Director of Pro Personnel Mark Dominik knows that additional roster needs will arise during training camp
When Mark Dominik first joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995, the team had just spent a first-round draft pick on linebacker Derrick Brooks. Dominik came aboard in June, just a month before Brooks, a newcomer on a roster built mostly in the late '80s and early '90s, would begin his rookie training camp.
Nine years later, the Buccaneers are preparing to enter their 29th training camp. Nearly 90 men will report to the camp site in Central Florida on Friday, but Brooks will be the only remaining player from the 1995 team that hired Dominik away from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nothing stays the same for long in the National Football League.
The Buccaneers went 7-9 in 1995, the franchise's 13th consecutive season and the last year for Head Coach Sam Wyche, so roster changes were obviously in order. But even successful teams must replenish and rejuvenate the roster from year to year – sometimes from month to month or week to week. The San Francisco 49ers were the defending Super Bowl champs going into 1995, and only defensive tackle Bryant Young remains from that dominant squad nine years later. Even Tampa Bay, just 18 months removed from its own Super Bowl title, is going to a camp with a roster 70% comprised of players who were not on the team when it won the big one in San Diego.
In other words, the job of a player personnel man in the NFL is never done. These days, it rarely even slows down.
Dominik, the Buccaneers director of pro personnel, knows that well. In his first year under new General Manager Bruce Allen, he has become part of a satisfying group effort in player personnel, aiding in a variety of tasks from player recruitment to contract negotiation. Still, his main concern, as the pro personnel man, is the tracking and evaluation of all players who have already entered the league...or any professional football league. A thorough knowledge of what players are available allows the team to react quickly when a need arises on the Bucs' roster. As an example, if Dominik held the same position with the Miami Dolphins, he would currently be determining all of the possible options to replace retiring running back Ricky Williams, and he wouldn't have time to start from scratch.
Dominik doesn't have that problem to worry about, but he does have dozens of other roster concerns on his plate as the Buccaneers prepare to enter their 29th training camp. He also has your questions to ponder.
As the most recent guest in the popular Your Turn interview series on Buccaneers.com, Dominik has been the target of fans' e-mails for the past two weeks. His opinion has been sought on matters ranging from Chris Simms' future to the team's offensive line strength.
So, just before camp takes over his life for another three weeks, Dominik sat down to answer some of those questions…20 of them, in fact. Below is a full written transcript of the first half of his Your Turn interview; you can also watch the video version of the interview using a link in the Buccaneers.com Video Archive or the home page in the Buccaneers Broadcast Network.
Later in the week, Dominik's answers to another 10 questions will be posted, in both video and text format.
Your Turn with Mark Dominik, Part I
1. Carl Jensen, Iowa City, Iowa: In your opinion, is it better to have fewer elite athletes and more depth or should a team go for the elite athletes at the expense of depth?
Dominik: "Carl, that's a great question. I think my initial thought on that is that I would like to have more depth, in terms of just having the elite athlete. The trick with that, with the salary cap, is that's where clubs really need to take advantage of their draft picks, especially their early draft picks. Because, at that point, you can get better quality, elite athletes for less of an expensive price than free agency would require you to pay for that same type of athlete. So you have to do well in the draft to try to get a combination of both, but ideally, because of the violence of this game, the nature of the game, depth is very important. So I would probably want more depth."
2. Ryan Platt, Jonesboro, Arkansas: What information technology does your department uses in tracking players - if any? Assuming that you use some form of computer package, was it developed in-house or do you use a pre-packaged product from a large company?
Dominik: "Ryan, we actually have an in-house programmer who has developed our system called the 'Pro Client.' He's also developed a system for our college department. He has basically been able to create depth charts, player searches, file all the reports that we have, so it's kind of a one-stop-shopping situation for us. So, we have one of the more smaller units, I would say, in terms of programmers, but it's very effective because it really does a good job of tying college and pro together."
3. Jimmy, Elkart, Indiana: You guys did a nice job of signing O-line help, but from a fan's perspective it just seemed like overkill when you could use some help at other positions. Please explain your thinking as you made the numerous O-line moves.
Dominik: "Jimmy, we felt like that was a weakness last year for us. We felt like Brad Johnson took a lot of pounding and we were really concerned about that. Certainly enough, now Matt O'Dwyer got hurt, and that's part of the reason why you sign so many guys. You try to really work on your depth at the position, and you can never tell what's going to happen. Again, we felt going into free agency that was the main problem we had on offense, in terms of protecting Brad and opening up running lanes for the running backs. Hopefully, we've done that with these guys we've added."
4. Steve Gordon, San Diego, California: Is it really necessary for teams to take 80 or 90 players to camp? It seems to me that a lot of those guys don't have much of a shot, since you have to get down to 50 or so for the season.
Dominik: "Steve, I like your question, and it is necessary. We all don't get to live in San Diego, so the weather here is a lot worse than it is in San Diego. It's a lot harder on our guys to get through practices. Therefore you need...not only do all these guys want their fair shot to make the football team, but you need the extra guys just to be able to make it through practice, especially two-a-days. All of our guys, we hope and that's why we signed them, have a shot to make the club. But the reality of it is, especially with four preseason games, in the third and fourth quarters, that's when you want to let these young guys get their shot. We need enough guys out there to be able to run an efficient offense and let those guys prove that they deserve a shot to be on the roster."
5. Marshall, Salt Lake City, Utah: I've always wondered what steps I would need to take to be able to join an NFL team's front office. What path did you take to get to where you are today?
Dominik: "Marshall, I went to the University of Kansas as an undergrad and I got my degree in sports management. To get that degree, you had to do an internship in a sports management program. I interviewed with the Kansas City Chiefs and got an opportunity within their scouting department to do an internship, and then got a permanent, part-time job with them for another full season before hiring on with them full-time. Then, in '95, a position opened up here in Tampa and I've been down here ever since. But I would say the most important two things you can do if you're a younger person is to get involved in your pro or your college's sports program, try to volunteer time in football offices, if it's mailing letters, if it's working in tickets or marketing. But if it's a front office job you're looking for, what you need to do is start building your resume when you're young. Hopefully, those things can help trigger you to get your next opportunity in case an internship opens up."
6. Adam, Aberdeen, North Carolina: What personal characteristics or skills does it take to do your job?
Dominik: "I feel like you have to have attention to detail, you've got to have good work ethic, and you have to really love whatever you do. Those are three of the most important things I think you need to have here. Scouting, or in terms of player personnel work, there's always work to be done, every day of the year. Now with NFL Europe, the Canadian Football League, Arena ball I, Arena ball II, not to mention your own NFL squad, there is no downtime. It's a tremendous amount of time that it takes to do the job, and I think that's part of it. You have to continue to keep your passion up and keep your spirits up, because it can wear you down and tire you out. That's why, during the season, you see people get so emotional, especially in the front office and especially coaches. You spend so much time working with people, and the wins are really what you do all the work for. It can be trying. But I guess the most important thing to me is really your work ethic."
7. Walter Bethay, Overland Park, Kansas: In your opinion, what position is the easiest to fill because there is so much talent at that spot in NFL?
Dominik: "I guess I would have to say, where the most depth and where you find more guys that are available is the wide receiver position. I would never take the wide receiver position for granted, and certainly there are guys who are...one of the best players if not the best player to ever play the game plays that position. But the talent level there is strongest, so I think that's probably an easier position to find guys at and be able to plug them in as starters, as compared to some other spots. Some people might think it's offensive line or the tight end position, but it's probably wide receiver."
8. Chuck, Palm Harbor, Florida: Do you think the Bucs are better than last year, and if so, why?
Dominik: "Chuck, I really believe we are better than last year, and I think part of the reason is, we have developed and increased our depth on this roster. We've improved, I think, on special teams dramatically. I'm excited about our draft picks. Michael Clayton jumping on board and getting his contract done is very good. I've seen our coaches out on the field with our players, and they have a great energy about them, players and coaching staff. That's the kind of stuff that goes into winning, and I think that's what's going to happen this year."
9. Chris, Tampa, Florida: Do you feel your role with the team has changed a great deal from the McKay era to the Allen era? And how much input do you have in regards to the signings of the players in free agency, then and now?
Dominik: "Chris, it's changed some. We no longer have a director of player personnel. Right now, we don't have an assistant general manager. So there were a couple of people above me that I reported to to get to the general manager and those aren't there. But really what's happened is, Bruce has kind of made it a community front office where Ruston Webster, myself, Doug Williams, Mike Martin...we're all getting involved and we're all doing different parts of things that we've never done before in terms of contract negotiations or how we recruit players. So it's kind of a group effort, but yeah I would say that my responsibilities have increased."
10. Kurt Dominik, Lee's Summit Missouri: What are the different points of emphasis between Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden when looking at free agents?
Dominik: "I would say that the different points of interest...I don't think there is a major one, honestly. I think a lot of people in the media or a lot of fans want to think there's a big difference between the way the two people look at players, but I would say that both of them want to start with their production and what they've done either in college especially or what they've done in the pros. I think we certainly look at them from a character standpoint and see what they're about, what they're made up of, what they've done and what they're going to do in the future. I would say that Jon really, truly believes in production, and he wants to believe in players. Even if they have traits, I think Jon likes to give guys a great benefit of the doubt, in terms of I think this guy can turn not just his career around, but maybe it's a guy who's been on the street who was an early draft pick who had to go to play Canadian football or play Arena football. Jon's very quick to let that guy have another shot and give guys second chances. And I'd say that's probably the biggest difference."