Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times
Published June 25, 2017

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

No respect

The rest of the country still doesn't think much of the Bucs.

One list has Bucs fans ranked 25th out of the NFL's 32 teams. Coach Dirk Koetter is ranked 22nd among coaches by Quarterback Jameis Winston is ranked 22nd among MVP candidates by a Las Vegas sports book. And its mascot, Captain Fear, is ranked last by … well, okay, that one is my own official ranking.

As far as the others, however, fans are upset . They should be asked one question:

Why are you mad?

The organization doesn't get much national respect because it hasn't done much over the past eight seasons to earn any. Since 2008 the Bucs have had way more head coaches (five) than winning seasons (two) and have zero postseason appearances. So why would you think the rest of the country would have good things to say about them?

The rest of the country looks at Tampa Bay the way we look at the Bills, Browns and Rams.

Do I think Bucs fans deserve to be ranked 25th? No, they should be higher.

Do I think Koetter should be ranked 22nd? No. I still can't believe that coaches such as Jay Gruden and Adam Gase are ranked higher.

Do I think 21 players have a better chance of winning the MVP than Winston? No, I would have him higher than that.

But I get why the rest of the country is treating the Bucs with little respect.

The Bucs' future — long and short term — is so much brighter that those outside Tampa Bay realize. But until the Bucs get results, they won't get respect.

Now, about that mascot …

Who got next?

Kevin Knox is only a couple of months removed from playing basketball for Tampa Catholic and it's already time to think about his NBA future. The 2017 draft wasn't even over Thursday night and Knox was showing up on 2018 mock drafts. The website Bleacher Report has the 6-foot-8 forward going ninth to Portland. The site has him going 14th to Miami; has him going 12th to Denver.

But first things first. He has to play a season at Kentucky. Which is ridiculous. It's time for the NBA to change its rules again and allow kids to go straight into the league from high school.

Maybe the NBA can come up with a true minor-league system, similar to baseball and hockey. If it wants to rule that any player who goes to college must stay for two years, that's fine. But denying kids who are ready to play right out of high school doesn't seem right.

My favorite Martin

You have to feel for FSU baseball coach Mike Martin.

The guy is 73 years old and is 31 victories away from being college baseball's coach with the most career wins. But last week he took his 16th team to the College Worlds Series, and for the 16th time, he comes home without a title.

Look, it's extremely hard to win a College World Series, and just getting to 16 is remarkable. You would think he would have lucked into just one title along the way.

By all accounts, Martin is a good man. He does things the right way and produces quality players and quality people.

Not winning a title shouldn't diminish his accomplishments. Then again, it's hard to call him the greatest college coach ever if he can't win even one national championship.

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A bolt of Lightning

The Lightning survived the NHL expansion draft without losing young defensemen Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek while ridding itself of the fat contract of Jason Garrison. That's about the best-case scenario. Every year, I'm more convinced the Lightning made the right call hiring Steve Yzerman as general manger.

Stats of the week

82: Starts pitcher Max Scherzer has had with the Nationals

11: Times Scherzer has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He has thrown two no-hitters.

Three things that popped into my head

1. You might have seen in the past week that Tony DiCicco, who coached the United States women's soccer team to pioneering victories in the 1996 Olympics and the 1999 World Cup, died at the age of 68. That World Cup title (won on Brandi Chastain's penalty kick in the championship game) might be the greatest moment in the history of U.S. women's sports, as well as the biggest goal in U.S. soccer history, men or women.

2. Hang on. Our long national nightmare is almost over. Lonzo Ball is almost ready to start his NBA career, which means we don't have to listen to his dad, LaVar, anymore. Well, about that son, anyway.

3. The Oilers' Connor McDavid was deserving of the NHL's MVP award, but let's be real. The Penguins' Sidney Crosby remains the best hockey player on the planet. Just like the Thunder's Russell Westbrook was deserving of the NBA's MVP award though we all know there is no better basketball player in the world than the Cavs' LeBron James.