On Hall’s calls, and the future

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Darin, were you as shocked as I was that Steve Smith Sr. wasn’t a Hall of Fame finalist? He is better than the receivers who were on the list and belongs to Canton. I mean, I’m excited about Sam Mills, but I can’t forget that Smith isn’t making the cut.Larry, Lancaster, South Carolina

A little, to be honest with you. And for your next two points, I agree, and I agree. And at your fourth point, absolutely.

Before we get into the Smith debate, it’s worth taking a second to sing the song by Sam Mills. (And we will do it again.) This is his third year as a finalist and his last chance as a modern nominee. Talking to other voters there is real momentum for him, even if he is far from blocked. He absolutely deserves it from a football standpoint alone, but hearing people he worked with here and in New Orleans talk about what he meant to organizations shows how special he was.

In short, he created something out of thin air in a few places. An undersized workshop teacher became the centerpiece of defenses that made the Philadelphia Stars a USFL powerhouse, the Woebegone Saints one of the NFL’s best defenses and the Panthers expansion a factor from their inception. second year only. Even if you take his “Keep Pounding” inspiration from the Super Bowl first team, his legacy is vast. But you wouldn’t take “Keep Pounding” away – because that’s part of this franchise’s mythology, something that has tied players and fans together over the years. Last week when we collected part of the Mailbag, there were several references to Mills. Shaq Thompson mentioned it last week. Mills is part of the fabric of this city, woven into everyone who has played, encouraged or covered games here.

As for Smith, yes, some of those things are hard to figure out. But the first thing you need to remember is that getting into the Hall of Fame is supposed to be really tough. And it’s. Some of the best receivers in the history of the game have had to wait years to get their tickets to Canton.

It took Terrell Owens three years. It took Isaac Bruce four years. It took Cris Carter and Tim Brown six years. It took Andre Reed and Art Monk eight years. It is therefore not a sign of disrespect or an attack on the heritage of the players.

But I am still a little puzzled by certain choices. Before we dig in, let’s compare the three receivers who made the finalist list this year (Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, Torry Holt), with two semifinalists who didn’t (Smith and Anquan Boldin). I’m not including semi-finalist Hines Ward, because let’s be serious.

Games Played: Smith 219, Wayne 211, Boldin 202, Johnson 193, Holt 173.

Receptions: Boldin 1,076, Wayne 1,070, Johnson 1,062, Smith 1,031, Holt 920.

Receiving yards: Smith 14 731, Wayne 14 345, Johnson 14 185, Boldin 13 779, Holt 13 382.

Touchdowns received: Boldin 82, Wayne 82, Smith 81, Holt 74, Johnson 70.

Super Bowl Rings: Boldin 1, Wayne 1, Holt 1, Smith 0, Johnson 0.

Another big factor is who the Hall of Fame quarterbacks have played with. Wayne and Holt have a colossal advantage there, catching the balls from Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner instead of Jake Delhomme. (And Delhomme himself pointed out this difference to me the other day, when he too was incredulous that Smith had failed.) It matters, and if 89 had had the chance to play with Manning, I can’t not imagine what the back of his football card would look like.

There are a number of ways to break down the stats, and I understand each other’s case to a point. But I can’t justify Torry Holt being a better candidate or a better receiver than Steve Smith. I can not. Otherwise, each of the other four not only has reasonable resumes, but outstanding Hall of Fame resumes.

Smith too. Assuming he ends up being a finalist, and if I’m still here to present his case, the first words that will come out of my mouth that day will be: “Steve Smith is the toughest kid I have ever had. seen playing football. ” Because it’s true. His achievements would deserve to be picked if he was 6ft 2in tall and playing Southern Cal. Of course, that would have made him a first-round pick as well.

But he wasn’t. He was that little 5-10 runt from Utah who went in round three and never let anyone forget him. He was supposed to be a good comeback player and maybe a gadget player. Instead, he became one of the most prolific receivers in NFL history, thanks to the strength of his stubbornness and will, and well, his anger. He remained pissed off, against real and imagined enemies. And that pushed him. He beat the people, and he beat the people.

He’s calmer now. It is not always the same as calm. And his visible role on the NFL Network will keep him in the public eye and, hopefully, in the minds of voters.

He should finally have his chance. He deserves this. That it isn’t this year might come as a surprise to many, but not necessarily to Smith. He’s used to being ignored. He is also used to changing mentalities over time. This should happen in the years to come.

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