Column: Hall of Fame Once Again Gets it Wrong on Jimmy Smith

Fred Taylor and Tony Boselli are getting the respect they deserve, but why isn't Jimmy Smith? The Hall of Fame got this one wrong yet again.
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Ask any person that played with or against former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith if the former big-play threat deserves a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the answer is typically a resounding 'yes'. 

But why won't the Hall of Fame's voters agree? 

Smith has been eligible to be named a semifinalist or a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for about a decade now, but the best receiver in Jaguars history and one of the best offensive players of a generation has continued to get shut out. 

Such was the case this week when the Hall of Fame announced 25 modern era semifinalists for the 2021 class. Two Jaguars were included on that list -- running back Fred Taylor and offensive tackle Tony Boselli -- but Smith was once again ignored. 

At this point, one has to ask wonder the Hall of Fame won't acknowledge Smith beyond making him one of over 100 nominees each year. Is it because of the team's small market? If so, then is the Hall of Fame truly based on any merit at all? 

During Smith's epic run with the Jaguars, he made five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1997-2001 and led the NFL at that time with a combined 479 catches and 6,728 yards, along with 34 touchdown catches. 

In total, Smith ended his career holding essentially every major Jaguars receiving record and as of today he is No. 51 all-time in career receiving touchdowns (67), No. 24 in receptions (862), No. 24 in receiving yards (12,287), No. 10 in yards per reception (16.1) and No. 23 in receiving yards per game (22). 

The Hall of Fame has made it clear in recent years that it is difficult for a receiver to crack into Canton considering just how many top players have been at the position. Since the start of the 2016 class, only five receivers have made it. 

But while only the elite of the elite makes it into the Hall of Fame, it is past time to acknowledge that Smith was this quality of player. The voters have yet to admit as such, whether it is due to his numbers or the lack of national attention he garnered, but those who lined up with and against him all back it up.

"Jimmy Smith is the toughest wide receiver I've faced," hall of fame cornerback Champ Bailey said when Smith retired. "He just works so hard and plays the game with so much intensity that he's difficult to stop. Every year, and I'm not sure why, he just doesn't get the attention he deserves. But he's one of the best receivers in the NFL."

"Jimmy Smith is one of the most unheralded wide receivers ever to play in the National Football League. He is one of the best route runners that I have ever seen. He is very explosive. Truly, truly a Hall of Famer," hall of fame receiver Issac Bruce said when Smith retired.

"Jimmy might not have the national recognition of Jerry Rice at the WR position, but every defensive back that has played in the 1990's to current, and every defensive coach in the league knows exactly who he is. He will go down in history as one of the best," hall of fame cornerback Deion Sanders said when Smith retired.

When you factor in that many of Smith's best seasons came far before the NFL turned into a passing league, it is hard to ignore his resume. His numbers, his tape, and the words of other players in the Hall of Fame suggest he should have an argument to make enshrinement. But so far, Smith hasn't even been allowed to sniff the semifinalist list. 

Such is the cost of playing in Jacksonville for one's whole career. Perhaps if Smith had the type of success he had with the Jaguars in a market like Dallas or Pittsburgh, he would get the post-career respect that has missed him. 

"Nobody could cover him. I mean, he could run any route. He can catch the ball. He had incredible game speed, big-play guy. He was amazing," former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell told JaguarReport in July. 

"I mean, he ... if there's one guy that really changed my career, and it's hard to just put one guy that caused this course, I mean, it would be Jimmy Smith.

Is it fair to call Smith a Hall of Famer when he is top 10 in just one major receiving stat? Perhaps not. But it is even more unfair to suggest that Smith doesn't deserve consideration as one of 25 semifinalists in at least one of his several years of eligibility. Players he dominated on Sundays have gotten that kind of respect, so why hasn't he?

Time can never be taken back. Smith will never again have a chance to step onto an NFL field and prove his mettle as one of the best receivers of his era and of the entire league's history. But those who decide who makes the lists of semifinalists could attempt to atone for their continual mistakes some day in the future. 

It didn't happen on Tuesday. For Smith, maybe it never will. But it should, and it continues to be a wrong assessment that he isn't considered even a top-25 candidate.