Welcome to my new weekly column that hooks you into a different Tampa Bay Buccaneers topic each Thursday, as well as some of my thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL at the end in a section called Cannon Blast.
I invite you to offer me some feedback on The Hook to help me mold it into something you want to come back to read each Thursday.
The popular late comedian Rodney Dangerfield used the phrase “I don’t get no respect,” to help build a brand and a legacy in the comedy field of stand-up, television and cinema. His catch-phrase is still used today despite his death in 2014. With all due respect to Dangerfield, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers probably have an even bigger claim to the phrase, but in the case of the organization, it really isn’t a laughing matter.
You reap what you sow.
Through mind-boggling personnel decisions over the decades, coupled with terrible management at times, and starting off with an 0-26 record, the Buccaneers have brought on much of the “no respect” attitude through their own actions.
But let’s be honest, the NFL has rarely done them any favors throughout the years. And it isn’t just the NFL – the national media hasn’t been a kind friend to Tampa Bay either.
First, let’s look at the lack of respect the Bucs have received from the NFL. This past year’s schedule was an abomination. Tampa Bay opened the season with two of three games at Raymond James Stadium before going on a ridiculous stretch of games on the road that lasted 49 days and included five games away from home with road trips that took them from Tampa to Los Angeles, to New Orleans, to London, to Tennessee, to Seattle before finally returned home in early November. Two trips to the West Coast and one 8,810-mile round-trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
“Hey, but we gave you a bye week in there!” the NFL said, rolling its eyes.
Gee thanks, NFL. No respect.
Next, the league’s officiating against the organization has been atrocious over the years – the Bert Emanuel catch, anyone? It was no different last year as blown calls cost the Bucs wins in several games.
How in the year 2019 with multiple camera angles, technology galore and an emphasis on better officiating, can it still be so bad against Tampa Bay? It might actually be getting worse league-wide. Some of that technology has amplified blown calls even more.
When you watched a game in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, especially a game that wasn’t on Monday Night Football, camera angles were limited and you occasionally got a handful of replays. You almost had to believe the refs. Now with replays nearly between every play and from multiple camera views, seeing glaring errors is much easier today than it was years ago.
But technology didn’t prevent an official from blowing a play dead at Tennessee this season that took a touchdown off the board for the Buccaneers in a four-point loss to the Titans. Andrew Adams’ scoop-and-score with four minutes left in the game was negated by an early whistle and the Bucs wound up losing, 27-23.
Don’t blow a fumble dead!!!! Bucs screwed pic.twitter.com/XggIFv2Ctu
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 27, 2019
That wasn’t the only terrible call. Far from it.
When the Bucs played the Saints in New Orleans last year, following a first quarter Bradley Pinion punt, the Saints’ returner muffed the catch and the scramble was on. Tight end Antony Auclair climbed out of the pile holding the ball up, but somehow inexcusably, the ball was given back to the Saints as the officials said there was no clear recovery. Say what? It couldn’t have been any more clear.
That game was also the one where Michael Thomas gave cornerback Vernon Hargreaves an obvious two-handed shove to gain separation. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians challenged the play but the referees didn’t change the obvious call and Tampa Bay was charged a timeout.
Who knows if either call makes a difference in the final score, but when watching the below video, how is that not offensive pass interference? The Chiefs got the benefit of a much less egregious push off from 49ers tight end George Kittle right before the first half ended in last week’s Super Bowl.
Once again, no respect for the Bucs.
The lack of respect isn’t just from the NFL schedule makers or the NFL officials, it also comes from national media members, NFL fans and even some of the league’s coaches who vote on postseason honors.
How does a player like Bucs linebacker Lavonte David make the NFL’s All-Decade Team, yet only went to one Pro Bowl in his eight-year career? This year, the two inside linebackers chosen for the Pro Bowl were Carolina’s Luke Kuechly and Seattle’s Bobby Wagner. Both terrific talents, except David was just as good – if not better – in several statistical categories in 2019.
Tampa Bay ILB Lavonte David
123 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, three forced fumbles, one interception, one sack
Carolina ILB Luke Kuechly
144 tackles, four tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups, zero forced fumbles, two interceptions, zero sacks
Seattle ILB Bobby Wagner
159 tackles, seven tackles for loss, six pass breakups, one forced fumble, one interception, three sacks
But perhaps the most ridiculous oversight and lack of respect was for Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who led the NFL in sacks with 19.5, yet wasn’t named First- Team All-Pro. It was the first time since 2012 that the NFL’s sack leader was left off of the first team. Instead, the honor went to Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt – a great player, but Watt finished with three less tackles and five less sacks than Barrett.
Unbelievable – and the ultimate display of no respect.
As I mentioned earlier, the Buccaneers haven’t done themselves any favors in attempting to win any affection from a national audience.
A 10-6 record in 2010 season was followed up by a 4-12 campaign in 2011.
The Bucs were the darlings of the league briefly after their appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks following a 9-7 record in 2016, but all they did was follow it up with a 5-11 in 2017.
Tampa Bay did win its only true nationally televised prime-time game in 2019 with a Thursday night victory against the Panthers in Week 2, but looked awful when playing the early game against Carolina in the Bucs’ rematch in London. It tends to be one step forward, and two steps back with this organization when it comes to any love from the league, the refs, the media and the schedule-makers.
What can the team do to change their perception nationally? It all starts with winning, something that has been lacking more often than not in the teams 40-plus years of playing football. And not just a few wins here and there, but a sustained string of winning seasons and some trips to the playoffs.
Then maybe Tampa Bay will get the benefit of close calls, better scheduling and the player recognition for guys like Barrett and David. Yet it shouldn’t have to be about winning. It should be about fundamental fairness, but that’s not life in the NFL where the league has its own favorites and media darlings.
Take the Cleveland Browns for instance. A team that has been competing neck-and-neck with Tampa Bay for the futility title over the last decade. The Browns finished 7-8-1 in 2018, far from being great. Yet the NFL decided they deserved four nationally televised games? Four? You have to be kidding me. Hey, at least Jameis Winston was fun to watch. Baker Mayfield? I’ll pass.
Don’t even get me started about the Hall of Fame voting. We will save that for another column down the road. But when John Lynch gets overlooked again, and Ronde Barber doesn’t even make the cut to 15, something is wrong. Really wrong.
Cook’s musings and ramblings about the Buccaneers and the NFL. Good stuff. Check it out.
• Writing about comedian Rodney Dangerfield got me thinking, trying to come up with some funny Bucs players that I have covered over the years. Athletes aren’t usually comedians, but a handful have kept things light and entertaining a lot of the time.
Jameis Winston, when in a good mood, is one of the funniest players in the locker room. From his wild, animated facial expressions, to his playful banter while up at the podium for his weekly press conference, or just cracking some jokes with teammates during open locker, Winston is really a big kid at heart. If you have ever seen him working his youth camp you know what I mean.
Gerald McCoy was one of those players who had a very playful side. Whether it was showing up to training camp wearing a silk robe and slippers, or a kimono, or dancing on the practice field, McCoy often kept things entertaining. Too entertaining for a segment of Bucs fans, who wanted angry and intimidating personalities (a la Warren Sapp) along the D-line instead.
Will Gholston is another guy who is fun to chat with in the locker room. With his quirky personality and his knack for avoiding my interview request as he heads to the players restroom, acting like he has a scheduled appointment carrying his air freshener, Gholston can bring a smile to my face.
But probably my favorite player to interview, and one who has a down-home type of charm, but also has a quick wit, is Demar Dotson. Dotson is brutally honest for the most part, but has that “aw shucks,” small town Louisiana country humor.
Plus, he bears an uncanny resemblance to Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson. Dotson always plays the “I don’t know who that is card” when you tell him he and Thompson must be long-lost brothers, but when I show him a photo, I always get, “C’mon Mark I don’t look like him!” always while trying to hold in a laugh. Sorry, Demar. You really do.
• Staying with the Rodney Dangerfield no lack of respect topic, we mentioned Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David as two players who don’t get the respect they deserve – at least not nationally. But they aren’t the only current and former Bucs players who should be or should have been more nationally recognized.
Probably the most underrated Bucs on the roster now is guard Ali Marpet. Let’s not forget this guy was drafted out of Hobart College and stepped right in and became a day one starter at right guard, then moved to center the following year before switching to left guard. Say what? I suppose it is hard to get much traction for the Pro Bowl when you have played three different positions since coming into the league.
As far as a former player who didn’t get his due, is there a more underrated player in Bucs history than running back James Wilder? He is still the all-time leader rusher in franchise history, plus he’s in the Top 5 of most other offensive categories. Wilder was an Iron Man for the Bucs whose name was rarely mentioned outside of the Tampa Bay region.
While maybe not known to the average fan across the country, Wilder was well respected by opposing players, including Giants great Lawrence Taylor, who called Wilder the toughest running back he ever faced. That’s “high” praise from Taylor. Pun intended.
But seriously, Glazers, gets this man in the Bucs Ring of Honor. Like now.
• I prefer the old school imitation bacon bits over the real bacon pieces they sell in the salad dressing aisle. This has nothing to do at all with the topics of this column, of course, but sorry – it’s my column.
Give me those hard, chip-your-teeth, bits of artificially flavored pieces of who-knows-what on my iceberg lettuce drenched in ranch and Catalina dressing any day of the week. And yes, I know, iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value.
But neither does beer, and we drink that. Plus, I don’t like to eat a bowl full of things that look like the weeds (“spring mix”) my dad used to make me pull from my mom’s flower beds when I was a kid. No thanks.
• Yikes! Where the 49ers Faithful at?!
Can’t stop laughing at the amount of fans who showed up at the airport to greet the 49ers after the Super Bowl pic.twitter.com/Y1oYCeZ1Gj
— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) February 5, 2020