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.
But wait! You might be thinking, “Steve Smith just retired after last season. There’s no way he’s already eligible for the Hall of Fame, right? Doesn’t it take five years for that?”
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).