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Jimmy Smith

Posted by Doug on May 12, 2006

Since Jimmy Smith decided to retire yesterday, let's take a day (and a weekend) off from the discussion of the Romer paper and spend it putting Smith's career stats in perspective.

We've already had a couple of recent posts on ranking wide receivers. In this system, which is based on percentage of team receiving yards, Smith ranked behind only Michael Irvin among all receivers whose careers started after 1977. I don't think anyone believes Smith has had a better career than, say, Jerry Rice. But still, it's notable that Smith has been able to account for an extremely high percentage of his teams' passing production over the years. In this one, Smith ranks 23rd among all receivers whose careers started in 1970 or later. That system probably punishes him unfairly for his zero-catch-zero-yard seasons in Dallas at the beginning of his career.

Let's just focus on putting Smith's career numbers in perspective with his contemporaries. I'll define someone to be a contemporary of Smith if his debut year was within four years of Smith's 1992 debut. So all receivers who debuted between 1988 and 1996 will be included. That gets us from Tim Brown to Terrell Owens, but doesn't inlcude geezers like Rice or whippersnappers like Randy Moss. Here are the basic stats, sorted by receiving yards:

Player REC YD TD
Tim Brown 1094 14934 100
*Marvin Harrison 927 12331 110
Jimmy Smith 862 12287 67
*Isaac Bruce 813 12278 77
Michael Irvin 750 11904 65
*Rod Smith 797 10877 65
*Keenan McCardell 825 10680 62
*Terrell Owens 716 10535 101
Andre Rison 743 10205 84
*Keyshawn Johnson 744 9756 60
Rob Moore 628 9368 49
Herman Moore 670 9174 62
Anthony Miller 595 9148 63
*Eric Moulds 675 9091 48
Tony Martin 593 9065 56
*Ricky Proehl 666 8848 54
Terance Mathis 689 8809 63
*Johnnie Morton 624 8719 43
*Muhsin Muhammad 642 8501 48
*Joey Galloway 550 8501 64
Curtis Conway 594 8230 52
Jeff Graham 542 8172 30
Sterling Sharpe 595 8134 65
*Joe Horn 539 7822 53
*Amani Toomer 529 7797 44
*Terry Glenn 523 7776 38

It's instructive to compare Jimmy Smith's career with Tim Brown's. Brown has 2700 yards on Smith, but Brown has a lot of junk yards and Smith has almost none. Tim Brown had seasons of 265, 554, 693, 567, and 200 yards. That's about 2200 yards that his teams likely could have gotten out of any old waiver wire receiver.

One of my favorite arbitrary-but-interesting stats is Yards Over 1000. We compute it simply by starting to count the yards only after they reach the 1000 mark. So Jimmy Smith, who had 1023 yards last season, gets credit for 23 yards. In 2003 Smith had 805 yards, so he gets credit for zero. The idea is that you get credit only for doing something above and beyond the ordinary. Among the same group of receivers, here are the leaders in Yards Over 1000:

Player YdOv1000
*Marvin Harrison 2853
Michael Irvin 2330
*Isaac Bruce 2228
Jimmy Smith 2194
Tim Brown 1992
*Rod Smith 1643
*Terrell Owens 1562
Herman Moore 1448
Sterling Sharpe 1382
*Joe Horn 1316
*Eric Moulds 1024
*Muhsin Muhammad 841
Jake Reed 800
*Keenan McCardell 784
Andre Rison 749
Antonio Freeman 741
*Amani Toomer 731
Yancey Thigpen 705
Anthony Miller 660
*Keyshawn Johnson 655
Tony Martin 613
Rob Moore 610
Carl Pickens 564
Terance Mathis 533
Brett Perriman 509
Robert Brooks 507
Derrick Alexander 499
*Joey Galloway 422
*Terry Glenn 415

I don't think Rod Smith is going to catch him on this list. Owens might, but it's not a given. If you look at Yards Over 1200, Smith is fourth behind the same three guys. If you prefer Yards Over 800, he's second behind only Harrison.

All things --- well, all numbers --- considered, I think the only guys on this list that can make a case as being better than Jimmy Smith are:

  1. Marvin Harrison - almost certainly will end up being the top guy in this cohort.
  2. Tim Brown - even throwing away his junk yards, Brown is close to Smith yardagewise. And he's got a big touchdown advantage, if you're into that kind of thing.
  3. Michael Irvin - very similar profile to Smith: huge piece of a small receiving pie, and relatively low touchdown totals. Irvin played on better teams, which some people would use as evidence in favor of Irvin and others would use as evidence in favor of Smith.
  4. Terrell Owens - Smith currently has better looking overall career numbers. But that could change in a hurry.
  5. Isaac Bruce - three years younger than Smith. Right now I'd give Smith the nod over Bruce based on the systems they played in. But a couple more good seasons by Bruce could change that.
  6. Rod Smith - statistically, Jimmy looks slightly but clearly better. To flip that, Rod would need a couple of seasons better than I expect him to have. But it's close enough that someone more knowledgeable than I might be able to make a case for him based on blocking and/or other things.

I don't think any of the other active receivers --- Horn, Moulds, Muhammad, McCardell, Keyshawn, Galloway --- can reach Smith. So out of this nine-year slice of history, Smith's numbers will end up somewhere between the 2nd-best and the 7th-best. I have to admit that Smith's name doesn't immediately leap to my mind when I think of the great receivers of the era, but he put together a very impressive career.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 12th, 2006 at 3:57 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.