What will the future debate about Steve Smith Sr.'s Hall of Fame credentials be like?
One day, Smith will be in the same position that wide receivers Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison are in this week – waiting to hear if they will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Smith is already Hall of Fame worthy in my opinion, and his decision to play another season with the Ravens will only strengthen his case. However, the debate about what makes a Hall of Fame receiver is interesting. Former Rams coach Mike Martz is upset that former Rams receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are not Hall of Fame finalists this year, while Owens is. The next Hall of Fame class will be announced Saturday, the day before Super Bowl 50.
“You can’t print how I felt when T. O. leapfrogged those two,” Martz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s just plain out-and-out ridiculous.
“If they big-timed it and did all that dumb stuff, they’d get in probably earlier. I think they’ll eventually get in. I don’t think that’s an issue, but it’s tragic that people think of them like that. If Marvin Harrison gets in, how could they not get in?”
When you look at wide receivers, you have to look beyond numbers, and that’s why Smith passes the Hall of Fame eye test for me. He’s unique. He has been a game-breaker due to his ability to run after the catch, and to run any route. He has been a superb possession receiver due to his hands, body control, leaping ability, and toughness. His career has stood the test of time, and he has been consistent, with eight 1000-yard seasons.
Smith has done all of this at just 5-foot-9, playing for many years in a Panthers offense that was run-first oriented. By the end of next season, Smith should rank in the top 10 all-time in receiving yards, and he should have over 1,000 career catches.
The Hall of Fame competition at wide receiver is only going to get more crowded, with Reggie Wayne retiring recently, and Smith, Andre Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald all beyond 30 years old. But for 15 years, it has been difficult for cornerbacks to defend Smith. It should be difficult to keep Smith out of the Hall of Fame as well.