Tuesday, February 7, 2006
Before Moving Ahead, One Final Look Back
By Leonard Shapiro
Hall of Fame Shame: That’s right, another year, another snub of Art Monk.
Some people take it personally. Dan Snyder, the man who almost always declines interview requests, instead issued a statement decrying Monk’s exclusion, and of course, that’s really going to turn the tide next February when the selection committee meets again.
Yes, I’m on the committee and it remains somewhat of a mystery to me how a guy who caught more than 1,000 passes in his career — regular and postseason — couldn’t even make it from the cut from 15 down to 10, where he was eliminated along with the best of the Hogs, Russ Grimm.
I say “somewhat” of a mystery because, during the selection meeting the Saturday morning before the Super Bowl, some selectors opposed to Monk’s induction at least had the courage of their misguided convictions and did speak up.
The main knock on Monk is that opposing defenses feared Gary Clark and the Riggo running game more than they did Monk. It’s an argument that’s been made very publicly by my friend Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who was the beat guy covering the N.Y. Giants for Newsday on Long Island when Monk was in his prime in the 1980s. The Giants back then had a defensive coordinator named Bill Belichick — remember him — who devised various schemes that often effectively shut Monk down in an era when the Giants also dominated the Redskins.
I’m not telling tales out of school here; Peter has made his views very well known in his writings and broadcast appearances. He doesn’t think Monk is a Hall of Famer because he didn’t play like a Hall of Famer against the Giants, when King was watching. That’s his opinion, and I respect the man and the opinion. I don’t agree, but he’s certainly entitled to it.
I just wish he and other selectors not in Monk’s camp would look at the total body of work. And by the way, opposing defenses were likely more concerned with the Raiders Cliff Branch, but selectors still put his teammate, possession receiver Fred Biletnikoff, in the Hall. Opposing defenses were far more concerned with Kellen Winslow on the old Chargers, but selectors still voted Charlie Joiner a place in Canton.
Bottom line on Monk: when he retired, no receiver in league history had more catches. Second number: no receiver now in the Hall of Fame had more career catches than Monk. I still believe Monk is going to get in, as will Grimm and maybe even fellow Hog, Joe Jacoby. In a few years, Darrell Green should be a first ballot pick when he becomes eligible. Right now, the only Redskin player from that era in the hall is John Riggins, but that’s going to change.
Monday, February 6, 2006
The Chat House
NY, NY: Mike,
RE: the Art Monk HOF question, Don Banks of SI mentioned that Dan Snyder’s comments after the vote would only hurt Monk’s candidacy.
Michael Wilbon: I don’t care what anybody said. Monk didn’t get in before whatever Snyder said, which I’m not even aware of. Snyder is of no consequence in the discussions in that room. I’m in the damn room and I have a good idea on why Monk isn’t in. Half the people in the room consider Gary Clark a better receiver and don’t think Monk was even the best receiver on the team. I strongly, passionately disagree with that. Monk and Michael Irvin, who should both be in, are pretty much the same guy when you look at the numbers and the results. But it’s one man, one vote.
Washington, D.C.: What are the factors keeping Monk out of the HOF? This is getting to be ridiculous. Peter King doesn’t know a football from a baseball and is keeping a true great out of the Hall.
If the factors can’t be overcome, why the charade every year?
Michael Wilbon: Your statement that my friend Peter King of Sports Illustrated doesn’t know football is, well stuipid and ill-informed. I disagree with Peter on this issue. But it’s a disagreement, and that’s it. I just answered a question detailing the factors. And Peter King has one vote. So clearly there are others very much with him among the 39 men in the room.
Vienna, Va.: I know you field HOF questions frequently and here’s another angle: I see real parallels with Art Monk’s denial to Canton and Jim Rice’s denial to Cooperstown. They seem to be similar athletes in terms of production (workhorses, un-flashy, excellent stats) and in terms of demeanor (quiet/taciturn, lead by example, etc.). Comments?
Michael Wilbon: I’m with you to a point. I think they’re overt refusal to cooperate with the same media people that vote in Hall of Fame matters hurts them tremendously. Should it? No. Look, I have had social conversations with Monk, but NEVER talked to him for a story. Never. We’ve lived in the same town for 25 years and I’ve never talked to the guy with a notebook or a tape recorder. I don’t talk to him now. I talk to Joe Gibbs about him, Russ Grim, Riggins, Sonny, Theismann, Parcells, Belichick…I’ve talked to Everson Walls about Monk, to Ronnie Lott…But Art Monk is invisible when it comes to dealing with media…So he ran the risk and so far is losing. Personally, I don’t care if I ever talk to Monk about football or about his candidacy. He’s deserving. He’s over-the-top deserving. It’s a no-brainer to me. But I suspect, though I’ve never heard it come out of anybody’s mouth, that there are writers who whether they admit it to themselves or not hold it against Monk that he made it difficult for them to do their jobs.
Washington, D.C.: What do you think of Harry Carson’s suggestion of only past NFL players and HOF inductees voting for who gets in the HOF? Personally I totally agree with him.
Michael Wilbon: Well, HOF inductees don’t agree with Carson. I’ve talked to 25 of them, maybe more. Most don’t want to do it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve talked to a single one who wants to do it. Sat with two HOF inductees Saturday afternoon, one a Redskin and one a Cowboy, and both said, no way. They know how difficult it is. Again, I think Monk belongs. But Monk doesn’t belong in one bit more than the guys who were selected Saturday. Of those 15 men, all belong, in my opinion. And of that 15, 13 of 14 might make it in…but they can’t all make it at once. Only six could make it Saturday. It’s the HOF, dude…it’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, nobody would give a damn.