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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Time to look at the front offices as we continue our series of NFC South position rankings. We've been through the offense, defense and special teams (we'll get to coaches soon), but it's time to rank those who put the rosters together.
We're going to put emphasis on the general managers, but we're also going to factor in the personnel and salary-cap guys.
1. Carolina. When Marty Hurney was promoted to general manager in 2002, he said his goal was to build a team that would contend for the playoffs each year. He's done exactly that, even though the Panthers haven't made the playoffs each year. Personnel guys Mark Koncz and Don Gregory are good at what they do and Rob Rogers is the best salary-cap guy you've never heard of. Hurney gets the nod because of success over a lengthy period of time. Bottom line: He's the glue that has held together a franchise that was on a roller coaster before he took power. (Side note: We imagine Hurney's face is turning red right about now and my phone should be ringing shortly. Much like coach John Fox, he likes to fly under the radar and prefers to be in the role of underdog.)
2. Atlanta. It was very tempting to go with general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Atlanta's front office over Hurney and Carolina. You can basically make a case that Dimitroff has yet to make a mistake. He got Matt Ryan and put Michael Vick behind the Falcons. But let's give him at least a second year on the job before we boost him to No. 1.
3. Tampa Bay. As we wait for Dimitroff to do it again, we're going to give a little slack to Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik and factor in his upside. He's a rookie at this job, but he's got pedigree. He's worked under Rich McKay, Jerry Angelo, Tim Ruskell and Bruce Allen. If he learned from each of their strengths and weaknesses, he could be a success. In his previous role as a personnel guy, Dominik was the driving force behind the signings of Antonio Bryant and Chris Hovan, who have revived their careers with the Bucs. He's also got Doug Williams to help him out on the personnel side. Oh, we're also giving Dominik points for having the courage to make moves like cutting Derrick Brooks and drafting Josh Freeman. Not sure that either of those moves were right, but they were gutsy.
4. New Orleans. It's hard to argue with the moves general manager Mickey Loomis has made this offseason. I really like what he's done with the defense and the way he got it done without having a lot of salary-cap room. On paper, he's probably had the best offseason of any general manager in the division. But Loomis' moves always look good in June and the Saints have underachieved the last two seasons. The jury still is very much out on last year's trade for Jeremy Shockey. There's potential for Loomis' ranking to improve and he could even vault to the top of the division if this year's moves work out. But let's see how they look in December.