6 No; 17 Yes; 15 Unknown/Maybe
Len Pasquarelli is well-known for his inside sources around the NFL. However, ever since he missed the scoop on Joe Gibbs' return, he has developed a reputation among fans as a Redskin hater, and he has said on TV that Art Monk is not a Hall of Famer. Unlike the other voters against Monk though, he hasn't written any columns explaining his rationale or offering any real explanation, so it is difficult to assess his state of mind. When he wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the 80's and early 90's, he actually reported very favorably on Monk, calling him a future Hall of Famer several times:
November 10, 1991
U'-word is taboo for 9-0 Redskins; That's as in unbeaten' . . . something the NFL hasn't seen since 1972
In a league where some observers rate the overall talent level the lowest in two decades, where perennial powerhouses like the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers have fallen on hard times, that just may be enough to catapult Washington into its fourth Super Bowl appearance in 10 years.
Not that the Redskins are without talent. Quarterback Mark Rypien's season-long streak of late-career consistency has enhanced the team's "Posse" trio of receivers, consisting of fire (the explosive Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders) and ice (the cool Art Monk, No. 2 all-time pass- catcher). There are three running backs – including future star Ricky Ervins – who have all run Gibbs's trademark "counter-trey" play enough to have more than 200 yards each. The latter-day "Hogs" offensive line is staunch.
January 24, 1992
Skins' single-minded Gibbs no ordinary Joe
Minneapolis – First, for those who believe Joe Gibbs's only real passions are coaching the Washington Redskins, managing a fledgling NASCAR team, memorizing Bible passages and keeping careful tabs on his wife's spending habits at the Super Bowl, a revelation:
"Despite the public perceptions that he's strictly one-dimensional," said Redskins passing-game coach Rod Dowhower, "the guy has a ton of outside interests. He'll disappear for three or four days at a time during the offseason, just to get away from it. The thing about Joe is, he can get himself totally focused – and I mean totally – on whatever aspect of his life he's dealing with at the present time.
"Just ask him about his racquetball game sometime if you want to get him going on a subject."
Racquetball? Why not?
In 1976, Gibbs, then the running backs coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, won the 35-and-older national racquetball championship. The following year, he was national runner-up.
Nearly 15 years after he stopped playing seriously, Gibbs admits he still occasionally wakes at 3 a.m. in his in-season bed – the sofa in his office, where he normally crashes at least three nights a week. He'll shake out the cobwebs with a couple of sit-ups, climb down into the antiquated court at Redskins Park and smack a few shots off the wall.
Then, his angst released at least for a few hours, he usually pulls out a videocassette and starts fine-tuning the week's game plan.
"The last time I played racquetball against the only guy I can beat anymore, which is me, I think I pulled just about every muscle in my body," said Gibbs, 51, as he prepared his Redskins to meet the Buffalo Bills in Sunday's Super Bowl. "I still like to play, because it helps relieve the tension. But I get the impression my body's trying to tell me it's time to just be a spectator."
In football terms, he has been just that for the past 19 seasons – an unaffected witness to the NFL's ever-changing landscape. Philosophies, methods and strategies come and go, but Gibbs stays the only course he has ever known, holed up in his office/bunker in Herndon, Va., and adhering to the kind of relentless work ethic that has driven some of his coaching colleagues out of the game.
Along the way, Gibbs, in his 11th season in Washington, has managed to become the league's most consistent coach. He has won four conference championships and can become only the third coach to claim three Super Bowl titles.
His career record, 129-57, including 14-4 in the postseason, makes him the league's No. 2 active coach in terms of winning percentage, behind San Francisco's George Seifert. Of course, Seifert has compiled his .792 percentage in only three seasons; Gibbs has achieved his .693 mark in 11. With Chuck Noll having retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gibbs ranks second only to Miami's Don Shula among active head coaches in longevity with one club. Shula has 11 years on him, having begun with the Dolphins in 1970.
Clearly, Gibbs is no ordinary Joe.
Gibbs's entry into the NFL in 1973 came courtesy of Don Coryell, his old college coach at San Diego State. Gibbs, who had been a college assistant at San Diego State, Florida State, Southern Cal and Arkansas, accepted a job on Coryell's St. Louis Cardinals staff, figuring he'd stay only until an attractive college head coaching job opened up. Almost two decades later, he's still hanging around the NFL.
But not for much longer, he hinted this week.
"Tom Landry, Chuck Noll and Don Shula are still the guys you certainly look up to, and I'm not on the same layer as them," he said. "You look in their faces and they have a hardness that's different from me, I think. They're in it for the long haul. Me, maybe I'll have to be dragged away from it, because I still enjoy what I'm doing quite a bit. But if I'm here for 25 years, take me over to a goalpost and hang me from it. I still wake up every day thinking of myself as a short-timer in this game. I guess that mindset lends a certain sense of urgency to what I do."
Examples of Gibbs's in-season single-mindedness – "I prefer absent- mindedness," said his wife, Pat – are legendary. Gibbs's reading is limited to the Bible and the sports pages. He rarely attends a movie or the theater. For several years, Pat would make him audio tapes, detailing his sons' daily activities, so that he could keep up with the home-front goings-on. He listened to them in his car on the way to and from work.
In October, Gibbs was uncertain which two teams were playing in the World Series. He recently asked one of his assistants about "that JFK movie, the one that Oliver North actually Oliver Stone produced." Several times, he has pulled into the wrong driveway and almost walked into the wrong living room.
On New Year's Eve, preparing for his team's NFC semifinal game against the Atlanta Falcons, he called Pat at their home in Virginia, told her to wish his two college-age sons well and returned to work.
"Actually," said offensive line coach Jim Hanifan, "he was so out of it, he kissed me on the lips, said, Happy New Year, Pat,' and then suddenly came to his senses and said, Whoa. OK, let's get back to work guys.'
"Nah, I'm only kidding, but, hey, it could have happened. You know how Joe can get immersed in stuff."
Said Gibbs: "When I come home after six months and start telling Pat, We need to do this and do that,' she'll say, Joe, shut up. You're not in charge here.' You know, there are some negatives to a season that stretches to the Super Bowl. But Pat and me and the boys, we still have a strong relationship."
Somehow, Gibbs has found time to maintain stable relationships in every facet of his life, even while working his way to the top of his profession.
One of his strengths is his ability to find top people for his staff, and to keep them happy. His NFL-high 14 assistants – the norm is closer to 10 – comprise one of the finest staffs ever assembled, and are fiercely loyal. They appreciate his willingness to delegate authority as well as responsibility. "He's responsible for the output, but he gives all the rest of us plenty of input," said Richie Petitbon, Gibb's assistant head coach/defense. "This isn't a one-voice operation. Joe allows his coaches to coach." Because few of his aides ever leave the Redskins, the club has a continuity rarely seen in professional sports.
Another factor in Gibbs's success is the respect and compassion he has demonstrated toward his players.
"A coach is supposed to be above his players, but he shows enough respect to come to your level when he's talking to you," said defensive end Charles Mann. "I mean, when Joe walks into the locker room, it's not like we have to stop talking or whisper."
Said wide receiver Art Monk: "Joe's mellowed over the years, and nobody feels intimidated by him. He's still high-energy in his own way, but the older he gets, the calmer he gets. He's the kind of guy you could play for forever."
Which, of course, won't happen. The older Gibbs gets, the more likely it becomes that his major sports involvement will be with stock car racing, not the NFL.
"One of the thrills of my life," he noted, "will come next month when they go into the first turn at Daytona, and my car's running."
The Joe Gibbs Racing team, sponsored by Interstate Battery, will consist of Chevys driven by Dale Jarrett.
Gibbs acquired his love of fast cars during his boyhood in the heart of NASCAR country – he used to go with his father, the sheriff of Mocksville, N.C., on late-night raids to catch moonshiners – and his teenage years in California amid "hot rods and hamburger joints."
He does not see himself pacing the sidelines at age 60.
"I know when it's time to walk away," he said.
"And then I guess I'll work about 10 years to get my racquetball game back in shape and go out and try to win the 65-and-over championship."
September 12, 1992
All-time receptions record within Monk's reach
Even against the Atlanta Falcons' struggling secondary, Art Monk doesn't figure to have any chance of breaking Steve Largent's record for most career receptions Sunday in Washington.
After all, during his celebrated 13-year career with the Redskins, the cagey veteran has never caught more than 13 passes in a game. And Largent's 819 catches is still 16 more than Monk has accomplished.
Still, nothing about his performance surprises Monk's teammates anymore. A fellow receiver, in fact, will bring to the game a small memento he plans to award Monk when the record is broken.
"The thing about Art," Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien says, "is that he's almost as quiet on the field as he is off it. You can play the game and be thinking, 'Geez, we haven't gotten the ball to him much today.' But then you look at the stat sheet afterwards and he's got his usual six or seven catches.
"He just sort of sneaks up on you, I guess."
The publicity-shy Monk, 34, has crept up on the record with little hoopla. This summer, cognizant of the place he is about to soon occupy in league history, he has granted the media a bit more of his time.
But not much more.
The son of a welder and a part-time domestic worker, Monk grew up in White Plains, N.Y., learning not only the lessons of discipline but of humility. His favorite subject matter: Anything but Art Monk.
"I'd rather just go out and do something than have to talk about doing it, or how I did it, or how I planned to do it," said Monk. "Sure, I'm excited about the record. But the most enjoyable thing is just getting open and catching the ball."
How Monk does it is simply explained. At 6 feet 3 and 210 pounds, he uses his size and fluid yet subtle movements, rather than speed, to break free.
Although he still works hours each week on "the Redskin drill" – a regimen in which the receivers run downfield time after time, hauling in long passes – Monk's success over the last half of his career has come on the fairly pedestrian pattern called "Dodge." He goes 5 to 7 yards off the line, looking for a seam in the secondary.
The "Dodge" may be a large part of the Redskins' game plan Sunday. Coming off an embarrassing 23-10 loss at Dallas, coach Joe Gibbs is stressing fundamentals this week.
Said flamboyant wide receiver Gary Clark, the antithesis of Monk: "We're back to the basics, and that always includes getting the ball to Art."
September 11, 1994
INSIDE THE NFL; Enforcing 5-yard rule helps bump up scoring
In an effort to increase scoring for his moribund league, commissioner Paul Tagliabue, ably assisted by competition committee co- chairmen Don Shula and George Young, ramrodded through a package of rules changes at the NFL owners' meetings in March. Turns out, though, that the rule that figures to have the most effect has been on the books since 1978.
That's the year the league implemented the so-called "Isaac Curtis rule," whi ch prohibits defensive backs from making contact with receivers beyond five yards downfield. But for years, officials generally ignored the rule. And their reluctance to enforce it helped spur the return of the "bigger" cornerback – more physical players like Larry Brown (Dallas), Tom Carter (Washington), Cris Dishman (Houston), James Hasty (N.Y. Jets), Reggie Jones (New Orleans), Todd Lyght (L.A. Rams), Robert Massey (Detroit), Troy Vincent (Miami), Lionel Washington (L.A. Raiders) and Rod Woodson (Pittsburgh).
This year, however, director of officiating Jerry Seeman decided to re-emphasize the rule. And, though coaches say the enforcement is still uneven, the results of Seeman's efforts were obvious last weekend.
"It's like we're handcuffed with no contact after five yards," said Miami cornerback J.B. Brown. Added Denver defensive coordinator Charlie Waters: "You can hardly touch a guy. It's pretty easy for them to get open."
How easy? Consider:
With receivers running unchecked through secondaries at times, seven quarterbacks had 300-yard performances, more than in any single week of the 1993 season. Two quarterbacks – Miami's Dan Marino and New England's Drew Bledsoe – each threw for over 400 yards in the same game, and their combined 874 yards was the third-best total in league history. Six quarterbacks had three or more touchdown passes. The aggregate quarterback rating for the league last week was 85.0. For the '93 season, it was 76.4.
Some per-game totals for last weekend, and, in parentheses, how they compared to the first weekend of play last year: 46.6 points (37.4), 5.6 touchdowns (4.5), 445.4 net passing yards (401.8), 154.1 offensive snaps (150.8).
"It's only one weekend, but it's also a sign of things to come," said former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson. "It's going to put greater urgency than ever on finding the pure cover cornerback in the draft every year."
July 9, 1995
INSIDE THE NFL; Falcons not alone in soph dependence
New York Jets WR Ryan Yarborough: He's a guy who had six catches in his debut season being projected to replace future Hall of Famer Art Monk.
July 30, 1995
Mathis' mission: Show '94 no fluke; Breakthrough: Last season saw receiver post numbers among the elite; detractors need encore to believe in it
Still, despite a breakthrough season in which he became only the eighth player in the NFL's 75-year history to register 100 or more catches – his name forever linked with those of future Hall of Famers like Art Monk, Jerry Rice and Sterling Sharpe – the knocks just keep on coming for Terance Mathis.
122….Cris Carter……..Vikings… '94
112….Jerry Rice……. 49ers….. '94
112….Sterling Sharpe….Packers… '93
111….Terance Mathis… Falcons… '94
108….Sterling Sharpe….Packers… '92
106….Art Monk……… Redskins….'84
101….Charley Hennigan.. (a)Oilers.. '64
100….Haywood Jeffires.. Oilers……'91
100….Jerry Rice……. 49ers….. '90
December 3, 1995
INSIDE THE NFL; Winning's not easier second time around
Last week's signing of Art Monk by the Philadelphia Eagles will afford
the NFL's all-time leading pass-catcher a chance to pad his total of 934
receptions. It might also permit him to add to his record for
consecutives games with at least one catch. The top streaks in league
Art Monk……… WR….180(*)
Jerry Rice……. WR….155(*)
Mel Gray……… WR….121
Danny Abramowicz.. WR….105
Anthony Carter… WR….105
Gary Clark……. WR….105
Note: (*) Indicates streak is still active.
October 11, 1996
FALCONS REPORT; Takeaways keep slipping away
Kicker Morten Andersen was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Blue-Gray college all-star game this week in Montgomery, Ala. Among the other inductees: Art Monk, Cedrick Hardman and Jack Pardee. Andersen appeared in the 1981 Blue-Gray game and also handled the punting chores for coach Mike White.
October 30, 1996
NFL REPORT; Lions unsupportive of Fontes after he shows up Mitchell
Nobody ever mentions Henry Ellard as a potential Hall of Fame candidate, but the 14-year veteran has put together a portfolio with the Rams and Redskins that makes him worthy of consideration. Ellard needs just one catch Sunday at Buffalo to move past Hall of Fame receiver Charlie Joyner into fifth place on the all-time receptions list with 751. Ellard is 21 yards shy of supplanting Art Monk, who certainly will be in the Hall of Fame, for fourth place in receiving yards. "Watching him is like watching a ballet," said former Rams teammate Flipper Anderson. Added current Washington mate Bill Brooks of the 35-year-old Ellard: "He keeps himself in such great shape, he might be able to play three or four more years if he wanted." With '95 first-rounder Michael Westbrook a major disappointment, every defense in the league knows Ellard is the "go- to" guy for Gus Frerotte, but no one is able to adequately cover him.
Saturday, January 25, 2003
'Convoluted' logic ends long process
The Hall of Fame, and justifiably so, has very strict confidentiality rules. And I, like my ESPN.com colleague and fellow Hall of Fame selector John Clayton, am not about to breach those guidelines. Suffice it to say that the debate on Saturday morning was lively and compelling at times. There were a few instances of tedium, and it took nearly two hours to wade through just the first seven candidates, but the experience was a rewarding one.
A few insights, without stepping over the guidelines fashioned by the great Hall of Fame people like Joe Horrigan, from the session: The debate over the merits of quarterback Ken Stabler, who had 28 fewer touchdown passes than interceptions during his 15-year career. The fact that Randy Gradishar and Harry Carson could have been the first inside linebackers from teams that played 3-4 fronts to be inducted (neither made the cut). The fact Art Monk averaged only 13.5 yards per catch in his career and, in 16 seasons with the Redskins, led his team in receptions just six times. The presentation speeches, which typically ranged from eloquent to elongated.
For those unfamiliar with the Hall of Fame selection mechanics, it is a three-tiered process, one that eventually winnows down the field to six modern-day candidates and one hopeful from the seniors committee. That one man this year was Stram, the Energizer Bunny of a coach, and a guy known only to most youngsters as the caricature on the sidelines ("Keep matriculating the ball up the field, boys") in Super Bowl IV.
The 14 modern-day finalists are first cut to 10 and, falling out on that vote were Monk, Lester Hayes, Stabler and Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson. A subsequent ballot cuts the field to six, exclusive of the seniors candidate, and that lopped off Carson, Gradishar, Claude Humphrey and Bob Kuechenberg.
September 5, 2003
Fame May Beckon a Few Bucs
Pasquarelli: "I think Key is going to suffer because certain selectors are going to diminish the achievements of wide receivers because of the way the game has evolved. Art Monk may never get in. There is a group of voters who believe receiving totals are so inflated we need to apply different standards. That may hurt him."
November 18, 2004
Jags WR stats call for hall?; Smith has been hot, but likely needs more catches, Super Bowl trip to join list of NFL's finest
One of Smith's problems is that he hasn't played in a Super Bowl. Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said, "There's no Super Bowls, and nothing sticks out as a signature Jimmy Smith play."
Grossi said he has an open mind on Smith, although he'd have to be persuaded.
Three voters, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com and Ira Miller of the San Francisco Chronicle, don't appear to be ready to consider Smith at this time.
"Right now, he's not on my radar screen," Bouchette said.
"My initial reaction would be no," Pasquarelli said "I don't know where we're going to set the bar for wide receivers."
Miller said he wouldn't vote for Smith.
May 17, 2005
The Dan Patrick Show
Dan Patrick: (asking about the Hall of Fame balloting) Art Monk?
Len Pasquarelli: No.
February 4, 2006
The Hall Debate
''It's really about whether a guy passes the smell test,'' longtime NFL writer and at-large voter Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com said this week. “Stats aren't always the test, longevity isn't the best gauge, and some people talk about impact in big games, but there are a lot of guys who did that who aren't in.