Has Steve Smith had a Hall of Fame worthy career?
I say yes, although some would probably disagree. Smith announced Monday that he planned to retire after this season.
If I am making Smith’s case for Canton, I’d look at three traits:
1. Longevity – This will be Smith’s 15th NFL season, and he has played his entire career at a high level. His first 1,000-yard season was in 2003. He did it again last year (1,065 yards) at age 35. Smith has had eight 1,000-yard seasons, including four straight from 2005-2008. He’s currently 14th on the all-time list for receiving yards (13,262), with Reggie Wayne (14,345) and Andre Johnson (13,597) the only active players ahead of Smith. If Smith has another 1,000-yard season, he’ll crack the top-10 all-time for receiving yards, and he’ll pass two Hall of Famer receivers, James Lofton (14,004) and Cris Carter (13,899). Smith’s numbers are already in Hall of Fame company.
2. Dominance – Smith was the last receiver to lead the league in yards, catches, and touchdowns in a single season. Only two other receivers have ever done that – Jerry Rice in 1990, and Sterling Sharpe in 1992. Smith did it in 2005, with 1,563 yards, 103 catches, and 12 touchdowns. That same season, Smith went off in the playoffs with 27 catches for 335 yards and three touchdowns in three games, leading the Panthers to their only Super Bowl appearance. Two years later in 2007, Smith led the NFL in receiving yards (1,421) when the Panthers were last in the NFL in pass attempts. To be a Hall of Fame player, I believe you must be a dominant player at your position. During his best seasons, Smith was dominance.
3. Presence – Spend 15 minutes watching Smith, and you can tell how passionate he is. Not just during games, but during practices. Smith doesn’t believe in taking snaps off, and he won’t stand for teammates taking snaps off either. Smith was a team leader for 13 seasons with the Panthers, and he became a team leader with the Ravens the signed. Sometimes Smith looses his temper, but he raises the level of every team he plays on. That’s another mark of a great player. Another reason why I believe Smith should be headed for Canton.