The Art Monk Hall of Fame Campaign

May 13, 2006

Michael Wilbon

Filed under: Voter Articles — DjTj @ 11:34 am

Over the past few months, this blog has canvassed the Hall of Fame voters to find their opinions of Art Monk.  Michael Wilbon is the last voter on the list, so with all 39 voters profiled, the count is:

6 No; 18 Yes; 15 Unknown/Maybe

Michael Wilbon covered the Redskins for the Post throughout Art Monk's career, so he's written plenty about him.  He was the one presenting Art's case to the committee for many years, and he's as disappointed as anyone that Art isn't in yet.

Washington Post
November 2, 1981
Twice Burned at Outset, Cardinals Smolder at End
Michael Wilbon

Third play of the day: Redskin wide receiver Art Monk ran a simple post pattern down the right sideline. He gave St. Louis cornerback Carl Allen a head fake right, cut inside, caught a pass from Joe Theismann at about the 10 and ran in for a 38-yard touchdown. The game was 61 seconds old.

Washington Post
September 13, 1982
Ineptness on Defense Has Vermeil Fuming
Michael Wilbon

The Philadelphia defense stumbled badly on important plays throughout the game. But those most frequently replayed in the Eagle locker room afterward were two touchdown receptions by Redskin Charlie Brown, playing his first regular-season game as a pro, and two catches by Art Monk which led to the tying and winning field goals.

Brown and Monk beat Eagle veteran Herman Edwards all afternoon, including Brown's 78-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter that began the Washington comeback. Edwards went for an interception, but missed, on Monk's 27-yard catch that set up Mark Moseley's game-winning field goal in overtime. Still, Edwards refused to fault himself.

Washington Post
September 1, 1989
Of Game-Breakers and Big-Play Makers
Michael Wilbon

Is Art Monk a game-breaking receiver? Probably not. He has been perhaps the league's best and most consistent receiver this decade, running the tough routes and making the plays that open the field for others. It's not that Monk couldn't be a game-breaker; it's simply the way the Redskins choose to use him. His 72 receptions and 13.1 yard average per reception say Monk — a lot like the Jets' Al Toon (93 catches, five touchdowns, 11-yard average) — is the heart of the offense, but doesn't get the glory.

Washington Post
December 21, 1989
Vikings, Bengals Head Lineups
Michael Wilbon

The NFC team features well-known names from traditionally strong teams, and reflects the new-found muscle of the NFC Central. Sterling Sharpe of the Packers joined the 49ers' Jerry Rice as starting wide receivers. Henry Ellard of the Rams was an expected choice, but John Taylor of the 49ers was a surprise pick over the Washington Redskins' Art Monk. Taylor caught touchdown passes of 92 and 96 yards in a Week 14 Monday night game against the Rams.

Washington Post
December 27, 1989
NOTEBOOK; Coaches of the Year? Reeves and Parcells
Michael Wilbon

Surprise Stats: Art Monk isn't the only wide receiver who has a right to feel snubbed by his peers in last week's Pro Bowl balloting. Mark Carrier of Tampa Bay had nine 100-yard days but was passed over. Guess who had the most rushing attempts in one season this decade? Tampa Bay's James Wilder, who carried 407 times in 1984, helping explain why he never was so good after that season. . . .

Washington Post
November 5, 1990
The Draw — and the Ace in the Hole
Michael Wilbon

There were too many Washington heroes to count. Art Monk's 13 catches tied his career high and team record. None was more important than the 40-yard completion in OT that took the Redskins from third and 15 at their 5 to near midfield. Eric Williams, a Lion two months ago, knocked ex-teammate Rodney Peete out of the game, rendering the Detroit offense useless down the stretch. Joe Jacoby came in for injured Jim Lachey. Gerald Riggs ran, Kelvin Bryant caught.

Washington Post
October 7, 1991
A Familiar Feeling
Michael Wilbon

When the camera lights are on and the notebooks open, players talk about taking it one week at a time, not attaching too much significance to any one victory and so on and so on. But at some point during the course of a special season, private thoughts are radically different. Teams know. They just do. When you beat the Bears, flawed as they are, when you stuff the Monsters in the wind and the cold of Soldier Field, when you win against a perennial playoff team on the road in the absence of both a running game and a great passing performance, you've got more than a hint.

Art Monk has been there. In 1982, '83 and '87, all Super Bowl seasons. If he's not there now, he's close. In the wake of a 20-7 victory Sunday that ran the Washington Redskins' record to 6-0, someone asked if this is perhaps the best team Monk has played on. He hesitated for just a second and said: "Yeah, I would say so. Not just because of our record. But there's a closeness, a confidence that just reminds me of our '83 team. Determined. We're just playing that way."

Monk is talking about a team feeling that it can stop the opponent's best rusher, shut out its pass rush, force the opponent to abandon what it does best. That's what the Redskins are doing. It was nice to beat the Lions, Cardinals, Cowboys and Bengals. But these last two wins, over the Eagles and the Bears, this is where determination turns to steely will.

"We're determined that we're not going to let anything stop us," Monk said, without the slightest trace of arrogance. "We come in with a game plan and if it doesn't work, we keep changing it and changing it until something works. There's a feeling you get that no one can stop you. It's not to say you can't be stopped, but the feeling is you can't be. You feel like, 'Hey, we're going to win no matter what. If we're down three on the last possession of the game, we're coming back.' "

The Redskins surely didn't have to worry about that Sunday, largely because Monk made at least two remarkable plays, caught both touchdown passes and reminded one of the league's best secondaries that even at 33 he can kill you. "I obviously don't perform, at least I don't think so, the way I used to," he said.

Tell that to the Bears.

On the Redskins' first touchdown drive, it was third and eight and looked like another field goal opportunity, when Monk improvised a route to get open for a 26-yard touchdown pass that led to a 10-0 lead.

At 10-7, on fourth and four, Monk took two jarring hits but held on to a 12-yard pass that kept alive the drive that resulted in his second touchdown reception, and a 17-7 lead. Of course if helped that the Bears were preoccupied with Ricky Sanders on the first touchdown, and with Gary Clark on the second. Clark still is the most underrated player — not receiver, player — in the league. But ask yourself this: If you've got one tick of the clock left and you've got to have a touchdown pass, whom do you want to throw to?

1. Jerry Rice.

2. Art Monk.

Great teams win on days they don't play great, because there's a Hall of Fame player or two to pull them through. That's what Monk did Sunday.

The rushing attack, which had been high octane this season, produced just 75 yards. The Bears decided to commit heavily to stopping the run. The new book on the Redskins seems to be stop Earnest Byner and Gerald Riggs, make Mark Rypien beat you. Rip had some more shaky moments, but he delivered when necessary. This criticism of the Redskins quarterback might be getting a little out of hand.

He's not Montana, he's not ever going to be Montana. He's going to throw some interceptions. He's going to struggle and at times make Redskins fans throw up their hands and holler. He's a sixth-round draft choice. It's unfair to expect him to play like a first-rounder. Sunday's tally of one interception, two touchdowns was more than adequate.

Mike Ditka drew some laughs when discussing the performance of his quarterback, Jim Harbaugh, who talked a tough game during the week and played like the quarterback from the University of Michigan that he is. "I don't think [Harbaugh] played any worse than their guy," Ditka said.

Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs, however, said, "Mark is 6-0, that's all I care about."

Rypien doesn't have to carry the team, as we saw again Sunday. That's what Monk, Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm, Monte Coleman and Jeff Bostic, among others, are there for.

"We've got seven or eight guys," Gibbs said, "who've been in there for the full 11 years and I think some of them think that this may be their last shot to get to the Super Bowl and that helped motivate us."

The Bears used to turn in motivated performances, almost routinely, especially at home, which is why some of us saw the Redskins' undefeated season becoming blemished here. But the old Bears, if not completely dead, are on life support.

Guess how many times Dent, Fridge, McMichael & Co. sacked Rip? Try none. Not once. They barely touched him. Linebacker John Roper got in Rip's face once and made him throw a little wider than he wanted, but there was little other pressure. "Yeah, I'd say that was pretty much the only time they hurried me," Rip said.

So the offensive line, with starting right tackle Ed Simmons on injured reserve and future Hall of Famer Russ Grimm playing the utility role, is looking like the original Hogs. It's playing like it has the feeling. So is the defense. And the special teams.

It's a feeling that lets a team soar just high enough, without reaching arrogance. "Arrogance? No, we don't take it that far," Monk said. "We'll stay on our P's and Q's. It can be tough only if you let it."

Washington Post
January 29, 1992
Redskins Beat Opponents to the Rhythm of Their Oldies
Michael Wilbon

Nothing plays like class. If you want to know why the Washington Redskins are champions, again, look no further than Art Monk, Don Warren, Monte Coleman, Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, Darrell Green and Charles Mann.

A former teammate, Joe Theismann, was asked early Monday morning about the lot of them. As the names rolled off the tongue, Theismann nodded in reverence. The question was never finished. "You can't overstate the value of the veteran nucleus," he said. "Smart football players, with ability and character. It all sounds so simple. Maybe it is if you have those guys."

The Big Chill, that's what these elite eight are. The film of Super Bowl XXVI should be set to Motown oldies.

Joe Gibbs has a zillion strengths as a coach. Perhaps the most important is he appreciates the human resouces he has at hand. On some teams, a controversy might have been created trying to figure out who to start among wide receivers Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders. Not with the Redskins. Several years ago, Gibbs told the three of them to decide among themselves who would start.

For Sunday's Super Bowl coin toss, Gibbs sent out eight co-captains: Coleman and Stephen Hobbs for the special teams; Mann, Green and Wilber Marshall for the defense; Monk, Warren and Bostic for the offense.

Jacoby and Grimm were there in spirit, and probably didn't need to waste any of the few steps remaining in their thirty something knees walking to midfield on that hard turf.

The Redskins' victory was reflective of the entire season. It was virtually impossible to pick an MVP. "We never had anybody fighting for personal goals," Gibbs said. "The victory was typical in that there was no superstar out there. From day one, I never got upset with this team. A lot of that comes from those eight guys, the guys we sent out there for the coin toss.

"I was always able to concentrate on the X's and O's." Gibbs held up a clenched fist and said, "They were like that."

Standard operating procedure in most NFL locker rooms at halftime is for the head coach or an assistant to talk about the first five minutes of the third quarter. But before any of the coaches could get to the topic, the Monks and Warrens started in with the younger players: "Now the first five minutes of the third quarter . . . ."

If you walk into the Bills' locker room, what is it you seize? Probably that you can walk around day and night with a chip on your shoulder, duck-walk into your Super Bowl introduction, whine and moan about media attention, proclaim you're the best defensive player in the league, or the best all-purpose this and that.

If you're a new player and you arrive at Redskin Park, it takes all of about five seconds to realize you shut up, work, accept your role at all costs, and win.

The Redskins, at best, are about the fourth-most talented team in the NFL. The Vikings have as much natural ability as the Redskins. The Bickering Bills are light years ahead of them. But you can see how overrated that is, after two teams of the same ilk, the Giants and Redskins, walked in and won championships from Buffalo.

Gibbs cited Gerald Riggs as a good example. While star Bills running back Thurman Thomas moaned about the number of carries he got, Riggs, a one-time star, a man who was accustomed to being the whole show, accepted, even embraced, his short-yardage-only role. He got five carries Sunday, two touchdowns.

"The guy played his role all year and didn't say a word about other guys getting the carries," Gibbs said.

You might wonder why Hobbs was out for the coin flip, but nobody inside the Redskins organization does. He's new to the Big Chill mix, a clubhouse force, an organizer of special teams and critical internally. Gibbs knows he can't replace them all at once; in fact, he'll probably never replace them. "Fortunately for me," he said, "most of them had good years," meaning he won't have to consider cutting any of them just yet. "For the last couple of years, I've leaned on them heavily. They know where their bread is buttered. If the team does well, they do well."

Theismann told a story about himself in 1983. "I got good," he said, "when I decided Joe Theismann wasn't the star of the Washington Redskins. The natural tendency when you have success is to think you're better than the whole.

"What Joe has, in those guys, are people who understand the total picture."

So, now other teams appear to have a problem. It's a league of copycats. When the Redskins won with counter-trey, everybody else was running it the next season. When the Bears won with eight-man defensive fronts, everybody tried that. "If there's something we can steal," Gibbs cracked, "we'll steal it. We have no pride."

That's all fine and well if we're talking about tactics, but what can competitors do when the secret to your success is personality? As Theismann said, it would be simple if you could draft a young Monk or Bostic or Grimm. In fact, all of them, then hope they stay healthy for a decade. You can't copy that, right?

Leave it to NFL coaches to try. Detroit's Wayne Fontes is eager to pick up whatever he can from a team that he lost to twice by a total of 86-10. Fontes knows it's the who, not the what. Already, he's created a club of players called The Committee, which meets with him every 10 to 14 days to express any and all player concerns.

He hopes, ultimately, The Committee can help him run the club as responsibly, as efficiently and, of course, as successfully as the firm of Monk, Coleman, Warren, Green, Mann, Bostic, Grimm & Jacoby has supported Gibbs.

It would be impossible to pay anyone higher honor.

Washington Post
April 8, 1994
Between Loot and Loyalty Comes the Bottom Line
Michael Wilbon

Let's get this straight: The Washington Redskins didn't cut Art Monk. They didn't tell him to take a hike, they didn't tell him his services were no longer needed. The Redskins didn't do Art Monk wrong. He left. Art Monk walked. The Redskins didn't get rid of Art Monk, he got rid of them.

Being a union employee, the son of two union workers, I am loath to take a management position in virtually anything. But I draw the line at a $ 600,000 salary in the twilight of a career being called an insult. Monk's agent, Richard Bennett, told The Post's David Aldridge, "I just couldn't believe that they would force Art to play for $ 600,000 or run him out of town. … Art could not prostrate himself and accept the Redskins' offer made by threat."

Don't get me wrong. I would take Monk over any receiver in his generation except Jerry Rice. But I wish to heaven somebody would "threaten" me with $ 600,000. Put the gun to my head and I'll show you how quickly I'll prostrate myself for a half-million bucks. It reminds you, once again, how out of touch too many professional athletes and their agents are with reality. Reality for the poor jerk who makes $ 35,000 a year is having to pay $ 70 for two Redskins tickets, only to hear a guy who's made $ 1 million a year or more for half his career whine about making $ 600,000 to hear cheers wash over him for the final 16 weeks of his career. The only thing sillier than Bennett's position is those calls from secretaries and firemen and teachers who make one-thirtieth of Monk's salary phoning the talk shows to cry over Poor Art who was treated so shabbily and shown no loyalty.

There's no such thing as loyalty, not when money is at stake, for either side. If loyalty was an issue, then doesn't Monk owe it to the fans who have revered him for 14 years to finish his career here? What's the most Monk can get to play one season elsewhere? Let's say, kindly, $ 800,000. That's if he's lucky. So for somewhere in the neighborhood of $ 200,000 he'd finish his career in Cleveland? In Tampa? The possibility exists he might not get a nibble. Last year Monk was an unrestricted free agent for 4 1/2 months, and no team made an offer. This year, he's been an unrestricted free agent for two months and no team has made an offer. So for a total of more than six months, somebody could have offered Monk $ 1 million a year. Except nobody has.

Monk, by his actions, is betting somebody else is going to pay him more money. That's not an act of loyalty, it's a business decision. And I don't begrudge him a penny. My philosophy is that any worker, no matter the venue, should try to get as much dough as he can before management slams the door in his face. If Monk can get $ 1 million from somebody, he ought to do it. I damn sure would. (In fact, what's to say Monk won't ultimately sign with the Redskins in four months if, say, a receiver gets hurt.) But don't give me all this garbage about hurt feelings and loyalty.

Like every other player and agent, Monk and Bennett know this is the new order of the NFL. There's a certain amount of money, because of the salary cap, and teams have to decide how to spend it. The Redskins players, no matter how legitimate their complaints sound now, voted in favor of this system. The day it was implemented everybody who could read knew veteran players were going to take pay cuts and risk losing their jobs to younger players. A team like the Redskins, built around responsible, no-nonsense workaholic veterans like Monk, would be hurt most. Monk isn't the only veteran who was asked to take a pay cut or risk not being offered a contract at all. It's happening throughout the league. Warren Moon, the Oilers' signature player for a decade, is facing the same dilemma. The Bears just yesterday waved bye-bye to Steve McMichael, one of the best defensive linemen in their history. Monk's episode isn't the end for the Redskins. There are starters who will have to take a pay cut — or get out — by the beginning of the season. This system wasn't forced on the players, they voted it in, lobbied on behalf of it, signed their names to it. If the Redskins players thought it was wrong, they should have stuck to their guns and made the vote 27-1.

But it's no surprise his teammates and ex-teammates have reacted as they have. It's probably not possible to have had a better teammate than Art Monk. We know he was a great player by looking at the games, the catches and blocks he made, by studying the season and career statistics. But we know Monk was beyond even greatness because of the way his coaches/teammates adored him and opponents respected him. It comes as no surprise that a city feels blue over the apparent departure of a player who has served a team and a community this well for 14 years.

The difficult thing about transition in business is that everybody gets swept up in it. Who's left? Darrell Green and Monte Coleman? If Joe Gibbs was still coach, he'd have gone to the mat for Monk to stay one more year, at whatever salary necessary to keep him. But Gibbs isn't the coach. Norv Turner's only mandate is to win. Monk, to him, isn't a cornerstone, he's a receiver. Turner and his staff have to see a 36-year-old guy who can no longer separate himself from D-backs, whose skills certainly won't improve.

The sad thing, of course, is that if Monk is to break more records he might have to do it in another uniform. You'd obviously rather not see him like Franco Harris, playing out the string in Seattle or some city where people don't have the emotional investment, the attachment and the appreciation only Washington has for Monk. Perhaps this wouldn't be happening if the Redskins didn't have $ 400,000 committed to a pro-rated signing bonus for Carl Banks, a constant reminder of a colossal personnel blunder a year ago. If not for those bonuses, the Redskins might be able to keep not only Monk, but also Earnest Byner. This, however, is what every team gets in the era of free agency.

What's bothersome about Redskins management, specifically, is how rarely relationships with the team's great players end happily, from Ken Houston, to Riggo to Theismann to Doug Williams. The one exception was Jeff Bostic, all smiles and endearing war stories the recent afternoon he announced his retirement. That's what everybody who ever cared about Art Monk wanted, a bow in the sun, his jersey retired, all his catches and touchdowns and yardage belonging, faithfully, to one team. It's dreamy, but it doesn't carry the dollar sign.

Washington Post
December 11, 1994
Monk's Career Plays Like a Broken Record
Michael Wilbon

Don't get me wrong, doing anything for 178 consecutive games is accomplishment enough in the National Football League. But the record for consecutive games with a reception is a completely inadequate way to measure Art Monk's extraordinary career.

It doesn't exactly measure durability, because you can miss games and still keep the streak intact. It doesn't really measure consistency and contribution, because you can catch one pass in every game of a season and still have the grand total of 16. It doesn't exactly guarantee immortality because three people have held the record in the last 14 years and two more will likely hold it and pass it on before long. It's a nice milestone, a B record, not like Jim Brown's five straight rushing titles or Walter Payton's 16,000-plus career rushing yards. And a B record is no way to measure an A-plus player such as Monk, a man who will certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection.

If you insist on using numbers to assess Monk's career, look at his 932 career receptions, which also represent an NFL record and put Monk more than 100 catches ahead of Steve Largent, who's second. Or his 106 catches, seven for touchdowns, in 1984. Or his 91 catches the next year. Or his 86 catches, eight for touchdowns, at 32 years old in 1989. Or his 71 catches, eight more for touchdowns, in the 1991 Super Bowl season at the age of 34. Those are numbers that reflect Monk's durability, consistency, productivity, longevity and uniqueness.

So often, players pile up great numbers not only because of incomparable talent, but because their teams stink. See early Walter Payton. See O.J. Simpson's entire career. See Barry Sanders, see Sterling Sharpe. That's not the case with Monk. No great receiver had to share time and balls with as many good or great receivers and runners. (Okay, Jerry Rice.) But Monk shared the wealth with The Fun Bunch and The Posse, with third-down specialists Joe Washington and Kelvin Bryant, with H-backs and multiple tight ends, sometimes for a team that would run Riggo eight straight times without even thinking pass. One thing I'll promise you is that Rice never had to play the role of set-up man, which Monk did for Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders, who went deep and got the glamour catches in the Rypien years. You can remember 178 if you want, I'll remember third-and-seven with safeties lurking. You know how many players are the go-to-guy for 10 years? You know how strong and healthy and alert and talented and disciplined and focused and respected and trustworthy and coachable you have to be to be a team's go-to-man in football for that long? Get real. The road to the Pro Bowl is paved with guys who do it once or twice and flame out.

The best thing about Monk's 178th consecutive game with a reception on Saturday was that the aftermath was so predictably Monk. The game stopped for about two seconds, Monk smiled (I think), the eclipsed Largent waved, Monk ran off the field and play continued. That was it. No fanfare, no speeches, no presentations, no family trotting out for a bow, no glorious ceremony. Some people entertain; Art Monk makes his living as a football player.

It is fitting that Monk would break this latest record in the NFL's "Throwback" season because Monk himself is a throwback to a time when players handed the ball to the official after scoring a touchdown, to a time when you judged players solely on what they did on game day.

If you think athletes ought to be role models, then Monk's the guy, the genuine article. No scandal, no gossip. The guy is about his family, his team, he is civic-minded beyond reason in the metropolitan area that adores him, an old-fashioned hero when you think about it. He sponsors enough scholarships and programs for a small company. The more you see the Andre Risons of the world, the more you bemoan what will be the sooner-than-later retirement of Art Monk.

Saturday surely saw a lot of hand-wringing over the fact that Monk broke the record as a New York Jet, not as a Redskin. Joe Gibbs, for one, can hardly believe his own eyes when he sees, "Art Monk … in green!" Absolutely, Monk's pursuit of the record here in Washington could have made the 2-11 season bearable if not meaningful.

But Monk is a grown man who made the business decision to turn down $ 600,000 because he didn't think the Redskins were making a fair offer. Maybe both sides needed a season or so away from each other to appreciate the previous 14 years. Monk has spoken openly and frequently about how he wishes he could have broken the record at RFK. Jack Kent Cooke indicated to The Post's David Aldridge the other day that he'd be receptive to re-signing Monk at the very end so that he could retire as a Redskin, the same way 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo brought Roger Craig back to San Francisco after a late-career departure to Minnesota. It would be a wonderfully symbolic gesture of behalf of the Redskins, and hopefully it would help heal any wounds that might have been opened during last summer's difficult contract haggling.

In fact, Monk wearing a Redskins jersey once more would be a much better highlight than that short pass on the first play of the Jets-Lions game Saturday. The record recently held by Harold Carmichael and Largent, soon to be passed on, probably to Rice and then Sharpe, isn't nearly as significant as celebrating a career that will be associated with one team long after the record is broken again.

Washington Post
December 23, 1996
RFK History Is the Best Teacher
Michael Wilbon

As the old-timers trotted out from the dugout, from Bobby Mitchell to Ron McDole to Sonny to Riggo to Brig Owens to Doug Williams, it struck Brian Mitchell like a bolt of lightning: Most of the current Redskins don't even know who all these old geezers are. They don't know, for instance, that John Riggins would climb out of traction in Sibley Hospital on Saturday and run right through you for 100 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday. The youngsters don't know that Art Monk's offseason workouts were harder than their game days. Or that Larry Brown was the most reckless, fearless, die-for-one-yard runner who ever lived. Or that Gary Clark would run a pass route across the middle against an oncoming Mack truck. Pat Fischer would find spring his legs didn't have to bat balls away from 6-foot-8 Harold Carmichael. Or that Sonny Jurgensen would study the game with such passion and such great detail he'd come to know the playbook — yours and his — better than any coach.

Brian Mitchell looked at the old geezers and said a private thanks. "Seeing those guys trot out there might be exactly what the young guys on this team need," he said. "To see the guys who made this franchise what it is has to affect them. You want to find out more, to look into it. The more they learn the more they'll understand what they have to do to be successful here.

"Look, I came in here seven years ago while all this was going on. I was fortunate enough to play with some of those guys. I know about the Hogs and the Posse [who played years before Mitchell arrived]. If you know what they were all about, you can't just say, 'Well, I played my hardest,' even when you lose. You have to work and sacrifice to live up to the standards they set. Monte Coleman and Don Warren, they made me come in and work as hard as I did. When I was a rookie, I'd watch Art Monk and say, 'If this guy works this hard, I'd better get myself up and do an extra set, too.' Earnest Byner was my workout partner and I thought he was going to kill me.

"The new guys here, they want to get the same attitude those guys had. I almost said it to somebody when they were going out there: 'I'm gonna be one of those guys.' "

Washington Post
January 27, 2001
Art Critics Agree, Monk Is a Masterpiece
Michael Wilbon

Every year, usually beginning in the spring, literature arrives at my office trumpeting the virtues of candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I don't recall getting a single leaflet or fax or handout lobbying for Art Monk, who is up for election this morning. And it's perfectly appropriate that there's no campaign for Monk, considering he never lobbied for himself and spoke only when it was necessary — and sometimes not even then.

There was nothing slick about Monk's 16-year career at wide receiver, the meaningful 14 years all coming with the Washington Redskins. The men voting on his worthiness will have to find Hall of Fame value in the subtleties of great route running, study, preparation. His candidacy, like his understated career, has none of the sizzle of Bill Parcells's or Lynn Swann's. And in considering Monk, we voters will have to eschew the highlight-reel mentality that seems to have all but taken over our perceptions of what constitutes all-time greatness.

"To fully appreciate Art Monk, you have to realize his game wasn't speed, and his game wasn't power, it was brains," said Matt Millen, the former linebacker, former TV analyst and newly hired boss of the Detroit Lions. "He had enough speed, and he had enough power. But most of all he had a cerebral game. He had it all figured out, if you go that way, I'll get open over here. To be able to do that you've got to know your quarterback, your scheme, and their scheme. He was the Cris Carter of his day without the show."

It's a recurring theme when you mention Monk's name to current or former players. "Consummate pro" is what you get back in a game of word association. No one can recall him dramatically signaling first down, dancing or posing or so much as spiking the ball. Monk's retirement seems to have signaled the beginning of excess.

To deal with Monk's statistics (224 games, 940 receptions, 12,721 yards, 68 touchdowns) in the discussion of his candidacy almost leads you to miss the point. Within five years, almost all of his numbers will be dwarfed by a half-dozen or more receivers. Robert Bailey, the Baltimore Ravens' veteran cornerback who played against Monk, said, "I don't associate Art Monk with numbers. He was a very, very intelligent guy. He played the game with intelligence. And he worked. When he retired, he stayed in shape, was still running hills. He was the consummate pro.

"He was a real quiet guy. Everybody on both teams loved him. And no trash talking. He was a quiet man who just did his job. Is there anybody playing today who reminds me of Art? Yeah, Irving Fryar. Art was a real nice guy who ran great routes, who everybody loved. He was one of those guys you wished well and hoped he stayed healthy. Everybody hopes guys like that last a long time in the league."

If anything about Monk amazed us, it's how he did what he did. "You wind up asking yourself, 'How did he get so open?' " Millen said. "In putting together the game plan, you said, 'We've got to take away Art Monk.' He might have only four catches, but three of them were on critical third downs. That's why his numbers don't tell the story, it's when you make the catches."

Tom Jackson, the former Broncos linebacker and ESPN analyst, takes it one step further. "Joe Gibbs was a firm believer in max protect. He always protected the quarterback first. That often meant an extra tight end or a second back staying back to block. So much of what Art Monk did came on one- or two-receiver routes. You send four guys out, it's easier to get open. One guy, two guys, it's very difficult. But still, Art always got open. . . . And he played on teams that ran as much if not more than they passed."

So is he a lock for immediate enshrinement? Nope. The 2001 class isn't going to be star-studded like the 2000 class with Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott. There's no lightning-rod case, like that of Lawrence Taylor the year before. But there are plenty of worthy candidates, including Jackie Slater and his 20 seasons with the Rams; his teammate, defensive end Jack Youngblood, who was all-pro five times and played two postseason games in 1979 with a broken leg; Coach Bill Parcells, who led teams to three Super Bowls and won two; and again Swann, the receiver many NFL players think is in the Hall of Fame already but is not.

And it's not like Harry Carson, Dave Casper, Dan Hampton, Mike Munchak, John Stallworth, Ron Yary, Ralph Wilson Jr., Marv Levy, Nick Buoniconti, Lester Hayes don't have credentials. Personally, there's not a receiver eligible today that I would vote ahead of Swann, who in seven fewer seasons was all-pro more times (three to Monk's two), went to as many Pro Bowls (three each) and was a contributing member to more championship teams (four to Monk's three). In 109 fewer games, (224 for Monk to 115 for Swann), Swann caught 15 fewer touchdown passes (53).

But there I go again, using numbers to build cases. It's something Hall of Fame selectors have to resist because players of different eras played with slightly different rules, at times that featured different styles of play. Soon, men such as Andre Rison will retire with more catches, more yards, and more touchdowns. But they will have played in four-receiver sets with quarterbacks who threw the ball 50 times per game instead of 20, in specialized roles that didn't call for the kind of completeness that marked Monk's distinguished career and will sooner or later land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Washington Post
February 2, 2002
Trim the Coaching Commentary, Please
Michael Wilbon

We've been stuck on the topic of coaches this NFL season: who's a genius, who's getting fired, who's going where, who's making how much. Surely you didn't expect Super Bowl week to be any different, even as we come to the final two days of the season.

Hall of Fame Saturday, like everything else, is being held hostage by coaches. The late great George Allen is up for vote, as is Bill Parcells, whose retirement status could decide whether he is elected now or later. They are the headliners, not Art Monk and John Stallworth.

January 21, 2005
The Chat House
Michael Wilbon

Hagerstown, Md.: Does Peter King and Dr. Z have a personal vendetta against Art Monk because he did not play the "media game" as a player? Have you considered lining up 8 other HOF voters, vote no on the 14 other candidates as a group, and filibuster the selection meeting until Monk is voted in?

Michael Wilbon: I've known Peter for a long, long, long time…my whole career, in fact. We came into together and have been pretty close for 25 years. That's more than half our lives…I've known Dr. Z. and admired his work but from afar…Though we sit in the same press boxes and the same Hall of Fame room on Super Bowl Saturday, I don't know him well at all…I'm saying all that to say this: I don't believe those guys carry that kind of agenda when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. I disagree with anybody who believes Art Monk does not belong in the Hall of Fame. In that room, I disagree loudly and passionately…not just on the Monk issue but on a lot of things. That's the nature of sports, and particularly the nature of Hall of Fame debate. But vendetta? I don't believe it…and I certainly hope not. Those guys are pros' pros and they care about the game too much to undermine the process.

Burtonsville, Md.: Do you think that it is easier to get into the Football Hall of Fame than Baseball. Who do you think deserves to be in the Football Hall of Fame that isn't in?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know how the baseball situation works…But we don't have enough time to talk about all the football players I think should be in…Art Monk, for those of you who are local, is one of the guys I think should be in…

August 1, 2005
The Chat House
Michael Wilbon

Burtonsville, Md.: Do you think that it is easier to get into the Football Hall of Fame than Baseball. Who do you think deserves to be in the Football Hall of Fame that isn't in?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know how the baseball situation works…But we don't have enough time to talk about all the football players I think should be in…Art Monk, for those of you who are local, is one of the guys I think should be in…

August 15, 2005
The Chat House
Michael Wilbon

College Park, Md.: As another Hall of Fame induction has come and gone without Art Monk taking his rightful place among the immortals in Canton, when (if at all) do you think football's most glaring omission will recieve his do? Also, with his excellent credentials and immense talent, why do you think he has been left out thus far? I cannot find one significant hole in his resume. What do you think?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know that it's the most glaring omission, but I agree Monk belongs. For that matter, I'm a Hall of Fame selector who helps Len Shapiro of The Washington Post nominate Monk every year. I believe in his worthiness. Shapiro does, too. And it irks me that others in that room don't believe what I believe…I don't know when he'll be voted in, or even if he'll be voted in…I hope so, but I don't know it.

January 17, 2006
The Chat House
Michael Wilbon

Dover, Del.: Hi Mike,

Do you think the Hall of Fame voters will finally vote Art Monk into the Hall?


Michael Wilbon: This year? No, I don't. Not with Aikman and Madden and Reggie White…I'm one of the guys (after Leonard Shapiro of The Post) who presents the case FOR Monk…And I'm damn annoyed Monk isn't in already…But that doesn't change the fact that not enough voters in the room agree with me. Also, Michael Irvin is still on the ballot. So is Harry Carson, who I believe belongs in. So is Richard Dent, who I believe belongs in…It's going to be a contentious debate…I can just feel it.

January 23, 2006
The Chat House
Michael Wilbon

Chicago, Ill.: Michael, I'm a big fan!

Do you see the 'Skins using free agency or the draft to address their need for a Art Monk type possesion receiver to compliment Santana Moss?

Michael Wilbon: Hush your mouth! You call the great Art Monk a "posession receiver?" Talk about damning somebody with faint praise! C'mon. Monk ought to be in the Hall of Fame. You sound like some of my colleagues who don't think Monk belongs. Anyway, as to your question, I think they're going to have to do it through the draft. I thought Reggie Wayne of the Colts might leave via free agency, but apparently not…So perhaps they'll get somebody in this year's draft to groom and coach up.

January 30, 2006
The Chat House
Michael Wilbon

Chicago, Ill.: Hey Michael, Is it just me or is it mind-boggling how Art Monk is not in the Hall of Fame yet, not to mention that there is no way Michael Irving should be inducted before Monk…and I'm not just saying that because I hate the Cowboys. The man led the league in receptions when he retired and won three Superbowls…and yet people still don't give him the credit he deserves!! What is wrong with this picture???

Michael Wilbon: Until the voters in the room feel the way you do, he's not getting in. Look, I'm one of the people who presents the case FOR Art Monk to be in the Hall of Fame, so you're not even preaching to the choir, you're preaching to the PREACHER…But not enough people believe as we do, and while I hope he goes in this year, I really doubt it will happen given the people who will likely be voted in ahead of him this year (Reggie White, Troy Aikman, John Madden). Harry Carson also belongs. So does Richard Dent…So do three or four old Cowboys players…It's a difficult thing…

Monday, February 6, 2006
The Chat House
Michael Wilbon

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.

Monday, March 13, 2006
The Chat House
Michael Wilbon

Bethesda, Md.: Okay, I know it's a Selection Sunday Chat House, so if this question doesn't get answered I understand.

Boz mentioned in his Friday chat the Post has a new policy on Hall of Fame voting for Post staff members. Does this mean you participated in your last Football Hall of Fame selection, and what happens to Art Monk's candidacy now?

Michael Wilbon: I didn't know Boz mentioned that. Nobody has told me about it, though I've heard whispers…Maybe it's time for me to become a part-time player, so I can keep my vote. More likely, I'm fine giving up my vote because I have issues with the process and I'm not enjoying the experience as much as I used to, or as much as I should. It's a very, very, very important endeavor, and I'm proud to have done it for 10 years and thankful that Paul Tagliabue asked me to do it when he did.


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