Mark Dominik, Greg Schiano and the NFL's Biggest Franchise Saviors of 2012
Since Schiano's arrival, the Bucs have morphed from an undisciplined team that fell apart under Raheem Morris' leadership a year ago into a tough-as-nails, never-say-die squad that has won three of its last four games.
Things didn't look good at the start of the season, as the Buccaneers lost three of their first four games, but Schiano's disciplined approach has made an extremely positive impact on this young team.
Besides hiring Schiano, Dominik has assembled a strong roster that is full of cornerstone players on both sides of the ball. Given another year or two, it's easy to envision the Bucs becoming a legitimate contender in the NFC.
Schiano and Dominik aren't the only ones turning NFL franchises around this season, though.
Let's take a look at some other influential men who have proven to be the biggest franchise saviors of 2012.
Dirk Koetter: Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
Matt Ryan has emerged as one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks this season.
Ryan's exemplary play in 2012 is a major reason the Atlanta Falcons are 8-0 after Week 9, but there's another man behind the scenes who deserves just as much credit for this team's early success.
Dirk Koetter was brought on last January to replace Mike Mularkey, who left to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has taken Ryan and the Falcons offense to heights that were previously thought to be reserved for teams like the New England Patriots or the Indianapolis Colts (before Manning got injured).
Koetter has turned an extremely predictable offense into one that has constantly kept opposing defenses off guard. He's utilizing Jacquizz Rodgers more than Mularkey did. The way he's using screens with all his receivers has made a major difference in the team's ability to keep the chains moving.
Ryan's best season as a professional came in 2011. He passed for 4,177 yards with 29 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He's currently on pace to pass for 4,720 yards with 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Koetter's influence is a major reason for Ryan's increased production, and it'll be interesting to see how this offense develops the rest of the way in 2012.
Andrew Luck: Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
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The Indianapolis Colts lost Peyton Manning last season and only managed to win two games all year long.
Owner Jim Irsay made a tough decision to let Manning go via free agency, pinning his franchise's hopes on rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Through eight games, the Colts have more than doubled their win total of a year ago. This team is in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt heading into the second half of the season.
Luck isn't playing like a rookie—especially at home.
At his current pace, he'll finish the season with 4,808 yards, 20 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and 10 wins. He has already led four game-winning drives, and if not for his exemplary play at the end of games, the Colts would have a record of 1-7.
Even more impressive is the fact that Luck doesn't have much help up front, and he's constantly scrambling away from pressure.
Given a better offensive line and a couple more skilled receivers, Luck's Colts will be just as deadly as Manning's ever were.
Jeff Fisher: Head Coach, St. Louis Rams
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
The St. Louis Rams won all of two games under Steve Spagnuolo last year.
Jeff Fisher has come in and made the Rams a tough out every week. His team has already surpassed last year's win total at the midseason mark.
At 3-5, the Rams aren't in the playoff picture, but they aren't far away from being a well-rounded team with a legitimate chance to challenge the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.
Sam Bradford doesn't have a single receiver on his roster that could remotely be considered to be a legitimate No. 1 guy, and his offensive line has given up 23 sacks this season (No. 27 in the NFL). Still, the Rams are finding ways to win against tough opponents (Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals).
Fisher has quickly transformed this franchise's losing culture (it's been since 2003 that the Rams had a winning season) into one that expects to win every single week.
It won't be long until that vision becomes reality.
Robert Griffin III: Quarterback, Washington Redskins
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Unlike Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, the wins haven't been there for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.
That said, the Redskins have hope of a brighter future in years to come.
It's not like you can pin the team's 3-5 record on the rookie quarterback, anyways.
The Redskins have the NFL's No. 30-ranked passing defense, and opposing teams are scoring almost four touchdowns per game. That's too much for any quarterback not named Rodgers or Brady to overcome—let alone a rookie.
RG3 is an excellent young leader. The Redskins have been hit by a terrible rash of injuries this season that would cripple any team, yet he's keeping his team in just about every game.
The future is bright for Griffin and the Redskins, and it won't be long before this team is challenging the New York Giants for the NFC East crown every single season.
Joe Philbin: Head Coach, Miami Dolphins
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The Miami Dolphins were supposed to be rebuilding in 2012, right?
With a rookie head coach, a rookie quarterback and a middle-of-the-road defense (No. 15 in 2011), the Dolphins weren't supposed to be challenging the New England Patriots for the AFC East title.
But at the midseason mark, the Dolphins are only one game behind the Patriots, and there's still much room for improvement.
Joe Philbin has turned his young team into a group of men that fights as one.
In the past six games, the Dolphins have either won or have suffered losses of three points (two of them in overtime). This team has a plus-21 points differential for the season.
The Dolphins have an excellent shot at making the playoffs if the offense can take better care of the football.