Steve Smith and Michael Irvin arguing on NFLN.

NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football Baltimore Ravens-Cincinnati Bengals broadcast this week saw one of the more combative on-broadcast exchanges ever on a NFL broadcast. That started in the pre-game show with a discussion of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, where Michael Irvin said (as Flacco) “The last time I really had me one of those ‘I trust you’ receivers was Anquan Boldin, and that was in 2012, and I took you to the Super Bowl.’ Irvin was trying to make a point about receiver Michael Crabtree, but his omission of Smith (who played for the Ravens from 2014-16 following 13 seasons with the Carolina Panthers) immediately sparked a “What about Steve?” from host Colleen Wolfe, and then led to a back-and-forth between Smith and Irvin:

Irvin tries to back off this a bit with “Steve, you were a bad man,” Smith shoots back with “You’re telling me they ain’t had a wide receiver since Anquan?” and Irvin responds “You played there and you got hurt, you talked about it, those injuries.” Smith then says “I’m with you on the injuries, but Anquan wasn’t the only baller out there, man.” And then he compares himself and Irvin, saying “I understand you have the rings, but I passed you statistically years ago.” Irvin shoots back with “I got enough rings to let all y’all borrow one, then you’ll have some,” and Smith says “I understand and I concur with your rings, but there 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, playa, from a community college.” Irvin responds with “I got three rings,” and the two talk over each other and over Wolfe as she tries to throw to break.

Smith has a point there, as his career is just as impressive as Irvin’s on many fronts (and perhaps more so considering the caliber of quarterbacks he was working with), and Irvin was silly to make that bold claim about the Ravens’ receivers since Boldin with Smith sitting right there. But this sure came off as more than just friendly trash talk, and there’s some history of antagonism between the two, with Smith threatening on-air to “whoop your ass” after Irvin made a joke about his pants last year. (Irvin later apologized and wore a suit that looked like Smith’s pants.) And while good-natured feuds between analysts on the same set can be enjoyable (see all the iterations of Shaq-Barkley), this might be a bit beyond that at this point.

[The Big Lead]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.