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Bucs take time in filling general manager role

Is it really that hard to replace Mark Dominik? Gary Shelton asks.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Is it really that hard to replace Mark Dominik? Gary Shelton asks.

It took the Bucs about two minutes to decide on their next head coach.

From the looks of it, it's going to take about two decades to decide on the next general manager.

Just asking here, but is it really that hard to replace Mark Dominik? After all, this is the general manager's time of year, isn't it? This is when the scouting reports get organized, and a lost franchise gets found. This is the time of year when a general manager makes sure the next bunch of draft choices are better than the previous bunch of draft choices.

For goodness' sake, the Bucs' front office is on the clock.

Shouldn't someone manage, generally speaking?

The speed bump here, of course, is that the new general manager of the Bucs won't have the power of the old general manager of the Bucs. Lovie Smith, the new coach, has control of the 53-man roster.

To some, that seems to be a sticking point. It could be a large part of why the Bucs didn't end up with Chris Ballard, the Kansas City personnel director who appeared to be the team's first choice. The thinking is that without the control of the roster, a general manager might as well be a personnel director.

And so, the Lovie Smith regime reaches its first hiccup.

Look, I'm on record as liking the Smith hire. I still do. I think he was the most proven fish in the pond. I think the questions about him are smaller than the questions about any other hire in the NFL.

But, yeah, a coach in control of a roster — especially a coach who doesn't have a history in personnel — is a reason to raise an eyebrow.

In the NFL, most teams seem to prefer the structure of a strong general manager who guards tomorrow and a coach who takes care of today. Of course, the Bucs have tried that approach, and the result was that the whole darn week went to the blazes.

Oh, you can't blame a coach for wanting control. It's like Bill Parcells used to say: If I'm going to make the dinner, I should be able to shop for the groceries. Of course, Parcells said that before he stopped coaching and became a professional shopper.

You wonder: How many potential general manager candidates declined the Bucs' job out of hand? How many thought about it, then decided to wait for a job that included the muscle that usually goes with the position? Or, as in the case of Ballard, how many people were denied permission to talk to the Bucs because the job is viewed as a lateral move?

This isn't a matter of not trusting Smith. It's a matter of reducing the pool of the best candidates. Hey, I'm sure that Smith and whoever the new general manager is will get along most of the time.

Still, when you look at the history of the Bucs, one of the fatal flaws is that every coach had more power than he had ever had in this league. A great many of them couldn't handle it.

Don't fool yourself. Even if the structure were different, the Bucs weren't going to end up with a superstar general manager. Frankly, there aren't a lot of them out there anymore. This isn't George Young's game anymore, or Bobby Beathard's, or Bill Polian's. Most of the king-makers are gone, and often, they have been replaced by owners (Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder) who have their fingerprints all over personnel.

These days, the general managers of the league are largely faceless, disposable grinders who work behind the scenes. They are Doug Whaley (Bills) and Ryan Grigson (Colts) and John Dorsey (Chiefs) and the rest of them. Yes, John Elway (Broncos) and Ozzie Newsome (Ravens) were great players themselves, but most of them have come up hard, spending decades as scouts, working their way up to the personnel department.

Nor is this like coaching. No one seems to recycle general managers. They seem to get one shot. It's why Scott Pioli hasn't resurfaced. It's why those initial reports of Rich McKay coming home were so off base.

Personally, I would love to see Tim Ruskell, the old Seahawks general manager, or Jerry Angelo get another shot. But consider this: Of the 32 teams in the NFL, there is only one general manager who has held the same position for another team. And hello there, Bruce Allen.

So, yeah, Lionel Vital (reports say he was interviewing for the second time Tuesday) may work out. Or, maybe, Lake Dawson. Or Marc Ross.

For the Bucs, it is time to make a decision. Even in this structure, the general manager is an important position. Otherwise, why would so many teams have them?

As for Lovie, well, he gets to make the dinner he wants.

Anything but leftovers will be fine.

Little movement on a new GM

The Bucs have yet to choose a new general manager since firing Mark Dominik on Dec. 30 after five years on the job.

According to several media reports, Lionel Vital, the Falcons' director of player personnel, was set to return for a second interview, possibly on Tuesday. Monday, Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff told the Times that Vital would be an excellent hire: "… I really believe Lionel is a great candidate for that job.''

Vital was promoted to his position last season when David Caldwell took the general manager position in Jacksonville. Vital has spent 23 years in scouting and player personnel roles across the NFL, according to the Falcons' official website.

It's also believed that the Bucs will conduct a second interview with Titans vice president of football operations Lake Dawson, who is considered a candidate for the Dolphins GM job as well. Dawson is in his second year as the Titans' VP and seventh with the organization.

Other reported candidates for Tampa Bay's job include Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross and Eagles vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble.

Times staff

Bucs take time in filling general manager role 01/14/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 9:53pm]

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