarrette Blount and Derek Hardman, who ended the season as the starting right guard, to pilfering players from other team's practice squads, like Ted Larsen, who started 11 games at left guard. He was also praised at the time for managing in one 24 hour period to end two hold outs on the opening eve of training camp - rookie hold out McCoy, and left tackle Donald Penn.
Despite that, Dominik also made many misses in 2010, in what many consider to be one of the deepest drafts ever. While finding diamonds in the rough in the final day in Williams, Grimm, Dekoda Watson and Erik Lorig, the team also spent three premium picks on players who never finished out their rookie contracts with the team - Brian Price and Arrelious Benn in the second round, and Myron Lewis in the third round (not to mention a sixth round pick spent on punter Brent Bowden, who would end up never seeing a regular season snap in the NFL).
Dominik's last three drafts can all be categorised similarly: success in the early rounds, but failure to uncover any more last-day gems, with no impact players from the third days of drafts from 2011 or 2012. Free agency, however, was another story, with Dominik finally either feeling comfortable enough, or getting permission from up high, to open the wallet in 2012. Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright were all signed within twenty four hours, a major coup for Dominik. He followed that up the following year by signing one of the top defensive free agents in Dashon Goldson, and pulling off the trade of the year with Darrelle Revis. More impressively was that the contracts were, for the most part, very cap friendly - though there's no question that Dominik massively overpaid for Eric Wright, even before the multiple DUIs and PED suspensions came to light. While we're discussing free agency, I don't think anybody can deny Dominik completely mis-played the Michael Bennett situation.
If Mark Dominik had one chief fault in my eyes, though, it was his utter failure to build any sort of depth along the offensive line. Though biased towards the position, the offensive line is arguably the most important unit in football, and Dominik overpaid a handful of players while failing to develop the necessary depth. The guard situation in 2013 was so poor that the left guard spot was, over the course of the season, manned by two converted tackles in Jamon Meredith and Gabe Carimi and a center in Ted Larsen, due to the lack of true guards on the roster. Dominik only drafted one offensive lineman during his tenure, Xavier Fulton in 2009, who never played a snap in the NFL and was most recently traded for a sixth round pick... in the CFL draft. Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood were both given bloated contracts in 2011 which have not yet (in the case of the former) or never were (in the case of the latter) lived up to. I do believe that the inability to field an overall-effective offensive line unit ultimately hurt the Bucs the most on the field since 2009, and that comes down primarily on Mark Dominik's inability to develop, and refusal to draft, linemen.
Regardless of all the problems from the coaching side, Mark Dominik simply didn't help the team get beyond that 28-52 record. He may well have created a premier starting unit at most positions, but the Bucs have never truly had depth across the board under Mark Dominik. It's what distinguishes the Ted Thompsons and Ozzie Newsomes of the world from the Mark Dominiks. He never did a bad job in Tampa - he just didn't do a good-enough one. We wish Dominik luck in his next GM role, which no doubt he will find sooner rather than later.