For years, fantasy football players, among others, struggled with confusing one wide receiver named Steve Smith with another of the same name. Actually, though, it wasn’t that hard to tell them apart: One was a five-time Pro Bowler who racked up the seventh-most receiving yards ever during a 16-year NFL career, and the other had one good season during an otherwise nondescript, six-year career.
It would seem, though, that the confusion remains — on the part of none other than the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On Tuesday, the institution charged with enshrining the NFL’s all-time greats in Canton, Ohio, released the list of modern-era nominees for its Class of 2018, and among the exclusive group of 108 players was the “other” Smith. The former second-round pick by the Giants, who also enjoyed brief stints with the Eagles and Rams, was listed alongside the likes of Isaac Bruce, Donald Driver, Henry Ellard, Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Sterling Sharpe, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, John Taylor and Hines Ward.
That’s some pretty nice company for a guy who notched career totals of 245 catches for 2,641 yards and 12 touchdowns, with one 1,000-yard season. It would seem pretty clear that the Hall was thinking of the Steve Smith who starred for the Panthers before ending his career with the Ravens, and who racked up 1,031 catches for 14,731 yards and 81 touchdowns.
The thing is, though, that the Hall stipulates that “a player and coach must have last played or coached at least five seasons before he can be considered” for enshrinement. The superior (in NFL terms, anyway) Smith just retired after last season, so he is not yet eligible.
The lesser Smith (again, nothing personal) finished his career in 2012 and, by that standard, does merit consideration for the Class of 2018. However, other standards must apply, right?
It’s worth noting that the Hall also stipulates, “Any fan may nominate any qualified person who has been connected with pro football in any capacity simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” which is likely what happened in this case. However, that surely does not mean that any fan’s nomination automatically gets included in the official list; there must be an initial winnowing-down, or else the Selection Committee’s voting process, which is the next step, would be clogged with hundreds, if not thousands, of names.
The notion that one Steve Smith was simply mistaken for the other was reinforced by the Hall of Fame voting page for fans at NFL.com, which shows a photo of the superior player in his Baltimore uniform.
Before the final Hall of Fame vote takes place, just before February’s Super Bowl, the list of 108 nominees will be whittled down to 25 semifinalists in November, so presumably Smith will get dropped at that point. In the meantime, though, a player ranked 4,398th among all NFL players since 1960 by Pro Football Reference has received one heck of a career accolade.
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