Rod Smith was exactly the kind of NFL player that I love. A fierce competitor, a hard worker. He just got elected to the Denver Broncos Ring Of Fame, and many around the city have been debating whether or not Smith could get elected to the NFL Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, I don't think he has a chance of even being a finalist in the selection process.
Smith was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Broncos in 1995. He played 12 seasons with the Broncos, helped to win two Super Bowls, was elected to three Pro Bowls, and holds virtually every wide receiving record in the Denver Broncos organization. He's a legend in Denver. I once ran into Smith at Denver International Airport and was going to say something to him when someone beat me to it. He was gracious and charming to the fan, and it was easy to see why everyone loves him in this city.
As much as I like Smith, however, he's not going to be elected to the NFL Hall of Fame. It's particularly difficult to get elected there, but it's especially difficult for wide receivers. Only 21 wide receivers have been elected in the Modern Era, and only seven in the last 20 years. Right now there's a bit of a logjam at the wide receiver position waiting to get elected. Of the 17 finalists in the 2012 Hall of Fame class, there were three wide receivers (Tim Brown, Cris Carter, and Andre Reed) that didn't get elected who have better statistics than Smith.
A lot of that has to do with the longevity of those men's careers. Unless someone is exceptionally special and dominated their position during the time that they played (think Barry Sanders), very good players (like Smith) have to play that way for a very, very long time. Smith, in 12 seasons, had 11,389 yards/849 receptions/68 touchdowns. Carter, who played 16 seasons, had 13,899 yards/1,301 receptions/130 touchdowns. Tim Brown, who played 17 years, had 14,934 receiving yards/1,094 receptions/80 touchdowns. Andre Reed played 16 seasons and had 13,198 yards/951 receptions/87 touchdowns.
As time goes by, more and more receivers with better statistics than Smith will be eligible for the Hall of Fame. A lot of this is due to a shift in offensive philosophy in the NFL over the past decade to more of a a high-octane passing attack. For instance, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne has had 11,708 yards/862 receptions/73 touchdowns over 11 seasons. That's very comparable to Smith, but does anyone think Reggie Wayne is a Hall of Fame candidate? I certainly don't, and neither should you.
Rod Smith's Broncos credentials are impeccable, and he's a true hero in this city. His election to the Denver Broncos Ring Of Fame was well-earned, but don't expect that to lead him to the NFL Hall of Fame. Had he played a few more seasons and padded his stats more, his candidacy would be much stronger but I still don't think it would have mattered in the end.
Julie is a fanatical football fan and a Featured Contributor for the NFL. After moving to Denver in 2001, she has followed the Denver Broncos closely.