After seeing a rejuvenated Steve Smith put up 178 yards and 2 TDs on the Arizona Cardinals defense this past week, it got me to wondering just how many yards he's accumulated over his career. And, given that, how close he might be to some serious consideration as becoming the Carolina Panthers first ever inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame. So, I did some quick checking and comparison on his peers (some long since retired and a handful that are still playing). I found it interesting. So, I thought I'd share what I learned and...as usual...my two cents on it all.
There's more...after the jump...
Okay. So, first up, let's examine Steve Smith's career to date:
Year - Receptions - Yards - TDs - Average YPC
2001 - 10 catches - 154 yards - 0 TDs - 15.4 YPC
2002 - 54 catches - 872 yards - 3 TDs - 16.1 YPC
2003 - 88 catches - 1110 yards - 7 TDs - 12.6 YPC
2004 - 6 catches - 60 yards - 0 TDs - 10.0 YPC (Note: This was the year he broke his leg)
2005 - 103 catches - 1563 yards - 12 TDs - 15.2 YPC (Note: This is the year he won the triple crown)
2006 - 83 catches - 1166 yards - 8 TDs - 14.0 YPC
2007 - 87 catches - 1002 yards - 7 TDs - 11.5 YPC
2008 - 78 catches - 1421 yards - 6 TDs - 18.2 YPC
2009 - 65 catches - 982 yards - 7 TDs - 15.1 YPC
2010 - 46 catches - 554 yards - 2 TDs - 12.0 YPC (Note: This was Fox's lame duck season)
2011 - 8 catches - 178 yards - 2 TDs - 22.3 YPC (Note: And still counting...)
Okay, so...when you tally all that up, Steve Smith has 628 catches for 9062 yards and 54 TDs. That's good enough to put him at #46 all-time in terms of yardage. And keep in mind, he's not done yet. I'd venture to say that given Cam's ability to the throw deep ball and find Smitty, there's a chance he could keep piling up enough yardage to get into range of being considered for Hall of Fame induction. It would take more than a few sustained years of 1,000-yard seasons to pull it off, but it just might be attainable. But even then, every HoF voter will compare him to other WRs throughout the years, as well as the others who might be competing with him even now.
So, who might he be chasing among his peers, you ask? Well, first you should know that Muhsin Muhammad still holds the all-time receiving yards record for the Carolina Panthers. He's currently #22 with 11438 yards in his receiving career. If Steve can compile a couple more 1000-yard seasons, it's entirely possible he could surpass Muhammad and climb into the Top-20 all-time. If, during that time, he can chase and actually win a Superbowl, that would obviously increase his chances, magnifying it ten-fold even. But, within Chudzinski's TE-happy offense, is it still possible? It's certainly fun to imagine. And, given the performance this past Sunday, we saw Steve continue to lead the team in offensive output, even while Shockey and Olsen combined for comparable yardage at their position, too. So, yes...maybe it IS possible.
Just for the sake of comparison, however, here are a few of the guys Steve Smith is chasing (and who he'd be compared to in the Hall of Fame voting down the road):
#46 - Steve Smith (9062 yards)
#42 - Andre Johnson (9164 yards)
#37 - Donald Driver (9615 yards)
#28 - Reggie Wayne (10748 yards)
#27 - Chad Ochocinco (10783 yards)
#25 - Joey Galloway (10950 yards)
#22 - Muhsin Muhammad (11438 yards)
#21 - Hines Ward (11702 yards)
#19 - Derrick Mason (11891 yards)
#15 - Tony Gonzalez (12463 yards)
#14 - Art Monk (12721 yards)
#11 - Andre Reed (13193 yards)
#10 - Tory Holt (13382 yards)
#8 - Cris Carter (13899 yards)
#5 - Randy Moss (14858 yards)
#2 - Terrell Owens (15934 yards)
#1 - Jerry Rice (22895 yards)
Now, Steve's never going to catch Jerry Rice. In fact, it'll be very hard for anyone to surpass him (though, I suspect Terrell Owens has a big enough ego to try by sticking around as long as he can). To get into the conversation, you've got to figure Steve will need to reach the same plateau as Andre Reed and Cris Carter...two guys who routinely get mentioned for HoF accolade possibilities, but typically get passed over for a variety of reasons. That means, he'll need 13,000+ yards to do it. He's around 4,000 shy of that now. So, does Steve Smith have another 4-5 years left in him where he could reach those numbers? Will all the other guys still playing in the league duplicate that feat and outstrip him so he's marginalized in the HoF conversation and doesn't get mentioned?
I really hope he keeps going. And I hope he does so while finishing his career here in Carolina. I'd love to see him become the first ever Panther inducted into the Hall of Fame. I think his wow-factor and tenacity are right up there with the greatest of all time. From the way he bounced back after breaking his leg in 2004 to the amazing catch he had against the Giants where they broke his arm and still scored a TD...as we so often say, pound for pound, there's just no one tougher or more determined than Steve Smith. He's got a highlight reel of amazing plays that proves it. And, although he flirted with the idea of leaving Carolina this past off-season, I really hope he sticks around. And I hope Cam is able to feed him the ball enough to aid him in reaching that lofty goal. Because Steve deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Even moreso if he sticks it out and makes up for the years he lost with a broken leg and playing on some pretty terrible teams with struggling QBs. And, if he succeeds in extending his career while remaining productive, by the time it's all said and done, I believe he'll retire the greatest Carolina Panther of all time...and quite possibly have an inside shot at giving his acceptance speech in Canton.
But that's just my two cents,