There are no shortage of reasons over at One Buc Place for why the Bucs missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
There were injuries. There were suspensions. There was the most logical reason of all: The Bucs just weren't good enough.
Many want to pin the blame on the inconsistent play of Josh Freeman. That's fair. His future as Tampa Bay's starting quarterback is very much in question.
The future of coach Greg Schiano also remains uncertain. While there are signs the Bucs are getting better, we still don't know if he can hack it in the NFL.
But if there's one man who most needs the Bucs to get in gear, as well as their rears in the playoffs, it's general manager Mark Dominik.
Dominik took over as GM in January 2009, and the Bucs haven't made the playoffs in his four seasons. Granted, he took over a team that was in rough shape. He was forced to take on a coach (Raheem Morris) who was nowhere near ready to be a head coach. He hasn't always been given enough money by the Glazers to stock his roster with talent.
Still, no playoffs since he was in put in charge.
Give Dominik some credit. He has done a decent job with the draft. He picked Freeman, Gerald McCoy, Roy Miller, Mike Williams and Mason Foster, among others. His 2012 draft, which includes Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David, is off to a spectacular start.
Given some cash to play with, Dominik was able to make a splash in free agency by signing Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks.
Yet, the playoffs remain out of reach. This is a fact: The Bucs are 24-40 since Dominik has been GM. Scott Pioli was fired by Kansas City on Friday after the Chiefs went 23-41 during his tenure as GM.
Unless the Bucs completely fall apart next season and win only two or three games, Schiano's job is safe beyond next season. Freeman's play next season will determine if he returns after 2013.
However, you get the feeling that next season is more crucial for Dominik than anyone else.
It won't be his fault if key stars get hurt. It won't be his fault if defensive backs get caught popping Adderall. It won't be his fault if Freeman turns into Mark Sanchez.
But, who will be blamed if the Bucs miss the playoffs for a sixth straight season? Dominik's name likely will be first on the list.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, below, announced he will retire after the season, which could be today if his team loses to the Colts. He goes down as one of the best linebackers ever to play the game. Where does he rank on the all-time list? Here's one opinion of the top 10 linebackers ever:
1. Lawrence Taylor, Giants (1981-93). The 10-time All-Pro changed the way the position was played; on the field, one of the most influential players in modern-day football.
2. Jack Ham, Steelers (1971-82). Had 21 fumbles recovered and 32 interceptions, making him the all-time leader in takeaways for linebackers. Pittsburghers love Jack Lambert, but true Steeler fans know Ham was the best player on the greatest defense in NFL history.
3. Dick Butkus, Bears (1965-73). One of the most intimidating players in NFL history. Eight Pro Bowls in only nine seasons.
4. Ray Lewis, Ravens (1996-present). One of the NFL's most inspiring leaders, he was selected to 13 Pro Bowls and won two defensive player of the year awards.
5. Derrick Brooks, Bucs (1995-2008). An 11-time Pro Bowl player who had 25 interceptions and a flair for the big play with seven TDs.
6. Derrick Thomas, Chiefs (1989-99). A relentless pass rusher who recorded 126½ sacks, including a record seven in one game. His life was cut short at 32 after a car crash.
7. Joe Schmidt, Lions (1953-65). Known for both his toughness and intimidation, he was No. 65 on the NFL Network's list of the 100 greatest football players of all time.
8. Mike Singletary, Bears (1981-92). The leader of the great Bears defense of the 1980s, he was a 10-time Pro Bowl player and seven-time first-team All-Pro.
9. Jack Lambert, Steelers (1974-84). Perhaps the meanest and toughest player ever to put on the pads.
10. Chuck Bednarik, Eagles (1949-62). One of the most devastating tacklers in league history.
Not in the running
There are a slew of NFL coaching openings, and you really haven't heard the names of Jon Gruden, top left, or Bill Cowher as serious candidates for any of those jobs. We've heard speculation but nothing concrete and certainly nothing along the lines that they are interviewing with anyone.
Gruden might eventually leave the Monday Night Football booth, but I don't think it will be for any of the current NFL openings. Meantime, it's getting to the point that Cowher, on CBS's pregame show, may never leave broadcasting for a coaching job.
These days you can make millions in broadcasting and you don't have to put in 100-hour work weeks. Why put up with the aggravation, especially if you already own a Super Bow ring?
It's admirable that Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien said he was not a "one-and-done guy,'' that he was going to show the loyalty that his players have shown him by staying at Penn State instead of jumping to the NFL. I think it would have been even more admirable if he said all that before he reportedly interviewed for the Browns job.
Still, it's good for Penn State that he's staying. Losing that bright spot would have been devastating for a program that has some dark days ahead.
tom jones' two cents
The Americans pounded the Canadians 5-1 last week in the semifinals of the World Junior Hockey Championships. It will easily make my list of the top 10 sporting events of 2013 just because I get a kick out of seeing how upset Canadian people get when the United States beats Canada in hockey. Seriously, it just drives them nuts.
If I'm a hotshot college coach (Chip Kelly? below) I don't know that I'd leave for a dead-end NFL job such as Cleveland or Buffalo. I might hold out for something better, even if it takes another year or two. … Many of us, me included, like to point out that Bucs QB Josh Freeman has been in the league just four seasons. But half of this year's NFL playoff teams have either a rookie (Seattle's Russell Wilson, Washington's Robert Griffin III, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck) or second-year QB (Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, Minnesota's Christian Ponder). … I'm absolutely floored that Jim McVay makes $743,946 annually as executive director of the Outback Bowl, according to USA Today. You could buy something like 114,629 Bloomin' Onions with that kind of money.
Man, it didn't take long for Gator fans to turn on football coach Will Muschamp. Even if he wins 10 or 11 games every season, I get the feeling Gator fans are never going to truly embrace Muschamp.
He's not the Ol' Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier. He doesn't fling it around the yard. He preaches defense. He likes to grind the ball. He wins games 17-14 and the like. Florida folks like it when you light up the scoreboard, drop 50 or 60 on people, run it up and laugh while you're doing it.
That's not Muschamp.