Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Natural Talent

Mark Dominik has been working on team-building in the NFL for 15 years, and now he takes his hard-earned experience into the Bucs' G.M. chair, where he plans to foster an environment of easy and effective communication

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New Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik (left) has been working with talented people like Director of College Scouting Dennis Hickey for a decade and a half

A good NFL talent scout has to be thorough but quick in his evaluations, and he has to form a solid and unwavering opinion on the subject at hand.

That becomes more difficult when the subject is himself.

Mark Dominik is a good talent evaluator, as evidenced by his 15 years at that task in the NFL, most of it with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fact, the Buccaneers believe he is better than just good; on Saturday they named him general manager, putting the future of the franchise in his hands in collaboration with new Head Coach Raheem Morris.

So when he was asked to turn his scouting eye inward on Saturday afternoon, Dominik hesitated for a moment out of innate humility, and then offered an encouraging evaluation for Buccaneer fans who hope to see the team's football operations run smoothly and effectively.

"I guess my leadership style is really going to be about open communication, being able to have real dialogue with the players," he said. "I have what I think is a good working relationship with a lot of agents. And I want to create the atmosphere in Tampa that this is where players want to come."

Supporters call Dominik approachable, straightforward and driven. There is and always will be information behind the wall – he spoke, for instance, of a specific plan for the quarterback position but declined to elaborate in order to keep that information out of competitors' hands for now – but there will be free-flowing and productive dialogue within One Buccaneer Place.

That starts at the top, obviously, with the unfettered relationship between him and Morris.

"It's going to be a very easy working environment between him and myself," said Dominik. "I think one important part for any successful franchise is to have open communication between the front office and the coaching staff, and I think we'll have that. I'm not saying we didn't have that previously, but I know that Raheem and I will have it."

Neither wished to discuss the issue of "final say" on personnel matters, but Dominik and Morris will be at the helm of a team of decision-makers, including Director of College Scouting Dennis Hickey and his staff. The Bucs' leadership won't have to struggle to forge a working relationship; they've been at it together for many years.

"Ever since I've been around Mark – it's funny, because we've seen each other rise, we've seen each other fall, we've made mistakes and we've done beautiful things together," said Morris. "All I know about Mark is he's going to listen to your opinion, he's going to evaluate your opinion, he's going to respect your opinion and he's going to be a tireless worker. Anything you ask him to get done, he'll try to do, and he'll do it in a timely fashion. I have nothing but respect for Mark."

Dominik and Morris were both important members of Tampa Bay's 2002 Super Bowl championship team. Morris had just begun his career in Tampa, and though he worked out of a tiny closet-like office at old One Buc Place he was already turning heads with his tireless work ethic and football acumen. Dominik, by that season, had already been with the team eight years and was in his second year as the pro personnel director.

The Bucs' player personnel staff that year included Rich McKay, now president of the Atlanta Falcons; Tim Ruskell, now the president of football operations/general manager in Seattle; and Ruston Webster, the Seahawks' vice president of player personnel. Dominik's 15 years in the NFL have also brought him in contact with, among others, Jerry Angelo, now the Chicago Bears' general manager; Bruce Allen, the man from whom he inherits his current job; and Carl Peterson, until recently the Kansas City Chiefs' long-running general manager.

Dominik said he has taken bits of his professional makeup from all of them and, as he said on Saturday, he hopes he's "gravitated towards the right parts of each."

"Tim was a very organized leader," said Dominik. "I thought he did a great job of making sure that everyone was accountable. I learned that facet from him. Jerry Angelo, to me, was a great thinker. He always had a reason why he was making a decision and not just change for change. Rich taught me a lot about communication in terms of working with the media.

"Bruce was great for me. I am very thankful for Bruce and what he's taught me. He's allowed me to enter into contract negotiations, get involved in the salary cap. Those things helped me get here today."

No matter who has been in the G.M.'s chair during Dominik's tenure, one message has always been clear: Tampa should be an attractive destination for NFL players. The team, the town and the state possess many built-in advantages and, indeed, when the team has been on solid footing free agents have always been willing to listen to the Bucs' pitch. That's the situation Dominik wants to foster at One Buccaneer Place, beginning immediately.

"We live in a great state and a great town, with no state taxes," he said. "We've got great weather and we have a beautiful stadium and great fans. We're excited to put that in front of a player and say, 'This is an opportunity for you to shine.' And we think we're going in the right direction."

With Dominik now at the personnel helm, team ownership believes that, too.

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