MOBILE, Ala. — Bucs general manager Mark Dominik has watched hours upon hours of film of his team in the weeks since the end of its fifth straight season without a playoff berth.
Through it all, he was reminded of things that give him hope, while some shortcomings were reinforced. It brought Dominik to a mixed conclusion as he begins preparing for 2013: In 2012, the Bucs were better, but hardly good enough.
As much as this offseason will be about improving existing players, it also will be devoted to further retooling the roster.
"When you don't have a winning season and don't get to the playoffs, there's something that still needs to get done and taken care of," said Dominik, in town for the Senior Bowl featuring some of the nation's top college prospects.
"And from a player personnel standpoint, that's a part of it. Absolutely."
Despite adding players like free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson last year, Dominik conceded the moves weren't a recipe for an overnight success.
"We knew it was a process," he said. "And (coach) Greg (Schiano) knew it was a process. When I look back at the season, I say there were a lot of strides made. But we do need to get to that next step."
All that was part of a wide-ranging, 30-minute conversation with Dominik. Here's a sampling:
QB COMPETITION: When it comes to adding competition behind quarterback Josh Freeman, a notion Schiano introduced after the season, Dominik suggested that was no more a priority than at other positions.
"At the end of the day, we want to increase the competition at every position," Dominik said. "Quarterback is certainly one of them."
As Dominik combed through film of Freeman, he felt encouraged. Freeman threw for 27 touchdowns but had nine of his 17 interceptions in his final three games.
"You remind yourself there's areas you're very excited about," Dominik said. "There are things he did this year that were as good as he's been: Throwing the deep ball, the accuracy and some of the big plays, I thought he used his feet better this year. Obviously his completion percentage (54.8) could be higher. I know Josh wants it higher and we'd like it to be higher. We'll work on that."
PASS DEFENSE: Regarding the costly struggles in pass defense, Dominik said the blame can't be placed on inferior personnel alone.
"I think we had a lot of players who were in position and didn't quite make the play," he said. "But I think there's a lot of room for improvement. It was also our defense's first year in this system. Although there were some really good highs, there were obviously some frustrations with some of the yards we gave up in the passing game. That can be solved in many different ways. Look, you have to have good players in this league."
WHAT'S NEXT: Though the Bucs finished 7-9, Dominik suggested he doesn't feel the team is very far from the postseason. Six losses came by seven points or fewer, most the result of fourth-quarter shortcomings.
"There were opportunities in the fourth quarter," he said. "We have to continue to bolster the competition on the roster and finish off games."
The Bucs did that in their finale against the Falcons, and that's something Dominik is holding onto.
"The offense had to go out and respond to a score and the defense had to go out and get a stop," he said. "They did both."
COACHES: The staff, which has undergone changes, will be complete when a defensive backs coach is hired. The team won't officially announce hires until the staff is complete, but not having assistant-coach hires carrying over into late February, like last year, has made a tremendous difference. Schiano wasn't hired until Jan. 26, 2012, then struggled to assemble a staff.
"This year has been a lot more football-focused," Dominik said. "Greg Schiano is out here at the Senior Bowl this year. Last year he wasn't hired at this point. There's a lot more evaluation not only about (current players) but with how we're going to going to fix the football team and get better. That's all encouraging."