After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismissed Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Bruce Allen on Friday evening, it didn't take them long to decide upon their successors. The answers were right there at team headquarters.
On Saturday afternoon, the Buccaneers plotted a new and exciting course for the franchise by naming Raheem Morris the new head coach and Mark Dominik the new general manager.
Morris has spent six of the last seven seasons on Tampa Bay's staff, most recently as the defensive backs coach in 2007-08. Dominik's unbroken tenure with the team dates back to 1995; he has served as the team's director of pro personnel for the past eight years.
The Bucs weren't the only ones poking around One Buccaneer Place in search of rising stars on the NFL club-leadership scene. Just weeks after being promoted to defensive coordinator by the Buccaneers in December, following the departure of Monte Kiffin, Morris was suddenly on the radar screen of the Denver Broncos, who were looking for a new head coach. At the same time, the Kansas City Chiefs were reportedly considering Dominik for their newly-vacant G.M. position.
That both men would achieve those dream jobs within a few weeks without ever leaving Tampa is a cause for celebration for the Buccaneers, who have supplied the league with countless up-and-coming leaders in recent years. Morris and Dominik are both energetic, young, driven and highly respected around the NFL. The Buccaneers are confident their new pair of leaders will be able to produce a team that is annually in serious contention for the Super Bowl.
After a Minority Coaching Fellowship Internship with the Jets in 2001, Morris launched his NFL career with the Buccaneers in 2002 as a defensive quality control coach. After working tirelessly in that position to help the Buccaneers win Super Bowl XXXVII in '02, he was quickly promoted to defensive assistant in 2003 and to assistant defensive backs coach under Mike Tomlin in 2004. After two seasons in that post, Morris left the Buccaneers to serve as the defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2006 before returning to Tampa.
Though Morris was only 30 at the time, younger than some of the defensive backs he would be coaching, Buccaneer management knew the players respected him completely. That remains true in 2009 and was a key factor in the Buccaneers decision to promote Morris so rapidly.
"Basically, I'm ecstatic over the decision," said linebacker Barrett Ruud, himself a burgeoning star in the NFL. "I'm a huge fan of his as a coach and I think he was on that fast track to being a head coach and he's one of the young, rising superstars in the profession. So I'm thrilled he's going to be coaching me while I'm there and I think he brings not only great X's and O's strategy and fundamental football, but he really knows situational football too. You combine that with knowing how to motivate people and knowing how to push people, I think he's going to be a great coach."
Obviously the Buccaneers will be experiencing a significant amount of change in the coming years, given that their previous leadership had been in place for as long as it had. But one veteran who has seen several switches at the top during his 14 marvelous seasons in Tampa thinks Morris is a good choice to shepherd the team through that period of change.
"In anything with change, you have questions, but I think the one thing that Coach Morris will bring to the table is energy, everybody being on the same page at the same time, from top to bottom," said 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks. "I think that's going to be key, because we have to deal with change. The more comfortable people are in their roles and knowing their roles, the better we can deal with this change and make the best of it."
Dominik arrived in Tampa as a pro personnel assistant 14 years ago, working under then-General Manager Rich McKay. Just three years later he was promoted to pro scout and in 2000 he was elevated to coordinator of pro personnel. He began in his current post in 2001 and was instrumental in fashioning the squad that captured the league title in 2002.
As the director of pro personnel, Dominik oversaw one half of the operation of player evaluation for the team under McKay and then Allen, with Dennis Hickey handling the college scouting half of the equation. In that capacity, Dominik has spent the better part of a decade intensively scouting, recruiting and signing active players. His attention to detail has led the Bucs to find scouting success in all corners of the football world, from the Canadian Football League to the Arena Football League.
Dominik, a University of Kansas grad, got his first NFL experience with the Chiefs, spending a year and a half working in both the college and pro scouting departments before the Bucs called in the summer of 2005.
Like Morris, Dominik is a fresh face in the NFL's upper echelon, still south of 40. And like Morris, he was seen as the perfect blend of expertise, energy and vision to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a new and successful era. That these perfect solutions were right within the walls of One Buccaneer Place was only a bonus.
As LB Cato June said: "It's good that we can hire from within a guy that's been a part of our program and knows how we do things, knows the expectations and understands winning and knows how to win and is going to get the guys motivated and hopefully turn this thing around as far as our organization."