Great TV happens when analysts with strong opinions engage in an authentic, genuine debate. As long as no one gets physically assaulted. (More on that later.)
On Thursday night, NFL Network analysts Michael Irvin and Steve Smith ended up in an on-air résumé-measuring contest, sparked by a comment from Irvin that Smith regarded as a sign of disrespect.
Smith, who spent three years after 2012 with the Ravens, took exception.
“So you’re telling me they ain’t had a wide receiver since Anquan?” Smith said.
Irvin tried to backpedal by blaming the oversight on Smith’s injuries.
“But Steve you played there then got hurt and he had to go through it,” Irvin said. “But you talked about it. Those injuries. I’m with you on that.”
That didn’t placate Smith, and for good reason. He generated more than 1,000 receiving yards with the Ravens in 2014.
“I understand you have the rings, but I passed you statistically years ago,” Smith said, emphasizing the word “years.” (And he’s right; Smith is No. 8 on the all-time receiving yardage list. Irvin sits at No. 27.)
“Hold on,” Irvin said, “I got enough rings to let all of y’all borrow one and still have some.”
“I concur and I agree with your rings,” Smith said. “But at the same time, it ain’t no route I couldn’t run that you hoped you could run. . . . I got a doctorate in route running . . . You got an associate’s degree [from] community college.”
That was the end of it, at least for now. If both will be on site for NFL Network Thursday night pregame shows this year, it quite possibly will continue. And it could be something that spills over to the off-air segments.
Which would make it prudent to keep the cameras rolling. Either, as mentioned on Friday’s PFT Live, for entertainment value or for evidentiary purposes in any eventual civil or criminal proceedings.
That’s not a joke, though I wish it were. As explained in the first chapter of Jeff Pearlman’s Boys Will Be Boys, Irvin once stabbed a Cowboys teammate in the neck with scissors. And Smith on at least two occasions sucker punched a Carolina teammate. (They were Anthony Bright in 2002 and Ken Lucas in 2008.)
While Irvin has considerably mellowed, Smith seems to be every bit as feisty as he was as a player. If Irvin presses the right button, NFL Network may be televising an unplanned episode of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.