Yardbarker Horiz

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Disrespected: Dominik Passed Over For Exec Of The Year

The biggest turnaround in team history.  The first team -- ever -- to win 10 games and start 10 rookies.  A Top 10 defense.  A Top 10 running game.  All this one season after going 3-13 as a rookie General Manager.  But you are *not* the Executive of the Year -- huh?

Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik has got to be asking himself, "What do you have to do to get some respect in this league?"

Well, I can answer that.  You need to start your career in the Northeast, preferably as close to ESPN or NBC headquarters as possible.  You need to be an assistant in a multiple-ring winning organization and "share" responsibilities with the Head Coach on personnel decisions.  Then you need to become GM of a franchise which (as of today) has not won a playoff game in 15 years.

Or, at least, these seem to be the things that mattered more, making Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli the NFL Executive of the Year for 2010.

Turning Around A Franchise Is . . . Not Important??

Among things which apparently do not matter:  Winning.  The Chiefs went 4-12 in 2009 and turned it around with a 10-6 campaign in 2010 (+6 in the win column, impressive).  A six game turnaround is a feat matches by only one other team in 2010: the Saint Louis Rams (1-15 to 7-9).

Yet there was one team which did better:  the Buccaneers, who went 3-13 in 2009 and also hit 10-6 in 2010 for a +7 in the win column.  Even more impressive.

But wait, that means Pioli has a 14-18 record, while Dominik has a 13-19 record, so winning really does matter, right?

Winning Against Playoff Teams While Rebuilding . . . Not Important??

In 2009, the Chiefs beat Washington (4-12), Oakland (5-11), Pittsburgh (9-7), and Denver (8-8).  Kansas City limped into the 2010 offseason winning 1 of their last 6 games.

That same season, the Buccaneers beat Seattle (5-11), Green Bay (11-5, playoffs), and the 2009 World Champion New Orleans Saints (13-3).   That's a combined "beaten opponents" win record for 2009 of 26-38 for Pioli, 29-19 for Dominik.  Tampa Bay went into the offseason posting two of their 3 wins in 2009 in their last 6 games (the final two games of the season).

Add in the fact of Dominik being in the NFC South, one of the strongest divisions in the NFL, while  Pioli is in the AFC West, one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, and which 10-win season is more impressive?

In 2010, the Chiefs beat one team with a winning record.  That was the Chargers (9-7 in 2010) in Week #1, 21-14.  Fourteen weeks later, the Chiefs lost at the Chargers 31-0 (Week #14).

In 2010, the Buccaneers also beat only one team with a winning record during the regular season:  the Defending World Champion Saints (11-5 in 2010; Dominik has yet to lose at the SuperDome) 23-13 in Week 17, on the road, avenging a 31-6 loss in Week #6.  Tampa Bay went into the offseason posting two of their 3 wins in 2009 in their last 6 games (the final two games of the season).

Perhaps somebody would argue winning is only about coaching?  Let's make a bad assumption and go with that theory -- even though it has been proven time and again talent plus coaching is what wins in the NFL.  So, for now, let's put the winning aside and look at talent.

A GM Should Be Able To Assemble A Solid Coaching Staff

Pioli has had one head coach, Todd Haley.  Pioli has also hired three offensive coordinators (and the position is currently vacant again) and two defensive coordinators.  After the 4-12 record of 2009, Pioli hired a former head coach in Romeo Crenell for defensive coordinator and a former Notre Dame head coach in Charlie Weis for offensive coordinator (Haley was offensive coordinator in 2009).  These additions played some part in generating the turnaround year of 2010, but are now in flux again.

Dominik has had one head coach as well, Raheem Morris.  Dominik has had two offensive coordinators (the first fired before the 2009 season even started) and two defensive coordinators (Morris took over as defensive coordinator midway through the 2009 season).  These changes carried over to create the turnaround year of 2010 and appear to be staying in place.

A GM Should Be Able To Recognize Talent -- Wherever It Can Be Found

Pioli signed Matt Cassel in 2009 from New England to build his team around.  Matt Cassel finished 2010 with a passer rating of 93.0, 27 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions.  Pioli went with a player he knew from his time in New England.

Dominik drafted Josh Freeman with his very first pick in the NFL Draft as GM.  Freeman finished 2010 with a passer rating of 95.9, 25 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions.  Dominik rolled the dice with a young man whom his rookie Head Coach had known from previous work.

Pioli has made 15 draft choices, of which 12 are still on his roster.

Dominik has made 13 draft choices, of which 11 are still on his roster.  One player of interest here is DE Alex Magee, Pioli's 2nd ever draft choice (3rd Round 2009) whom Dominik traded for in 2010.  In addition to Magee, Dominik snared an additional 6th round pick from Kansas City in the 2011 NFL Draft (KC also received a draft choice in the trade, but it's value is undisclosed).  Magee saw limited time this season as he transitioned from the Kansas City 3-4 to the Tampa Bay 4-3 defensive system so the value of this swap is hard to grade at this time.

Finally, how does the Eye for Talent of these men compare when picking from the same talent pool?  Through the time at training camp, teams trim their rosters from 80 players to 53, producing a hugh pool of available talent which creates a feeding frenzy just before the season begins.  How did these men handle the flood this season?

After training camp roster cuts in 2010, Pioli assembled the following practice squad:
  • Ricky Price, promoted to regular roster, appeared in 7 games
  • Tyler Palko, promoted to regular roster, appeared in 2 games
  • Quinten Lawrence (2009 Draft Pick), promoted to regular roster, no stats
  • Verran Tucker, promoted to regular roster, no stats
  • Robert Greenwood, on practice squad for the season, now on a Chiefs futures contract
  • Pierre Walters, on practice squad for the season, now on a Chiefs futures contract
  • Darryl Harris, on practice squad for the season, now on a Chiefs futures contract
  • Dion Gales, cut during the 2010 season

Pioli also signed the following waived players:

  • Anthony Toribio, who appeared in 5 games

That's a total of 5 Regular Roster players generating 14 game appearances (no starts) and three futures contracts for additional development for Pioli's 10-win team.  Not bad at all.

After training camp roster cuts in 2010, Dominik assembled the following practice squad:

  • Ryan Purvis, promoted to regular roster, appeared in 10 games with 2 starts
  • Derek Hardman, promoted to regular roster, appeared in 9 games with 1 start
  • Will Barker, promoted to regular roster, appeared in 3 games
  • Dezmon Briscoe, promoted to regular roster, appeared in 2 games
  • George Johnson, promoted to regular roster, no stats
  • Vince Anderson, on practice squad for the season, now on a Buccaneers futures contract
  • Brent Bowden (2010 Draft Pick), cut during the 2010 season
  • Lee Robinson, cut during the 2010 season

Dominik also signed the following waived players:
  • Kregg Lumpkin, who appeared in 11 games
  • Ted Larsen, who appeared in 12 games with 11 starts
  • LeGarrette Blount, who appeared in 13 games with 7 starts, running for 1,000 yards in 2010
That's a total of 8 Regular Roster players generating 60 game appearances (with 32 starts) and one futures contract for additional development for Dominik's 10-win team.  Incredible.

This has to be the most frustrating part of the equation for Dominik.  You would be hard pressed to find numbers like these for any GM in the past 15 years (a 1,000 yard rusher off the undrafted waiver wire?  Are you kidding?).

It seems the differences between these General Managers is obvious:  Dominik will roll the dice based on his experience; Pioli plays it close to the chest and conservatively.

Of course, Dominik has been in Tampa for more than a decade.  He understands how the Northeast drives the league, and Pioli was tapped into the mainstream Northeast media for years before heading to the middle of the country.

I understand the familiarity.  I just don't understand the blindness.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Buccanners Still A Team Very Much In Flux

The 2010 Season will be remembered for all the young players which stepped up and helped Tampa Bay attain it's first 10-win season since 2005.  Unfortunately, 2010 was also the first season the Buccaneers won 10 or more games but did not get into the NFC playoffs.

Winning 10 games does not necessarily mean the roster is stable, however great the success may feel.  In fact, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, much less may be settled going into the offseason than is actually settled by the influx of young talent.

The table below shows the opening day and final day starting lineups for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  These are the men selected by their coaches as the players most likely at each position to get the team started quickly on game day.  Tampa Bay uses a heavy rotation of players, so this is not an indicator of playing time necessarily.  But it is still a barometer of what the coaches believe as far as who has the right experience/talent combination for playing time on Sundays.

Players who started both the first and last games of the 2010 season are highlighted in pewter:

Opening Day (CLE) Season Ender (@NO)

QB Josh Freeman Josh Freeman
WR Mike Williams Mike Williams
WR Sammie Stroughter Maurice Stovall
TE Kellen Winslow Kellen Winslow
FB Earnest Graham
John Gilmore
LT Donald Penn Donald Penn
LG Keydrick Vincent *** Ted Larsen
C Jeff Faine * Jeremy Zuttah
RG Davin Joseph * Derek Hardman
RT Jeremy Trueblood James Lee
RB Carnell Williams LeGarrette Blount

LE Kyle Moore * Tim Crowder
DT Gerald McCoy * Frank Okam
DT Roy Miller Roy Miller
RE Ryan Sims *** Micheal Bennett
SLB Quincy Black * Adam Hayward
MLB Barrett Ruud Barrett Ruud
WLB Geno Hayes Geno Hayes
LCB EJ Biggers EJ Biggers
RCB Ronde Barber Ronde Barber
SS Sean Jones Sean Jones
FS Tanard Jackson ** Cory Lynch

* Finished the Season on Injured Reserve
** Suspended by the NFL
*** No longer with the team

Only 10 players started on the opening day roster and started the final game of the season (Graham and Gilmore probably bump the count to 11 as they are situational and both were healthy for both games).  The fallout is that half the starting lineup changed over the course of the season, with six of those changes due to injury (includes Vincent, who was cut as opposed to heading for IR) and only one player cut when healthy (Ryan Sims, a point-in-time moment for the current incarnation of the Buccaneers franchise).  Also note that EJ Biggers started the first game because Aqib Talib was suspended (Talib finished the season on IR as well).

Those 11 spots which went through a change during the season:  does the incumbent earn it back during the offseason?  Does the replacement keep the spot?

Each unhighlighted position is a storyline this offseason.  Those storylines will start to evolve once the rest of the NFL finishes their season, but we won't have our final answer until the next game.

Such a long time to wait!

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Offseason Roster Swells To 75 Players

The Buccaneers wasted no time signing the eight men on their end-of-season practice squad and have rapidly closed in on the 80-man offseason roster limit.

The end-of-season roster contained 67 players.  The Buccaneers have since added the 8 men who finished the season on the practice squad:

S Vince Anderson
G Marc Dile
LB JD Folsom
WR Ed Gant
LB Simoni Lawrence
C/G John Malecki
FB Rendrick Taylor
DE EJ Wilson

Vince Anderson started the season on the practice squad as part of the "second draft" put together by GM Mark Dominik after post-training camp roster cuts.  Anderson was activated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on November 30th when S Cody Grimm was placed on IR.  On December 21st, the Buccaneers cut Anderson from the roster and signed him back to the practice squad two days later on December 23rd.

Marc Dile is a familiar face on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad.  He spent the entire 2009 season on the Buccaneers practice squad as well as the entire offseason on the 80-man roster leading up to the 2010 season, but was cut during the post training camp roster reductions.  Dile then returned to the practice squad on December 16th.  Dile played college football at South Florida.

The other faces are not as familiar:

  • Folsom was on the squad from late September until mid October, then returned mid-December.  He is a 6'3", 228 lb linebacker from Weber State.  He was a 7th round selection by the Miami Dolphins in 2009.
  • Gant joined the practice squad in late November.  He spent 2009 on the Cardinals practice squad but was suspended for the first four games of 2010 for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.  He is a 6'3", 200 lb wide receiver out of North Alabama and played high school ball at Cape Coral High School.  A scouting report from his North Alabama pro day states "This is the kind of player who shows so much athleticism he can be switched to defensive back if it doesn’t work out at wide receiver".  He was undrafted in 2009.
  • Lawrence is a 6'1", 232 lb linebacker from the University of Minnesota.  TBO.com projected him as a 4th round selection, but he went undrafted in 2010.  He was picked up by the Eagles and cut, landed with the Bears and reached their 53-man roster before being cut and picked up by the Buccaneers.  His combine workout is available to watch on NFL.com.    He has some experience as Safety from college.
  • Malecki is a 6'2", 300 lb offensive linemen from the University of Pittsburgh.  An undrafted in 2010, he was picked up but later cut by the Tennessee Titans.  Tampa Bay signed him to their practice squad on October 26th, but later cut him on November 17th.  The Cleveland Browns picked him up for a couple weeks, then released him, and Tampa Bay brought him back to the practice squad on December 1st.
  • Taylor was signed by the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent just after the 2010 NFL Draft.  He did not make the post-camp roster cuts but did rejoin Tampa Bay on December 8th, 2010.  He is a 6'2", 265 lb fullback out of Clemson University.
  • Wilson is a 6'4", 286 lb defensive end from the University of North Carolina.  Wilson was originally drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 4th round.  This smells exactly like the type of player GM Mark Dominik finds from time to time -- a solid draft talent which did not fit in where he went originally, but had captured the Buccaneers attention and so merits a solid look on the practice squad.  This is the second time in two years the Buccaneers have snatched a drafted defensive end from the Seattle Seahawks (Micheal Bennett, 6th rounder, 2009).

This brings the offseason head count to 75 players.  Tampa Bay has a full set of draft picks in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft, which would add seven more players, bringing the total headcount to 82 players.  Currently suspended Tanard Jackson does not count against the head count, so there seems to be a one man surplus at this time.

Considering the impact of practice squad players in 2010, these players may be noisemakers heading into  training camp next season.  The common theme seems to be athletes who could play safety.  Is Tampa Bay looking for a particular physical size for safeties going forward?

With the performance of free agents the past two year, the roster is getting tougher to crack.  These men face a rough challenge, but it is a challenge others have overcome in Tampa Bay.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Buccaneers Final Roster: 2010

Here is how the roster finished the 2010 NFL Season, with the season ending 53-man roster first, then the Injured Reserve:

The Final 53-Man Roster

22 Asante, Larry DB ACT 6'0" 210 03/07/88 0 Nebraska
20 Barber, Ronde CB ACT 5'10" 184 04/07/75 14 Virginia
61 Barker, Will T ACT 6'7" 320 07/03/87 0 Virginia
10 Barth, Connor K ACT 5'11" 193 04/11/86 3 North Carolina
71 Bennett, Michael DE ACT 6'4" 274 11/13/85 2 Texas A&M
31 Biggers, E.J. CB ACT 6'0" 180 06/13/87 2 Western Michigan
27 Blount, LeGarrette RB ACT 6'0" 247 12/05/86 0 Oregon
89 Briscoe, Dezmon WR ACT 6'2" 207 08/31/89 0 Kansas
12 Carpenter, Rudy QB ACT 6'2" 212 04/15/86 2 Arizona State
60 Carter, Brandon OG ACT 6'6" 319 09/10/86 0 Texas Tech
96 Crowder, Tim DE ACT 6'4" 260 06/30/85 4 Texas
48 Economos, Andrew LS ACT 6'1" 250 06/24/82 5 Georgia Tech
5 Freeman, Josh QB ACT 6'6" 248 01/13/88 2 Kansas State
88 Gilmore, John TE ACT 6'5" 257 09/21/79 9 Penn State
34 Graham, Earnest FB ACT 5'9" 225 01/15/80 7 Florida
73 Hardman, Derek G ACT 6'6" 300 09/13/86 0 Eastern Kentucky
21 Harris, Dominique DB ACT 6'2" 213 04/14/87 0 Temple
54 Hayes, Geno OLB ACT 6'1" 226 08/10/87 3 Florida State
57 Hayward, Adam OLB ACT 6'1" 240 06/23/84 4 Portland State
29 Johnson, DJ CB ACT 6'1" 191 11/07/85 2 Jackson State
67 Johnson, George DE ACT 6'4" 265 12/11/87 0 Rutgers
11 Johnson, Josh QB ACT 6'3" 205 05/15/86 3 San Diego
26 Jones, Sean SS ACT 6'1" 220 03/02/82 7 Georgia
53 Koutouvides, Niko LB ACT 6'2" 238 03/25/81 7 Purdue
62 Larsen, Ted G ACT 6'2" 305 06/13/87 0 North Carolina State
77 Lee, James T ACT 6'4" 305 08/17/85 3 South Carolina State
23 Lewis, Myron DB ACT 6'2" 203 11/24/87 0 Vanderbilt
44 Lorig, Erik FB ACT 6'4" 275 11/17/86 0 Stanford
28 Lumpkin, Kregg RB ACT 5'11" 228 05/15/84 2 Georgia
41 Lynch, Corey FS ACT 6'0" 206 05/07/85 3 Appalachian State
33 Mack, Elbert DB ACT 5'10" 175 07/14/86 3 Troy
97 Magee, Alex DE ACT 6'3" 298 04/28/87 2 Purdue
1 Malone, Robert P ACT 6'1" 215 02/04/88 0 Fresno State
50 McKenzie, Tyrone LB ACT 6'2" 245 12/11/85 2 South Florida
90 Miller, Roy DT ACT 6'2" 310 07/09/87 2 Texas
78 Okam, Frank DT ACT 6'5" 350 10/16/85 3 Texas
84 Overbay, Nathan TE ACT 6'5" 270 01/04/87 0 Eastern Washington
87 Parker, Preston WR ACT 6'0" 200 02/13/87 0 North Alabama
70 Penn, Donald T ACT 6'5" 305 04/27/83 5 Utah State
80 Purvis, Ryan TE ACT 6'4" 260 05/08/86 1 Boston College
51 Ruud, Barrett MLB ACT 6'2" 241 05/20/83 6 Nebraska
81 Spurlock, Micheal WR ACT 5'11" 200 01/31/83 3 Mississippi
85 Stovall, Maurice WR ACT 6'5" 220 02/21/85 5 Notre Dame
18 Stroughter, Sammie WR ACT 5'10" 189 01/03/86 2 Oregon State
65 Trueblood, Jeremy T ACT 6'8" 320 05/10/83 5 Boston College
56 Watson, Dekoda OLB ACT 6'1" 240 03/03/88 0 Florida State
91 White, Stylez G. DE ACT 6'3" 270 07/25/79 4 Minnesota
24 Williams, Cadillac RB ACT 5'11" 217 04/21/82 6 Auburn
19 Williams, Mike WR ACT 6'1" 212 05/18/87 0 Syracuse
82 Winslow, Kellen TE ACT 6'4" 240 07/21/83 7 Miami (Fla.)
95 Woods, Al DT ACT 6'4" 309 03/25/87 0 LSU
79 Worthington, Doug DE ACT 6'5" 292 08/10/87 0 Ohio State
76 Zuttah, Jeremy C ACT 6'4" 308 06/01/86 3 Rutgers

The Final Injured Reserve List

50 Alston, Jon LB RES 6'0" 235 06/04/83 5 Stanford
17 Benn, Arrelious WR RES 6'1" 220 09/08/88 0 Illinois
58 Black, Quincy OLB RES 6'2" 240 02/28/84 4 New Mexico
69 Dotson, Demar T RES 6'9" 315 10/11/85 2 Southern Mississippi
52 Faine, Jeff C RES 6'3" 291 04/06/81 8 Notre Dame
72 Gilbeaux, Brandon DE RES 6'3" 270 06/09/87 0 Delaware
35 Grimm, Cody FS RES 6'1" 203 02/26/87 0 Virginia Tech
32 Huggins, Kareem RB RES 5'9" 198 05/24/86 1 Hofstra
75 Joseph, Davin G RES 6'3" 313 11/22/83 5 Oklahoma
93 McCoy, Gerald DT RES 6'4" 295 02/25/88 0 Oklahoma
94 Moore, Kyle DE RES 6'5" 272 10/25/86 2 USC
92 Price, Brian DT RES 6'1" 303 04/10/89 0 UCLA
25 Talib, Aqib CB RES 6'1" 205 02/13/86 3 Kansas
36 Jackson, Tanard FS SUS 6'0" 200 07/21/85 4 Syracuse

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished the 2010 NFL Season with a 10-6 record but did not qualify for the playoffs.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Buccaneers Finish With Top 10 Defense

On defense there is only one statistic which matters:  How few points did your opponents score?  By that measure, Tampa Bay finished 9th in the NFL, giving up an average of 19.9 points per game.

How important is Defensive Points Allowed?   The eight teams who finished with a lower average are all in the playoffs.  The other four playoff teams are ranked #11 (Kansas City), #21 (Philadelphia), #23 (Indianapolis), and #25 (Seattle).

Obviously, it's a significant indicator of success and a big reason the Buccaneers finished 2010 with a 10-6 record.

It's another indicator of how far the team has progressed since going 3-13 last year.  In 2009, Tampa Bay surrendered an average of 25 points per game, which was 27th in the NFL.  It's the lowest points-per-game average since 2007 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 3rd stingiest in the NFL giving up a measly average of just 16.9 points.

Combine this accomplishment with the Top 10 Rushing attack and the formula put forth by Head Coach Raheem Morris and General Manager Mark Dominik before the 2009 season is proven out: be a physical running team and a stingy defense and you will have success.

In the Buccaneers case, it appears it will be a lasting success!