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Archive for Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bucs GM returns to roots

September 22, 2009

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A preponderance of provincial pride prevailed Friday when Mark Dominik paraded under the city spotlight.

As perhaps the youngest person to address the annual Lawrence Schools Foundation function, the 37-year-old Dominik clearly impressed the throng with his wit, presence and humility.

After his speech, I think it’s safe to say not a single attendee was surprised that this 1989 Lawrence High graduate had been named general manager of the Tampa Bay Bucs despite his relatively tender age.

Dominik’s story about the unnamed player who refused to sign a 401(k) form because he didn’t think he could run even a 5K was hilarious.

At the same time, Dominik was very sincere about how a handful of LHS teachers had inspired and counseled him during his three years at what was then the city’s only high school.

I chuckled when Dominik mentioned how he had spent a week in Western Kansas studying hawks on a trip cooked up by LHS biology teacher Stan Roth.

I should probably mention here parenthetically that if Dominik had asked if anyone in the crowd had been on one of Roth’s many animal-vegetable-mineral excursions, he might have been surprised by the show of hands.

Anyway, Dominik stated, sounding a bit disgusted, how Roth had made him keep a journal of all that hawk-watching, a remark that elicited low-key laughter. But then Dominik changed his tone and revealed he has been keeping a journal ever since.

Obviously, Dominik didn’t ascend to such a prestigious post simply because he has kept a journal over the years. Work ethic played a role, and so did business smarts.

Since Dominik took over the NFL team in January, he has made several unpopular moves. He released popular veterans Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn and Jeff Garcia. Then he approved the hiring of offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski only to fire him later, a $1 million mistake.

But the most controversial decision under Dominik’s eight-month watch has been drafting Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman with the club’s first-round draft pick.

During his talk to the packed house at the Holidome, Dominik confessed he is betting all of his chips on Freeman, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound physical specimen who Dominik believes will become a franchise quarterback some day.

There are those — me included — who think Freeman lacks too many fundamentals and intangibles to appear in the same paragraph with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger etc. At K-State, for example, Freeman threw 34 interceptions in 35 games.

And, in the preseason, Freeman completed only 44.8 percent of his passes with one touchdown and three thefts.

Freeman obviously isn’t as ready for prime time as Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford, the other two college QBs taken in the first round. If he was, the Bucs wouldn’t have used journeyman Byron Leftwich under center in their first two games, both losses.

It’s no secret the Bucs are in a rebuilding process, which means, of course, that Dominik is still on a honeymoon, and will be for a while. But by the time he’s 40, Dominik surely will know if he hitched his wagon to the right horse.

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