August 2, 2007
Art should have been put in Hall long ago
Monk has been among the finalists for the last three years, but he continues to be shut out in the final vote. And the selection of Irvin was a major slight by the Hall voters.
Many voters undoubtedly were swayed by two things in choosing Irvin over Monk: (1) Irvin’s career yard-per-catch average of 15.9 was higher than Monk’s 13.5; (2) Irvin has remained in the media limelight since he was forced to retire following the 1999 season, while Monk has not been nearly as visible.
Len Shapiro, a Hall voter from the Washington Post who continues to lobby on Monk’s behalf, explained in a Q&A earlier this year why Monk has yet to get the vote: “There are a few people in the room who believe he did not have signature catches in big games, that he was not the Redskins‘ big-play go-to guy.”
Joe Gibbs, who coaches the Redskins now and coached Monk back then, recently told reporters that Monk’s numbers suffered because of how the Redskins used him.
“Because Art was an inside receiver, he caught a lot of balls inside. So almost everything he caught was inside, where he would take some hard hits,” Gibbs said. “I think that should go to his credit, but what some [Hall of Fame voters] do is downplay it because his average-per-catch wasn’t as high.”
Monk still had superior numbers. Over 16 seasons, he caught 940 passes for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns. He went to three Pro Bowls, won three Super Bowls and was named to the all-decade team of the 1980s. Monk also was the first receiver to surpass 900 catches and retired with three NFL records in his possession. His 940 catches still rank sixth all-time, 11 behind Andre Reed, who also should have been enshrined before Irvin.
And while Irvin was the main focus of Dallas’ passing attack, Monk put up his numbers in an offense that also featured Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders.
Even Irvin himself said Monk should be in.
When a reporter from a Louisiana paper last year asked him who isn’t in the Hall who should be, Irvin said: “Art Monk comes to mind right away. At the time he retired, he was the all-time leader in the league in receptions. There are no definite parameters for what it is, no certain number of catches or yardage. The reality for me is this: … When you catch a lot of passes and win Super Bowls, you should be a lock.”
Ronnie Lott, a Hall of Fame defensive back who played against Monk throughout the ’80s and was his teammate with the New York Jets in 1994, told the Westchester Journal News in 2002 that Monk deserves the Hall of Fame more than anyone currently eligible.
“You have a Hall of Fame for all it represents,” Lott said. “I know he represents all that it’s about. Integrity, love and passion for the game, community, what he gave back. Look how he conducted himself. Nobody I know deserves it more.”
“If he doesn’t get in,” Lott said, “it doesn’t make sense.”
Shapiro said he continues to try to talk some sense into the other voters, “and I can tell you I believe we’re making progress in getting him elected.”
There could be no better time than the next time as former Washington cornerback Darrell Green becomes eligible in 2008. It could be a nice makeup call by voters if they were to induct Monk with one of his former teammates.
Meanwhile, fans, former players and coaches are outraged at the receiver’s absence from the Hall.
“It feels good that people in the community feel that way, but it’s out of my control,” Monk told the Carroll County (Md.) Times earlier this month. “The voters, obviously, haven’t felt that way yet. It really doesn’t matter to me. If it happens, it happens.”
August 3, 2007
Old stars might have to wait even longer for Hall entry
The backlog of deserving players who don’t get into the Hall will only increase over the next few years as at least a dozen modern superstars become eligible for induction.
Next year, receiver Cris Carter and cornerback Darrell Green are eligible. Green should be a no-duh first-ballot addition, while Carter could take a backseat to Monk and/or Reed. With anywhere from three to six players selected each year, there will be room in 2008 for some of the guys who have been on the waiting list for a few years already. Finalists who didn’t make the cut this year were Monk, Reed, Grimm, Dent, Fred Dean, L.C. Greenwood, Ray Guy, Bob Kuechenberg, Paul Tagliabue, Derrick Thomas, Andre Tippett, and Gary Zimmerman.
If they don’t make it in 2008, however, it might be tough for many of them to get in for the next few years because a number of surefire Hall of Famers are about to become eligible.
In 2009, it will be defensive end Bruce Smith, tight end Shannon Sharpe, defensive back Rod Woodson and defensive tackle John Randle. Smith, Sharpe and Woodson all merit first-year election.
The 2010 class will be another all-timer, as the league’s career leaders in receiving and rushing, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, will be joined in eligibility by receiver Tim Brown and cornerback Aeneas Williams.
In 2011, a trio of the all-time best running backs will be up for enshrinement: Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis. Also in that class will be perhaps the best cover corner ever, Deion Sanders.
That’s as many as four deserving first-time candidates for three straight years, which would leave only two openings per year beyond that. With six guys going in this year – Gene Hickerson, Michael Irvin, Bruce Matthews, Charlie Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Roger Wehrli – it will mark the second year in a row that the maximum number has been elected. And that trend should continue for at least the next four or five years.
Beyond Monk and the other finalists who didn’t make it this year, there are two or three dozen retired players who merit consideration. But it looks like they all will have to wait behind the recent stars who are about to become eligible.