During the broadcast of the Ravens-Bengals game week 17, the question "is Steve Smith was a Hall of Famer" was asked and discussed. Play-by-Play announcer, Chris Simms, said that Smith is not a hall of Famer because he was never considered a top-five receiver at any point in his career. After Simms' feeble assessment of Smith's career, it's time to examine whether Agent 89 is Canton material.
There is a saying that if you have to think about it, then that person isn't worthy of a spot in the hall of fame. There is some truth that statement, deep thought could mean one did not have a strong impression throughout his career. There is also a problem where people have a hard time determining what are the traits of a hall of famer; it often varies depending on the person you ask. For the sake of this piece, we're going to use two criterions to determine if Smith is worthy: Numbers and Impact on the culture.
Without the numbers, you won't even be considered for a spot in the Hall. Guys like Robert Horry, who has seven rings and countless classic moments in his career, will miss out on the Hall because they never had the big numbers. The main thing people look for is if a player reaches certain statistical benchmarks that were reached by past players who are in the Hall. Each sport, each position have different benchmarks that were set by those that are already in.
Steve Smith spent 16 years in the NFL while standing only 5-foot-9, that alone deserves some type of consideration. When Smith retired last Sunday, he was the last remaining wide receiver of the 2001 draft class. That class included Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss and Chris Chambers. Smith leads that class in receiving yards, and is second behind Reggie Wayne is receptions and TD catches. Smith wasn't lucky like Reggie Wayne to play with a cerebral assassin quarterback for much of his career. Or played on the opposite side of one the greatest route runners in the history of the NFL. Neither is to discredit Wayne's contribution to the game, but if Wayne is a for sure Hall of Famer, then Smith has to be right there with him.
Steve Smith - 1,031 catches, 14,731 yards, 82 TDS
HOF Average - 823 catches, 12,280 yards, 91 TDS
*There are 15 receivers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Smith final career stat line will look like this: 1,031 catches, 14,731 yards, 82 TDs. In 2005, his best season, he led the NFL in catches (102) tied with Anthony Fitzgerald, receiving yards (1,563), and touchdowns (12) tied with Marvin Harrison. This completely negates Simms comment about Smith not being a top-five receiver at any point in his career.
In four different seasons, Smith was ranked top-five in at least one statistical category. His rookie season, he was 4th in kick return yards and tied for first for most kick returns with 2. 2008, he led the league in yards per game and was third in receiving yards. 2011, He ranked 5th in both receiving yards and yards per game. And of course, his comeback player of the year season where he led in every statistical receiving category.
Another interesting stat, Smith is tied with Reggie Wayne for the most 1,000-yard season since 2001 with eight. That's more than Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, Chad Johnson, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Anquan Boldin. All of which are Canton worthy.
As a play-by-play guy, I'm not sure why Simms would make a premature assessment like that without actually breaking down the numbers, and the sad part is he has the numbers in front of him. If you want to talk numbers, Smith has them. He is 7th in receiving yards, 12th in receptions, and 26th in receiving touchdowns. Most importantly, Smith never had an elite quarterback to play with, catching passes from Chris Weinke, Jake Delhomme, Rodney Pete, Jimmy Clausen, and three seasons with a young Cam Newton. For Smith to gather those numbers without a big-name quarterback is impressive.
The other criterion for tracking a players hall of fame worth is their impact on the culture. I don't think you'll find many players with the same amount of passion as Steve Smith. Normally he is the smallest player on the field, but also the toughest. A play that describes career is his final catch against the Bengals when he was ready to put his shoulder through Bengals' safety Shawn Williams. Smith got up fully amped face-to-face with Williams.
In his final season, Smith made a few enemies with some of the younger players, most notably rookie Jalen Ramsey. After the week 3 matchup between the Ravens and Jaguars, Ramsey said he had no respect for the 16-year veteran, who finished with 8 catches 87 yards on 11 targets, because of his relentless trash-talking. Ramsey isn't the first player to feel the wrath of Steve Smith. In Carolina, Ken Lucas suffered a black eye and broken nose after a fight with Smith during training camp. And let's not forget when he told Aqib Talib to "Ice up Son" after Talib didn't finish the game.
If you ask the young guys like Janoris Jenkins, they might tell you something different but Smith is one of the most respected players in the league. He has built a reputation of being a hard-nosed receiver that will hit you in your mouth if you don't come correct. For the fans, it made for great entertainment to see a player of Smith's stature dominate a game full of giants. A true napoleon complex.
Smith didn't fall short of being an entertainer either. Whether it was calling a player out in an interview, spinning the ball after a big catch, or competing with T.O and Ochocinco for best touchdown celebration, the fans loved Smith. Smith was a part of a new generation of brash wide receivers that talked loud and played harder.
Since he stepped on an NFL field in 2001, Smith's DNA runs deep in the NFL. I'm not sure why Chris Simms made those comments and after writing this piece, I'm disappointed that guys like Simms are able to make blasphemous comments on national television.