Dan's post got me to thinking. I can remember making 16x20 work prints (straight prints very close to the final exposure and contrast levels) from 4x5 negs and often being a bit disappointed in the images. But I would persist and by the end of 6 to 10 hours, end up with a print I loved (if I was lucky). It just took time, a lot of work and a lot of thought to bring the image I remember experiencing onto the paper. So in that sense, Dan is right -- it might be "just" a matter of more work and knowledge of the material and methods to bring out the best from your negatives.
That said, I now contact print (8x10) with very little, usually none, dodging, burning or cropping. My interest is in seeing as intensely as possible to find and capture on film the light I see and experience...paying close attention to the edges of the image as they define what is happening in the center, composing the existing light to create a sense of dynamic balance -- that sort of thing. So I guess what I am trying to say is that one "area" that one can always work on is the image itself -- both the image one sees and the one that gets captured on to the film.
It must be getting late -- I don't know if I am making much sense. So instead of going on, and being too full of myself to delete what I have written, I will stop here.
And as I always say...have fun!