Steve Smith Sr. was one of the best receivers of his generation. In a long, illustrious career for both the Panthers and the Ravens, he racked up nearly 15,000 receiving yards, over 1,000 receptions, and 81 touchdowns. He was consistent, exciting, and productive for longer than almost any other NFL pass-catcher.
With all those accomplishments, it’s no surprise to look at the official list of Hall of Fame nominees for the class of 2018 and see the name “Steve Smith” under wide receivers, underlined as a newly eligible player.
Smart reader you are, because apparently, the Steve Smith on the Hall’s list is not the legendary one, but the former Giants receiver who, for one or two relevant years, forced you to do some extra clarification in your fantasy draft. This Smith has been out of the NFL since 2012, with career totals of 2,641 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He made one Pro Bowl, was a Super Bowl champ, and he led the NFC in receptions in 2009. That’s a solid career, but it’s not even arguably a Hall of Fame one.
We don’t know for sure what the selection committee may have been thinking when they nominated Smith. However, the most logical explanation seems to be a pretty classic case of identity confusion, where the Giants’ Steve Smith was forgotten while the accolades of the Panthers’ Steve Smith, with his name right there on the ballot, caused the nominators to forget about that pesky five-year rule.
The list of nominees will go down to 25 semifinalists in November, so we’ll probably see lesser Smith’s Hall of Fame hopes end there. But who knows, maybe Fake Steve Smith still gets in over Terrell Owens.
Update (11:14 p.m. ET): Apparently, “any person” can nominate eligible players to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, according to the Hall of Fame’s website, which might explain this strange nomination. However, in the “fan vote” for the semifinalist selection, a picture of better Steve Smith is being used, even though he’s not eligible (screencap below).
The Modern-Era nominees—108 players and coaches—for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 were announced on Tuesday. Legends such as Randy Moss and Ray Lewis were two of the 11 first-year eligible players on the list, but a different first-year nominee is bound to raise some eyebrows.
At first glance, when you see Steve Smith under the wideouts listed, you would assume the former Panthers and Ravens pass-catcher. He is certainly a worthy candidate, but he retired after the 2016 season. In order to be eligible, the nominee needs to be at least five years removed from his last playing or coaching stint.
That means the player who was nominated was… the other Steve Smith. The Steve Smith who retired after playing six seasons in the NFL with the Giants, Eagles and Rams. The Steve Smith who had modest career totals of 2,641 yards and 12 touchdowns. That Steve Smith.
He did have a Pro Bowl appearance in 2009 and Super Bowl ring from 2008 to show for his efforts, but those credentials aren’t nearly enough for him to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
Nearly every other wide receiver nominee—there were 12 besides Smith—surpassed those marks in a two-year stretch over their careers. Even the “ice up, son” Steve Smith matched the other Smith’s 12 career touchdowns in just a single season back in 2005.
So it’s easy to assume that there was a potential mix-up in the process. Nonetheless, the other Steve Smith could plausibly be the most underqualified nominee in Pro Football Hall of Fame history.