The Art Monk Hall of Fame Campaign

Peter King

Peter King of Sports Illustrated

Vote: Definitely Yes (9/10)

Sports Illustrated
Inside the NFL; Right Man for the Job
November 12, 1990
Peter King

“He always was a rally guy,” said Giants coach Bill Parcells after seeing highlights of his former backup quarterback, Jeff Rutledge, pulling out a 41-38 overtime win for the Redskins. “Jeff always was at his best in helter-skelter games. The crazier things got, when everything was going wrong, the better he was.”

Sent in to replace struggling starter Stan Humphries with 10:23 left in the third quarter and Washington trailing Detroit 35-14, Rutledge completed 30 of 42 passes for 363 yards and one touchdown. He also ran 12 yards for a score on a quarterback draw with 18 seconds left in regulation, a play that shocked everyone in the Silverdome. In overtime, Rutledge’s pinpoint 40-yard pass to Art Monk, thrown from his own end zone on third-and-15, kept the winning drive alive.

Sports Illustrated
Inside the NFL; The Art of Receiving
December 3, 1990
Peter King

Art Monk eschews interviews, so NFL fans know little about him — except his numbers, which certainly speak well of his 11-year career as a Redskins wide receiver. Monk is third on the list of alltime pass receivers, with 707 career catches, which put him 43 behind Charlie Joiner and 112 behind Steve Largent’s NFL-record 819. If Monk, whose five receptions in a 27-17 loss to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day increased his season total to 45, remains healthy and continues to catch passes at the same pace that he has the past two seasons — 4.8 receptions a game — he’ll pass Largent in Week 3 of the 1992 season. Monk had the most productive first 10 years of any receiver in NFL history.

Sports Illustrated
moon BEAMS; The Houston Oilers’ run-and-shoot aerial act may revolve around quarterback Warren Moon, but his array of talented wide receivers gives it brilliance
December 16, 1991
Peter King

The spectrum of top-quality wide receivers includes players of varying size, ability and demeanor, and the Oilers seem to have somebody that fits into just about every category.
–The franchise receiver. This is usually a big man who can take the punishment and attention of double-coverage and still flourish, like 6 ft. 2 in. Jerry Rice or 6 ft. 3 in. Art Monk, and no one in the AFC has more catches over the last two seasons than the 6 ft. 2 in., 201-pound Jeffires.

“Rice and John Taylor might be the best pair of receivers, and the Redskins might have the best three together [Gary Clark, Art Monk, Ricky Sanders],” says Bronco defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. “But no one in the league has four like Houston.”

Sports Illustrated
Catch the Rising Stars; Bursting onto the NFL stage in unprecedented nuumbers, talent-rich wide receivers are stealing the show
September 7, 1992
Peter King

Michael Irvin had the video control in his hand, so he could stop the game tape whenever he wanted to. He didn’t want to. Not now, not this tape, not this game. Up there on the big screen in a meeting room at the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility, the Cowboys were beating the Washington Redskins, and Irvin was beating Darrell Green, the Skins’ five-time Pro Bowl cornerback. Nine catches, 130 yards. That’s a beating. It happened at RFK Stadium last November, when Dallas upended Washington 24-21 to hand the Redskins their first loss in 12 games and Irvin surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in receptions with four games left in the regular season.

On the screen, Irvin ran a deep curl, Troy Aikman threw the ball, Green recovered, Irvin boxed him out, Irvin caught the pass, Green leveled him — plus 17 yards. Irvin ran a slant, Green stayed all over him, Irvin made the catch — good for 13. “Look at how great Darrell plays this,” said Irvin. “He plays it perfect. I’ve got to box him out to catch this ball. He’s the best.”

But on it went: a pop over the middle for nine, a curl for 11, two catches that went for 20 and 44 yards were called back on penalties at the line of scrimmage, and, then, at the start of the fourth quarter, the clincher, a deep slant, with the ball thrown behind Irvin at the Washington four. He reached back, snagged it and spun around Green, who was left grasping at air. Touchdown. Game, Dallas. “I am certainly humbled,” Green said when it was over.

Lots of cornerbacks, marvelous and marginal, are humbled weekly in today’s NFL. “This is the golden age of wide receivers in pro football,” says former San Diego Charger quarterback Dan Fouts, who is now a CBS analyst.

The wide receivers are so talented and so plentiful. The rules are so favorable to them. The defenses are so keyed to stopping the run. So many multisport athletes who play wideout are choosing football for their careers. And the colleges are so factorylike in churning out wide-receiver prospects, while all-purpose tight ends have become nearly obsolete. The result is that wide receivers are thriving in the NFL as never before in the league’s 73-year history.

In 1981 wideouts accounted for 42.2% of all completions; by ’91 the figure had shot up to 58.1%. In 1986 nine of the top 20 pass catchers in the NFL were either running backs or tight ends; in ’91 zero backs and one tight end, Marv Cook of the New England Patriots, cracked the top 20. Sixteen wide receivers caught at least 70 passes last year; before then, no more than 12 had grabbed that many in any one season. The Skins’ second-leading receiver, wideout Gary Clark, and the Houston Oilers’ third-leading pass catcher, wideout Ernest Givins, both caught 70 passes; so did each of the Miami Dolphins’ bookend wideouts, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. When Clark was the third-leading receiver on his team in 1989, he had 79 catches.

In 1971 Kansas City Chief wideout Elmo Wright ranked 35th in the league with 26 receptions. In 1991 the 35th-ranked receiver, ageless James Lofton of the Buffalo Bills, finished with 57 catches. The advent of the run-and-shoot and similar high-octane passing attacks favored by the Oilers, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, among others, is inflating the receiving figures to some degree. But even the teams that traditionally — and successfully — have scattered the ball among all their pass catchers are concentrating more on their wideouts. Three years ago, for instance, 44.8% of the San Francisco 49ers’ completed passes went to their wide receivers and 41.3% went to their backs. Last year 53% of Niner completions were to wideouts, while 31% were to backs. San Francisco fullback Tom Rathman had 73 catches in 1989, but only 34 in ’91. Quite simply, there is a new way of playing offensive football.

And there are new players to play it. Rob Moore of the New York Jets (70 receptions last year) is 23 years old. Atlanta’s Andre Rison (81) is 25. Irvin (an NFC-high 93) and the Minnesota Vikings’ Cris Carter (72) are 26. Haywood Jeffires of the Oilers hauled in 100 passes to lead the league last year. He’s 27.

Only three of today’s most accomplished receivers — Lofton, 36; Drew Hill, 35, who caught 90 passes last season for the Oilers and now is with the Falcons; and Washington’s Art Monk, 34, whose 71 receptions in ’91 left him only 18 shy of the league’s record of 819 career catches — are nearing the end of their careers. However, both Atlanta and Washington have terrific young players preparing to take over starring roles. Michael Haynes of the Falcons, who played trumpet in high school instead of football, is only 26, but he led the NFL last season in yards per catch (22.4). And the Redskins traded up to the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft to get Michigan’s Desmond Howard, whose acrobatic receptions won him the Heisman Trophy last fall.

We haven’t even mentioned San Francisco’s Jerry Rice yet, which gives you some idea of the depth at the position nowadays. Rice, 29, who probably would be voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot even if he never played another down, is likely to break the alltime record for touchdown grabs — he needs eight to exceed Steve Largent’s mark of 100 — by November, no matter if Joe Montana, Steve Young, Steve Bono or Sonny Bono is his quarterback.

Although Montana missed all last season because he was recovering from elbow surgery, Rice still had 80 receptions and caught a league-high 14 TD passes. But then Rice has been startlingly productive for a decade, beginning with his three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (1982 through ’84) at Mississippi Valley State, where he played in Division I-AA obscurity. Then one Saturday in October 1984, San Francisco coach Bill Walsh flipped on the TV to watch college football, saw Rice on the highlights and took notice. “The hands, the body, the speed,” Walsh recalls. “What an absolutely majestic football player.”

Most scouts wrote off Rice because his achievements came mostly against overmatched competition. Walsh, however, drafted him in the first round in 1985. As Rice enters his eighth season, he is universally regarded as the best wideout in the game. “They call Michael Jordan, Jesus in tennis shoes,” says Irvin. “Jerry Rice is Jesus in cleats.”

The deification of Rice became complete in January 1989, when he tied a Super Bowl record with 11 catches against the Cincinnati Bengals and broke the mark for receiving yards, with 215. That performance, which earned Rice the game’s MVP award, put wideouts over the top in terms of their ability to dominate a game. And his new $7.8 million, three-year contract, a deal reached only after he held out from the Niner training camp until Aug. 25, confirmed his place among the game’s most valued players. He is now the highest-salaried nonquarterback in pro football history.

Other wideouts who followed Rice’s lead in passing up most or all of camp in a bid to cash in on their newfound worth included Irvin, Rison, Curtis Duncan of the Oilers, Brian Blades of the Seattle Seahawks and Webster Slaughter of the Cleveland Browns. But back in June, when he was replaying the Redskin game tape, Irvin set aside thoughts of his earning potential and instead delivered a poignant reaction to one of the best games of his life. By nature a quote machine when he’s around the press, Irvin has been known to boast about his talents. But he’d been watching himself on tape for 90 minutes, and the bragging had given way to a nuts-and-bolts commentary.

“It’s tough to cover any wideout now,” Irvin said, as he looked at his image freeze-framed on the screen. “I’m not fast by any means, but I know where I’m going, and I know how to use my body, and Darrell has to adjust to me. If the ball’s thrown well, and I’m on anybody in single coverage, I’m going to catch it. So will most receivers.

“But we’re getting more passes now. Every team’s got that one serious, serious pass-rushing linebacker, and most offenses are using their tight end to try to help the line block him. And the running backs who used to catch a lot of passes have to stay in on third down to keep up with the blitzes and the stunts. Most times they don’t even get to run routes out of the backfield. Teams are loading up to stop the run, too. They’re using these eight-man fronts, with linebackers and safeties clogging the line. They rush guys, like [Lion nosetackle] Jerry Ball, who are as strong as an ox. You’ve got to have help blocking them. If you don’t take care of these things, you’re going to get your quarterback killed.

“You’ve got all these things happening around the ball,” said Irvin in summary, “and if the quarterback wants to pass, he has to look upfield in a hurry. He has to go to his wideouts more.”

So the receivers are good, and they’re critical to the success of the offense. Nice marriage — and a necessary one. The receivers have to be exceptional because the overall quality at quarterback has stagnated. The five premier signal-callers in the game are Montana, Jim Kelly, John Elway, Warren Moon and Dan Marino. Their average age is 33, and none is younger than 30. Where are the promising young ones? Aikman, Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles and Chris Miller of the Falcons might represent the next generation of superior signal-callers, but they all have histories of injuries, and they have a combined total of one playoff win in 15 seasons. That outstanding new quarterbacks aren’t coming along and that so many teams are continually on the lookout for even a good one make today’s wideouts seem all the more skilled at catching the ball.

This shift to the Receivers Game began 15 years ago when offenses in the NFL went into an alltime snooze. In 1977 only two of the 28 teams averaged three touchdowns a game. The leading passer, Roger Staubach of Dallas, threw for only 2,620 yards. The average score for a Falcon game was 13-9. So after the season the owners made two significant rule changes to unchain offenses: 1) Linemen would be allowed to use their hands to fend off onrushing defenders. 2) Defensive players would be able to bump receivers only within five yards of the line of scrimmage. “The rule changes,” says Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive coordinator Floyd Peters, “brought the little guys back into football. There was a place for the little guy because, except at the line, he couldn’t get beat up anymore. For the secondary, the game became like basketball on grass. Quickness became everything.”

It’s easy to pick the premier wideout tandems. A poll of coaches, scouts and executives produced near unanimous results:
–The best one-two combination. Rice and John Taylor of the 49ers, in a walk. “Rice is in a world of his own, a freak of the game,” says Lion assistant Dave Levy. “I’m not convinced that on some teams Taylor wouldn’t be the better player,” says former Niner scouting director Tony Razzano, who had a hand in drafting them both. A fearless blocker, Taylor has helped spring Rice on a few of his long scores. Even when Rice had his MVP game in Super Bowl XXIII, it was Taylor who caught the winning TD pass from Montana with 34 seconds to play.
–The best trio. Monk, Clark and Ricky Sanders of the Redskins. This one is a tough call, because Buffalo has developed a formidable threesome in Lofton, Andre Reed and Don Beebe. But the Washington guys are considered the toughest threesome in the league, while also being among the most explosive. Often the Skins use two tight ends to help protect the quarterback, which means Monk and Clark are double-covered on a lot of plays, but they still get open. Together, the three wideouts have averaged 209 catches a season in the last four years.
–The best foursome. When the Oilers lost Hill and Tony Jones to the Falcons via Plan B in the off-season, the distinction of having the best group of four receivers went with them. Atlanta already had so much depth that Hill probably wouldn’t have started for his new team, but with Rison’s holdout lasting into the first week of the season, Hill probably will join Mike Pritchard (50 catches as a rookie in ’91) as the starting slot receivers in the four-wideout Red Gun formation, with Jones and Haynes on the outside. Meanwhile, in Houston, the Oilers can still hit you with Jeffires, Givins, Duncan and Leonard Harris. Not bad.

Sports Illustrated
Inside the NFL; Sterling Performance
November 16, 1992
Peter King

PACKER WIDE RECEIVER STERLING Sharpe is thrilled with the offense installed by new coach Mike Holmgren. “No reason he wouldn’t be excited,” says Holmgren, the former 49er offensive coordinator. “He knows he’s going to get balls in this offense the way Jerry Rice got them in San Francisco.” In a 27-7 loss to the Giants on Sunday, Sharpe, 27, caught 11 passes to vault into the league lead with 61 receptions after nine games. He’s now on pace to break Art Monk’s single-season record of 106 catches.

Here are the five 100-catch seasons in NFL history, and where Sharpe stands by comparison with seven games to play this year.

Player, Team Year Catches Per Game
1. Art Monk, Redskins 1984 106 6.63
2. Charley Hennigan, Oilers 1964 101 7.21
3. Lionel Taylor, Broncos 1961 100 7.14
3. Jerry Rice, 49ers 1990 100 6.25
3. Haywood Jeffires, Oilers 1991 100 6.25

Sterling Sharpe, Packers 1992 61 6.78

Sports Illustrated
Healing the Skins; Washington took a big step toward rebuilding a once-proud franchise by drafting strong-armed quarterback Heath Shuler
May 2, 1994
Peter King

The Redskins, as we know them, aren’t the Redskins anymore. And their fans, as fervent a group as exists in any NFL city, are apoplectic. The case of wide receiver Art Monk, who was waived on April 6 when he wouldn’t take a $500,000 slash in pay, cut deep. The Redskins couldn’t justify paying the 36-year-old Monk $1.1 million, even though he had caught 888 passes over 14 seasons for them. Logic supported the Redskins. The fans backed Monk, who at week’s end was unsigned. Gayle Mansuy of Fairfax, Va., called the release of Monk “greedy and unconscionable” in a letter to The Washington Post. “Today is a day I never thought I’d see — today I peel the ‘SKINS sticker off my bumper.”

Washington restructured and renegotiated 24 veteran contracts to shave $5.9 million off its 1994 salary load. Approximately $15 million more was saved by waiving or relinquishing the rights to those 13 veterans, much of the nucleus of the great Redskin teams of the past decade. The $1.5 million annual salary of front-seven cornerstone Charles Mann, age 33 and the survivor of nine knee operations, was deemed too extravagant. Joe Jacoby and Jeff Bostic, with 27 combined seasons as Hogs, also had to go. And quarterback Mark Rypien, coming off two subpar seasons after piloting the Skins to a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI — and knowing that he would have his successor breathing down his neck all year — chose not to stay when Casserly asked him to take a cut from $3 million to $1 million. He, too, remained unsigned.

Complicating reconstruction matters was the fact that despite employing four scouts to appraise NFL talent, Washington had seen its 1993 crop of free agents bomb. So the Redskins cut three of those free agents in the off-season: Carl Banks, the outside linebacker who couldn’t make the adjustment from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3; defensive end Al Noga, who had a grand total of four sacks last year; and wideout Tim McGee, a 39-catch disappointment who was deactivated for Washington’s final two games even though he was healthy.

Casserly and owner Jack Kent Cooke have had only a few months to do what it has taken Detroit years to do with the automobile industry: downsize while improving the product to keep pace with the competition. “No one has a greater respect for what this organization and those players accomplished than I do,” says Turner. “But the reality of pro sports is that no one player or coach is bigger than the place. And the reality of this situation is that this team went 4-12 last year. When you looked at that and the climate of the game today, you knew we had to change things.”

Casserly had Washington’s four pro scouts make depth charts of free agents at each position. The Redskins rated Arizona Cardinal outside linebacker Ken Harvey as their No. 1 target at any position — although he had only 47.5 sacks in his 90 NFL games — and signed him right out of the free-agent chute in March for $11 million over four years. Defensive coordinator Ron Lynn believes that Harvey can be more productive as an every-down player in Washington than he was playing two thirds of the time in Phoenix. Washington also signed its top free-agent choice at tight end, former Raider Ethan Horton, and, in the interior offensive line, former Cowboy John Gesek. A serviceable wideout, Henry Ellard, a veteran of 11 seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, came aboard. All these acquisitions, however, are long in the tooth, averaging more than 30 years of age and eight NFL seasons.

The salary cap prevented the Redskins from addressing all their needs. They still have gaping holes at fullback, in the secondary and along the defensive line. After signing Harvey, Washington had to give up its pursuit of expensive defensive ends Clyde Simmons and William Fuller, both of whom were in the $2.8 million-per-year range. The Skins set their sights lower, on free agent Jon Hand, who had spent eight years in Indianapolis. Still too pricey. Hand re-signed with the Colts for $1.7 million a year.

Now their sights went lower still, to the $700,000-a-year range. That doesn’t buy much in the defensive-end market. It bought former Ram Tony Woods, who in seven NFL seasons has averaged one sack every six games. In the past the Redskins had always been able to purchase quality depth on defense. They won their last Super Bowl 27 months ago in large part because Cooke could afford to do things like spend $533,000 a year for broken-down defensive lineman Jumpy Geathers, who gave the team 20 solid plays a game. Those days are gone.

A year ago Casserly hired former New England Patriot general manager Joe Mendes to be Washington’s full-time expert on the salary cap and a part-time scout. Casserly had been advised by counterparts in the NBA — particularly Washington Bullet general manager John Nash — that a full-time capologist was essential. In Mendes the Redskins have a 17-year NFL scouting veteran and a numbers cruncher who gives Casserly daily updates on where the team stands in relation to the cap.

The players seem bitter about the cap, although the ones who have been released by Washington have not, for the most part, ripped the organization. Some say that the new reality is ruining what was once a superb team. “The Redskins aren’t some emblem on the side of a helmet,” Schlereth says. “The Redskins are Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, Art Monk, Charles Mann, Mark Rypien. I worry about the quality of the game. How’s an offense going to develop any cohesion when half the starters change every year?”

Schlereth and many other Redskins blame the NFL Players Association for the Skins’ plight. “I don’t see how we can fight for free agency for seven years and then in essence give it away by agreeing to the cap,” says Schlereth. “I put the blame for our problems directly on the NFLPA.”

Sports Illustrated
NFL ’94 Preview: AFC East
September 5, 1994
Peter King

Strange team, the New York Jets. Ten years ago Art Monk was 27 and was setting a then NFL record of 106 catches for the Washington Redskins; Ronnie Lott was 25 and the best secondary player in football; and Nick Lowery, then 28, was in his fifth season as a premier kicker. Now each of these guys — along with 34-year-old defensive tackle Bill Pickel — is the oldest NFL player at his position, but they are keys to a team that is fighting to make the playoffs.

Sports Illustrated
Inside the NFL; Dispatches
December 12, 1994
Peter King

Not to demean the accomplishments of Art Monk, the classy Jet wideout who will try to break Steve Largent’s record of 177 consecutive games with at least one reception this Saturday against the Lions, but how meaningful is that mark? An offense averages 60 or so plays a game, about half of which are passes. Monk has been a starter for much of his 15-year career, and most first-string wideouts get five to eight balls thrown to them each game. For Monk to catch at least one pass in every game he has played is interesting but no huge achievement. It’s the football equivalent of Roger Clemens getting at least one strikeout in 177 consecutive starts. Big deal. . . .

Sports Illustrated
October 20, 1997
Inside the NFL; An Influx of Young Talent Has Given the Game a Shot in the Arm
Peter King

In the Patriots’ 33-6 rout of the Bills on Sunday, quarterback Drew Bledsoe completed four passes to his favorite wideout, Terry Glenn. Linebacker Ted Johnson had a team-high nine tackles on a defense that limited Buffalo to 242 yards. And Curtis Martin rushed for 99 yards, barely missing his 15th career 100-yard game. All of the aforementioned players are 25 or younger. All have either played in Pro Bowls or are on the verge of doing so.

The Patriots’ youth movement is not unique. In fact, the league is enjoying a player renaissance. A scant three years ago, as many of the game’s megastars–Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, Ronnie Lott and Art Monk, to name a few–were on the verge of flaming out, the woe-is-football signs were everywhere. Where would the much needed infusion of fresh talent come from? “The talent was lagging,” New England coach Pete Carroll says. “But now you look at the league, especially at quarterback. I think it’s pretty clear the young guys are back.”

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Monday October 11, 1999
Peter King

I think the expectations of players about making the Pro Football Hall of Fame are way out of whack, and the media just fuels this. Last week, someone mentioned to me, ” Andre Reed just caught his 900th ball. Guess he’s a sure Hall of Famer.” There are no numbers, in my opinion, that make you an automatic Hall of Famer. I mean, if you have rotten numbers, that hurts you, obviously. But just because you play in an era when the ball’s in the air all the time and you catch a huge number of balls, that doesn’t make you automatic for the Hall. Yesterday, I saw Terance Mathis catch his 500th ball. The guy could easily end up with 650 or 700 catches. But he’ll never be in one conversation about Hall of Fame induction. Why is 900 such an automatic number for Hall entry among receivers? Art Monk ‘s over 900, and I have major reservations about his credentials to stand alongside the greats of the game. Now, as one of the 36 selectors for the Hall, I’m not saying Reed won’t make it. But the receiver numbers are going to be so inflated by 2005, or whenever he is eligible, that 900 catches might not even put him in the top five.

Sports Illustrated
NFL Mailbag
Thursday October 14, 1999
Peter King

You write this week: “Art Monk ‘s over 900 [career catches], and I have major reservations about his credentials to stand alongside the greats of the game.” So are you saying you would not vote Monk in the Hall of Fame? I am interested in your reasoning, as I believe he was the prototype for the big, strong receivers we see today and thrived as a clutch, durable player in the Redskins run-first offenses under Joe Gibbs. He also at one point held three major receiving records (most career catches, catches in a season and consecutive games with a reception).
—Tod Alan, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

That’s right. I do have major reservations on Monk’s credentials for the Hall of Fame. I believe I’m right on the statistical data that I’m about to quote. A few years ago, when Monk was in his last season, I started doing a little bit of research on him and I was shocked to see that, despite his high number of catches, Monk had led his own team in receiving in just six of 16 years as an NFL player, and that he was voted All-Pro in only two of 16 years. To me, membership in the Hall of Fame is a tremendous privilege and honor. I will not say here or in any public place before Monk is considered for the Hall whether I believe he belongs, because as one of 36 selectors I don’t give my opinion on whether a player should or should not be in before we enter the meeting. After the meeting, I’ll be happy to give my opinion. I’m just saying right now I will need to be persuaded when Art Monk comes up for the Hall of Fame that he belongs. I think fans sometimes have a hard time in separating somebody who they think belongs in the Hall of Fame with someone who might belong in the Hall of Very Good.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Monday August 05, 2002
Peter King

a. Memo to Mel Kiper: You say Art Monk should be a lock for the Hall of Fame, and you say you can’t figure a single reason why he hasn’t been voted in. I’m a voter. Here’s why: Monk played 16 NFL seasons. He was All-Pro twice. He led his team in receiving six times in 16 seasons. I covered the Giants in the mid-‘80s, and they respected Gary Clark and feared Clark far more than Monk. Yes, he caught more than 900 balls. In 10 years, he’ll be about 15th on the all-time receptions list. Classy guy, wonderful person off the field — but neither of those things can be factored in when we consider qualification for induction. Monk belongs in the Hall of Very Good, not the Hall of Fame.

b. For all of you who think there are so many deserving players not yet in the Hall, rest easy. There are enough new voters, young guys who aren’t as selective in the voting process, to ensure that the classes are going to be chock-full of candidates who’ve been close but haven’t made it over the years. Last year, John Stallworth, Ron Yary and Jack Youngblood — who’d been through 37 years, collectively, of being turned down — all got in. My opinion is that softer isn’t better, but I’m just one of 38.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Monday August 19, 2002
Peter King

The Hall of Fame stirs such passion. So many strong feelings, so many opposing feelings. I was scorned in Pittsburgh for years for not supporting Lynn Swann. I’ve scorned some of my fellow voters for not supporting Bill Parcells. Mel Kiper scorned me last week for not supporting Art Monk.

I have heard all the arguments pro and con on borderline guys. If the history of pro football cannot be written without Candidate X, he has to be elected. If he was among the best player or two on a team that won a couple or three championships, he has to be elected. On the other side, if he plays only five or six years, he cannot be elected, no matter what his contribution was.

This is what I’ve learned in my time on the Hall board:

You cannot be absolute. Monk’s the fourth-leading receiver of all time, but I don’t support him because he played 16 years, led his own team in receptions six times, and didn’t strike fear into the opposition. I think a player has to have a combination of impact on a game, historic numbers and longevity. Winning helps. Championships help. He can overcome the longevity stuff by tremendous physical gifts and/or highlight plays for the ages. Gale Sayers did.

Terrell Davis belongs where Art Monk belongs — in the Hall of Very Good.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Saturday January 25, 2003
Peter King

I know there are a lot of you out there who feel that the Hall of Fame voting is handled stupidly by a bunch of know-nothing sportswriters. I must say that thought has crossed my mind as well a couple of times over the years. But trust me when I tell you this today: The reason fan favorites such as Ken Stabler and Art Monk didn’t make it is because other guys were better in the eyes of 38 people who tried to leave all personal and football prejudices at the door and do the best job for football.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Monday February 03, 2003
Peter King

YOU’RE WAY OFF ON ART MONK. From Mark Tuben of Fairfax, Va.: “What is the argument against Art Monk for the Hall of Fame? He has held several NFL records, and he was a reliable and constant contributor to three Super Bowl-winning teams. I understand there is an argument that his average yardage per reception was low, but we are talking about 940 receptions. That’s what I want from a Hall of Fame player: reliability and spectacularly consistent play. I can’t imagine the logic that works against Monk.”

My rationale on Monk: First of all, as one of the 38 electors of the Hall, I voted for Monk when we 38 electors whittled the field from 14 to 10 on the first vote nine days ago. I thought he was more deserving than four of the candidates on the ballot. But I did not vote for him after that. I covered the Giants in the ’80s, and they were always more concerned with the impact Gary Clark and the running game had on the outcome of games than they were with Monk. Also, Monk played 16 years in the NFL. He was voted All-Pro one time. He led his own team in receptions six times. That’s not good enough for me, and that’s why I think he belongs in the Hall of Very Good.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
January 17, 2005
Peter King


“It’s legalized theft, a crime, that Art Monk is not in the Hall of Fame. Those voters ought to be absolutely ashamed of themselves.”

— ESPN football analyst Sean Salisbury.


I’m one of the voters, Sean. And I’m not ashamed at all. Over the past few years, there’s been significant outrage over Monk not getting into the Hall of Fame. Salisbury’s feelings are shared by many. Mel Kiper has raked me over the coals a time or two on this one. How can the 39 guys who sit in judgment of the merit of retired players think that Monk didn’t do enough to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame, particularly when he had more receptions than any of the 17 current receivers enshrined in the Hall?

Since I get a lot of mail on this particular issue every year, I want to spend a couple of minutes going over Monk’s case. At the end, you may think I’m wrong, but at least you’ll know my reasoning.

It’s a complicated situation, at least from my standpoint, but I’ll start by explaining a couple of things about the voting system. Monk is one of the 15 finalists for the Hall this year, as he has been the last several years. We elect a minimum of three and a maximum of six to the Hall each year. There is a winnowing process that cuts the list to six in the room, and then the 39 voters are asked to vote yes or no on the final six. To make it, a player either has to have 80 percent of the vote, or in the event that fewer than three get 80 percent of the vote, the players with the most votes up to three are then elected. And so, if Monk makes it to the final six, basically, he needs to have at least 31 of the voters go his way. Eight no votes can squash a finalist, and obviously, he’s had at least eight no votes every year he’s come before the board of selectors. I am certainly not the gatekeeper. I have voted yes on Monk when the Hall asks us to cut the list from 25, and then to 15, in advance of the meeting, because I do think he is worthy of discussion, and I think he’s one of 15 most deserving candidates in a given year — which is different from thinking he’s a Hall of Famer. But I have voted no on Monk each year he has gotten to the final six. These are the reasons:

1. I think numbers should be considered significant, but shouldn’t be the god of election to the Hall. And they should be put in perspective. This says everything about why statistics alone shouldn’t put people in the Hall of Fame: The year Jerry Rice entered football, 1985, there were four players with 600 career catches in NFL history. Today there are 34. Monk led the NFL in receptions with 940 when he retired after the 1995 season. Since then, four receivers have passed him. One of them is Andre Reed, who I also consider to be a marginal Hall-of-Famer. In the next few years, others will get into the 900 range: Marvin Harrison, Isaac Bruce, Jimmy Smith, maybe even Keenan McCardell (755 now, and he wants to play two or three more years). Think of the receivers who haven’t turned 32 yet who could get to 900ville: Terrell Owens (31, 669 catches), Eric Moulds (31, 594), Muhsin Muhammad (31, 578), Randy Moss (27, 574). Torry Holt’s 28. He’s got 517. Four more years in that offense, and he’s in Monk’s neighborhood statwise. In other words, in the 30-year window between 1980 and 2010, a dozen guys, or more, could pass 900 catches. We can’t elect them all. There has to be some positional integrity to the Hall of Fame. I believe that Redskins-era team, for instance, should have three offensive Hall-of-Famers: Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby and John Riggins (though Riggins was obviously on the early side of that era), along with the offensive mastermind, Joe Gibbs. Two are in now. I hope at least one of the linemen makes it.

2. Monk was about the fourth-most dangerous skill player on those teams. I covered the New York Giants for Newsday from 1985-’88, and I remember covering a lot of those great Giants-Redskins games. And the guys in that locker room really respected Monk as a consistent player who gave a great effort on every play. But they feared Gary Clark. To a lesser degree, they feared Ricky Sanders. And they feared the run game, whoever was toting it on that particular day. If you stopped the run, and you stopped the fast, quick guys on the outside, the Giants felt, you’d beat the Redskins every time. I started covering the NFL in 1984, and I saw much of Monk’s career. Some of what he did was unseen and important to the success of that offense. He was an excellent blocker downfield. That helps his candidacy. It doesn’t get it over the top, at least not to me.

3. Monk was the not considered one of the very best receivers of his era either by his peers or the media. He played 16 years. Twice he made the AP’s All-Pro Team, which honors the top two receivers in football. He never made the second-team. So twice in 16 years the media considered Monk to have had one of the top four seasons by a receiver in football. Three times he was named to the Pro Bowl. That means three times in 16 years his peers thought he’d had one of the top four seasons by a receiver in the NFC. Those facts are significant to me. We’re saying no to guys who made 10 Pro Bowls. Mick Tinglehoff was an All-Pro center seven times, more than any center in history, and five times more than enshrinee Jim Langer … and that guy can’t come close. Think of it this way: Eight wide receivers go to the Pro Bowl every year. In three of 16 NFL seasons Monk was judged to be one of the top eight. Is a Hall of Fame player one considered one of the top eight at his job three times in 16 seasons?

One of the interesting things this time of year is listening to the passion of people advocating for their favorites for the Hall of Fame. I respect the opinions of the Monk side very much, but I don’t believe he was a Hall of Fame football player. I just thought you’d like to know the feelings of one of the 39 people in that room.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
January 18, 2005
Peter King

MONK AND THE PATS. From Paul Malovich of Watertown, Mass.: “Just wanted to make a comment on your Hall of Fame explanation about Art Monk. One of the reasons you say you do not vote for him is because of his few Pro Bowl appearances. However, isn’t the Pro Bowl more of a popularity contest than a true measure of a player’s value? Look at how few Patriots made the Pro Bowl this year. Don’t hold it against Tedy Bruschi because Ray Lewis is in his conference.”

Paul, there is never one reason why I’d eliminate a guy from consideration for the Hall. If you add up the reasons for me voting against Monk, which I elucidated in MMQB this week, there’s a collection of reasons.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Monday February 7, 2005
Peter King

Will Art Monk ever get in? Problematic. My views on Monk have been well-documented (I am not a Monk supporter), and he didn’t make the cut to the final six. This means, almost certainly, that 10 or more voters in the group of 39 don’t think he belongs. That number could be 15 or 16; we don’t know as voters, because exact totals are never released to us. Even if I was replaced in the room by Dan Snyder, I can’t see the result for Monk being any different. Monk’s plus is a big one: when he retired, he was the leading pass-catcher ever, with 940 receptions. But over the last 20 years, the number of receivers with 600 or more catches has risen from four to 34, and so a good deal of voters in the room think, How important is the total of receptions? What may doom Monk is a perceived lack of impact with the great running game the Redskins had and the other deep-threat receivers like Gary Clark in the Joe Gibbs era, plus the fact he was all-pro twice and a Pro Bowler three times in 16 years. My feeling is Monk will have a very hard road.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Tuesday May 17, 2005
Peter King

1. I can’t vouch for the other 38 voters. I can only tell you what I think, and I know I have no bias against any player or any team when it comes to Hall voting. “Bias” is an interesting word. Just because I vote against Art Monk does not mean in any way that I’m biased against him. I just feel he belongs in the Hall of Very Good, not in Canton. Paul Zimmerman may have heard in the room that some voters are biased against Irvin for his off-the-field problems or for his bombastic role on ESPN, but that is something I didn’t catch. We are told that only on-field exploits are open for judgment, not what happens to a guy at midnight during the week. Might some voters hold his wild off-field life against Irvin? Could be, but I never heard any of the 39 voters say his vote was going to be affected by it.

2. I don’t believe the Cowboys, more than any other team, are under-represented in the Hall. I voted for Wright all the way last year, the same way I voted for Irvin all the way this year. But I’ve also voted for other guys who don’t get in (Russ Grimm and Harry Carson being the most notable ones these days). The Cowboys made it to five Super Bowls during a nine-year period, and 10 people from those teams are in the Hall. Let’s exclude the short-timers, such as Herb Adderley, and say that seven bedrock Cowboys from those teams have made the Hall. Compare that to the team from the next generation that was as good, and maybe better historically, than Dallas. San Francisco, over a 14-year period, made it to five Super Bowls and has four people from that era in the Hall. So why don’t I hear the same rabble-rousing from the Charles Haley, Randy Cross and Roger Craig advocates that I do constantly from Dallas?

3. The only logical argument for more Cowboys is the epidemic of Steelers in the Hall. I can’t defend some of the Pittsburgh choices, because quite frankly, I wasn’t in favor of some of the Steelers choices, like Lynn Swann. Just a personal feeling. But the Hall historically has favored players from Super Bowl winners. Pittsburgh was 4-0 in a six-season span. Dallas was 2-3 during a nine-year run. San Francisco was 5-0 in their 14-year spell, which makes the lack of Niners ever more noticeable. And look at Washington, 3-1 in Super Bowls in a 10-year run but just two Hall members — John Riggins and Joe Gibbs. I’d buy the argument that Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Matt Millen and Darrell Green all deserve their day before our committee.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Monday May 23, 2005
Peter King

So who’s getting the shaft? No team, hugely. But I think three franchises have a case about having too few guys in the Hall.

The Joe Gibbs Redskins’ only HOFers are Gibbs and John Riggins. But thanks to their 3-1 Super Bowl mark in 11 years, it’s only a matter of time (unless we voters are a bunch of foofs) before Hogs Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby knock hard on the Hall door. I won’t support him, but there’s still a lot of love out there for Art Monk, who retired as the leading receiver of all time.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Tuesday December 20, 2005
Peter King

I LOVE ROD SMITH. From Matthew of San Francisco: “What are your thoughts on the NFL’s most underrated player, Rod Smith? The undrafted, consummate pro and self-made star, quiet, workaholic. Is he a darkhorse candidate for the Hall of Fame?”

Great question. In my opinion he is and he’s someone I’ll think long and hard about. He’s productive, clutch, a great blocker … sort of an Art Monk with significantly more explosiveness and big-play ability. The other night against Buffalo, he looked like the best player on the field, didn’t he?

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
February 6, 2006
Peter King

The Fine Fifteen

8. Washington (11-7). Dan Snyder put out a statement Saturday critical of Art Monk not getting into the Hall of Fame. That really helps, Dan.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of the Hall of Fame voting:

a. The guy I got ripped most for before the voting was Art Monk, because I don’t support him.

d. Heard two media guys talking in the media center Sunday. Guy one: “Monk got screwed again. Ridiculous.” Guy two: “I say it all the time — if you screw guys in the press and don’t talk to them and treat them like crap, it’ll come back to haunt you.” Absurd, absurd, absurd. No factor. In fact, Monk is admired for his dignity, soft-spokenness and class.

e. For all of you who follow such things, I heard a “Hey, Peter” Friday night at the hotel. I looked over and there was Joe Theismann. We’ve had a tad of a disagreement over Monk, and Theismann told Dan Patrick that I had too much control over the room. Totally silly, of course; I’m one of 39. Out of respect for Theismann’s stature, I brought his main points about Monk into the room on Saturday morning. It did no good. Monk didn’t make the cut from 15 to 10.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006
Before Moving Ahead, One Final Look Back
By Leonard Shapiro

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.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback
Hall of Fame game
Monday, February 13, 2006
Peter King

How does Harry Carson get in this year, in the toughest class in a long time, when he couldn’t make it the last few years against lesser competition?

Good question. In fact, this was an odd class to me. A very good class, but an odd one. Each year when I go into the room the day before the Super Bowl to vote on the Hall of Fame class — I’m one of 39 selectors; this was my 14th year doing it — I have a notion of how the voting will go. And invariably I’m wrong. This year, for instance, I was sure Warren Moon wouldn’t get in. I said so on HBO. Just proves you never know what’s going to happen until you get in the room. And I was sure Thurman Thomas would get in. I had him third on my list of 15. And he didn’t make it. The way the system works is that we vote for 10 of the original 15. Then the field is narrowed to 10. Then we vote for six of the 10. Then the field is narrowed to six. Then we vote yes or no, individually, on the six.

“What happened with Thurman?” former Bills GM Bill Polian, now with the Colts, asked me last Friday. I gave him a long answer about how Troy Aikman and Reggie White were locks, and John Madden and Rayfield Wright, the senior candidates, were either going to get in now or perhaps never because seniors come up one year and then not again for a long time. Then, after those four, there was a big morass with Thurman, Moon, Carson, Bob Kuechenberg, Russ Grimm, Art Monk, Derrick Thomas and others. The short answer was: I don’t know. I still don’t, other than this was a tremendous class of candidates, 13 of whom I would have voted yes had they made it to the final six.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition
Hall squall
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Peter King

NOW THAT CARSON’S IN, IT’S MONK TIME. From Stephen of Chantilly, Va.: “Peter, your article about Harry Carson was wonderful. You really understand how certain players who are extremely integral to super teams don’t get recognized because they didn’t get all the glamour stats or press. Which is why I really think you are not an honest voter. All the arguments and characteristics you praise about Carson in this article could also be made for Art Monk in relation to his Redskins super teams. From role player, coaching praise and teammate praise. If you just don’t like Monk, just say you’re biased and stop. Please don’t make illogical reasons for him to not be in the Hall of Fame when you clearly recognize Carson-type accomplishments for the Giants. You really lose all credibility to me since you’re not only a biased writer but one who likes to unfairly lower the accomplishments of a truly deserving player like Monk.”

Thanks for writing, Stephen. It’s interesting being a voter. If I don’t vote for a certain player, then I have some bias against him. You and the other Monk supporters should know — not that you’ll believe me — that I have no bias whatsoever against Monk. He was a very good and unselfish football player. I have a lot of admiration for him.

There are quite a few differences between Carson and Monk, I believe. And not just in my opinion, but in their peers’ opinions. Monk was voted to three Pro Bowls in 16 years. Just three times in 16 years did his peers consider him one of the four best receivers in his conference. Carson was voted to nine Pro Bowls in 13 years. Carson was the major reason why the Giants had the best run defense in the NFL for a seven- or eight-year period. I don’t think you can say the presence of Monk on Washington’s offense — with a great deep threat like Gary Clark, with consistently good running backs, with a great offense line — equated to Carson’s impact on the Giants’ D. Well, maybe you can, but I can’t.

And for all of the Monk supporters who think I’m the guy keeping him out of the Hall of Fame, just know that there are at least eight of the 38 other voters who have not voted for him — and I think it’s quite a few more than that given that he can’t make it through the cut from 15 to 10.

RYAN, DO YOU HAVE A COUSIN NAMED STEPHEN IN VIRGINIA? From Ryan McKeon of Athens, Ga.: “Great comments on Harry Carson, who was exactly the kind of hard-nosed, unflashy player that teams need to win. Now my hope is that somebody makes a similar argument to you regarding Art Monk that you made to Cliff Christl. If Harry Carson was putting teams in second-and-9 a lot, Art Monk was catching a lot of 10-yard passes on those second-and-9 plays. That’s important to a team too, unspectacular though it may be.”

Excellent point, Ryan.

Sports Illustrated
Monday Morning Quarterback Tuesday Edition
What about these guys? Readers get chance to argue for their HOF candidates
Tuesday June 6, 2006
Peter King

Now on to other e-mails. And this is a big surprise: I got 16 million pieces of mail saying Art Monk should be in.

ART MONK TIME. From Steve Woods of Houston: “In response to your list of 10 players left out of the Hall of Fame, I have my own list (which I know you won’t agree with):

1) Art Monk.
2) Art Monk.
3) Art Monk.
4) Art Monk.

You get my drift, and yes, I am a biased die-hard ‘Skins fan. Monk had 940 career receptions, 12,000 career yards, with three Super Bowls rings. I think the presence of John Riggins on the goal line is a big reason why he didn’t have quite as many touchdowns as you would have thought, given his other stats, although he does have more than several receivers already in, such as Stallworth and Swann. The guy was a tremendous player, who, in my opinion, was the heart and soul of the offense for much of the ’80s. You can’t do any more than that. It sure does seem like you have some sort of bias against the ‘Skins, and Monk in particular, in recent years. I don’t understand that. Are you a Cowboys fan?!? Please say it isn’t so.”

Ain’t so. I’m a fan of no football team. You may be interested to know that I am going to rethink my position on Monk this year. I don’t want to be so stuck in the mud on this issue that I close my mind to the possibility that I’m wrong and that Monk really does belong. So I’m going to sit down with Joe Gibbs when I see the Redskins this summer and try to soak in what the Monk side believes I am missing. A lot of people I respect tell me I’m dead wrong on Monk — Len Shapiro, Mike Wilbon among them, plus quieter ones with close ties to the Hall. So I’ll rethink my position and let you know what I come up with.

Sports Illustrated
August 3, 2006
Who Will the Hall Call Next?
Peter King

I won’t bore you with the different names and my opinion on them. But with only one probable Hall of Famer who is new on this year’s ballot — offensive lineman Bruce Matthews — it’s a good year to correct a lot of the injustices of the last few years. It’s time for Michael Irvin to get in; he was an irreplaceable part of a three-time Super Bowl champion. Thurman Thomas should be in because he and Jim Kelly took an offense of above-average talent to four straight AFC titles. Those are the only two locks in my ballot box next February when we vote in Miami, but I would like to see Andre Tippett — who had 100 sacks while fending off tight ends on the strong side on a bad New England defense — get a fair hearing.

As for all you Art Monk fans out there? Here’s a little tidbit for you. I’m going to reconsider my stance on Monk. The Washington Post’s Len Shapiro, who I respect a lot, made a great point to me after last year’s vote. I was strongly pro-Harry Carson because I thought one of the five best run-stoppers in history should have his place in Canton. And obviously there are no stats for run-stoppers. Shapiro said to me that Monk did for the Redskins what Carson did for the Giants — as a leader, a player and a totally unselfish piece to Washington’s championship puzzle. So as I go through this season, I’m asking questions of people I respect who either played against or coached against Monk. If I’m wrong in my stance against him, I’ll admit it.

Sports Illustrated
November 27, 2006
Rethinking the Receivers: Irvin, Monk, Reed present Hall of Fame dilemma
Peter King

Over the past 10 years, a strong crop of receivers has become eligible for the Hall of Fame. And of the 50 men enshrined in the Hall of Fame in these last 10 years, the same number of receivers (four) as guards has been elected.

Receivers with at least 750 career catches — Andre Reed (951), Art Monk (940), Irving Fryar (851), Henry Ellard (814) and Michael Irvin (750) — have been on the doorstep for years, unable to get in. Add up the total catches of Swann and Stallworth, 873, and you still don’t get to either Reed or Monk.

There are 39 selectors from the news media for the Hall — one hometown media person representing each of the 32 franchises, the president of the Pro Football Writers of America and six at-large reps (including me and Paul Zimmerman from Sports Illustrated). We vote by Dec. 15 for 15 of the 25 semifinalists, and we’ll discuss the final 15 plus the two Senior Committee nominees (Detroit tight end Charlie Sanders and Cleveland guard Gene Hickerson) at the voting session on Feb. 3 in Miami. Of those 17 candidates, we can vote in a minimum of three and a max of six.

It seems to me that the receiver discourse is handcuffing us because we can’t figure out what a Hall of Fame receiver is anymore. Either that or we don’t think the five guys with more catches than almost every Hall of Fame wideout ever are Hall-worthy.

“You guys are running the risk of becoming irrelevant,” Colts GM Bill Polian told me. As general manager of the Bills in their glory years, Polian saw Reed’s importance to Buffalo’s four Super Bowl teams, and he calls it “disgraceful” that Reed hasn’t been elected. “You’re just like the U.S. Congress, with all the bickering and infighting and ‘if this guy doesn’t get in I won’t vote for that guy’ stuff. You can’t get the right thing done.”

I mentioned this to Zimmerman and fully expected a full-frontal rip job on Polian. What I got from Dr. Z was this: “He might be right. Sometimes we get so involved with inner-sanctum nonsense that we lose sight of the big picture. It’s good to have an outsider knock us on our ass every now and then.”

With Tim Brown, Cris Carter and Jerry Rice — each of whom have caught more than 1,000 passes — coming up for election in the next four years, my feeling is it’s incumbent on us to break the logjam. This would be the year to do it. It’s not a strong year for new candidates, with Bruce Matthews, Terrell Davis and Randall McDaniel the best of the newcomers.

I’d say over the last five years, receiver-wrangling has taken up more than its fair share of time in the meetings. We just can’t agree on who belongs. I forget which year it was, but we spent 46 minutes debating the merits of Monk in one meeting. That’s the longest debate I recall in my decade-and-a-half at this post.

“The Hall of Fame is about impact, not statistics,” said one of the most responsible and conscientious voters in the room, longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. “Sometimes it’s tricky separating the two. You can debate Monk, Irvin and Reed into the night. And we have. Clearly we haven’t been able to come up with a consensus opinion on their impact in the game and where they fit historically. That doesn’t mean the door has been closed on any of them.”

Many voters, including me, would like to see the 32-person panel increased to include long-time coaching and front-office authorities, and some current writers who aren’t now on the panel. Not just head coaches or big-name GMs either. I’d love to see Ron Wolf and Don Shula in the room for their decades of expertise, but two other names I’d propose are the advance pro scouts who critically analyzed players from their teams’ next games for years: Tim Rooney of the Giants and Bob Ferguson, the former Bills and Seahawks general manager. We’d be a better panel with those four men in the room, along with some veteran and sage football analysts like Vito Stellino and John Czarnecki, both of whom have chronicled the game with a critical eye for over 30 years. The number we work with now is sensible, I suppose. But why not make it an even 50? “Bringing in outsiders would inject new ideas into the discussion,” said veteran San Francisco scribe and voter Ira Miller. Hear, hear.

Back to the wideout question. The recent historical evenness of guards and wide receivers drives Polian crazy.

“I’m as old-school as football gets,” Polian said. “I love offensive linemen. But no defensive coordinator ever made a gameplan that said, ‘We’ve got to stop this guard to be able to win this game.’ Defensive coordinators often say that about receivers and design gameplans to stop them. If you eliminated Irvin, Reed or Monk from any game, or you eliminated a guard for the same game, which do you think would be more impactful on the offense that day? Missing the receiver, of course. I’m simply incredulous as a football man that these receivers can’t get in. There’s no question in my mind they all should be in.”

The game’s changing. This year’s college Game of the Century, Michigan at Ohio State, was as much a slap in the face about the passing game, and the importance of the receiver position, as you could ever see. Didn’t it seem like almost a run-and-shoot game for a while? I went back and looked at the play-by-play in the first quarter: 35 plays were run from the line of scrimmage. Ten were called runs, 25 called passes (including two sacks). That means in the college football game of the year, between two teams that for generations personified how football was a man’s game won by the team with the best running game and best run-defense, coaches called 71 percent passes in the first quarter. “Establish the run” used to be the mantra in football. That’s dead and buried. For the game, the two teams passed on 56 percent of the offensive snaps.

Sure, that’s college football, and it’s only one game. But it’s a barometer. If you can’t throw and catch, you’re not winning anymore. We’ve seen that in the NFL for the last generation. We’ve enshrined most of the great eligible quarterbacks from 1980 and on — Dan Fouts, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, John Elway, Dan Marino, Steve Young, Warren Moon, Troy Aikman. We’ve enshrined exactly one of the receivers who played his way into the Hall for what he did after 1980, James Lofton. Eight quarterbacks, one receiver. Isn’t that unjust?

In some ways I’ve been part of the problem. Even though Monk retired with the all-time receptions record, I’ve historically been anti-Monk for several reasons. He played 16 seasons and led his own team in receiving six times; only once was he voted first-team All-Pro. I questioned his impact on a team where the running game and Gary Clark, for many years, were the prime targets to stop by opposing defensive coordinators. I know. I watched the Giants do it nine times over four years against Washington. But last year, after a man I’d advocated got in (Harry Carson), veteran NFL writer Len Shapiro from the Washington Post e-mailed me and reminded me that everything Carson meant to the Giants, Monk meant to Washington. The leadership, the selflessness, the durable productivity … all the same. I decided I should re-think my position.

As I made my rounds of training camps this year, I asked veteran coaches about Monk and the one word that kept coming up was “unselfish.” His downfield blocking prowess kept coming up. His long-term numbers were almost Yastrzemski-like (one or two great years, lots of productive ones, very reliable). But when I talked to Joe Gibbs on Friday, the one thing that stood out was the body of work we don’t see — the downfield blocking, the quiet leadership, and this: Unlike his louder receiving mates Clark and Ricky Sanders, Monk, according to Gibbs, never once said he wanted the ball more. “We used him almost as a tight end a lot,” said Gibbs, “and not only did he do it willingly, he was a great blocker for us. If he’d been a squeaky wheel, who knows how many catches Art would have had. But he cared about one thing — the team.”

So many of the things Carson did can’t be quantified. Similarly with Monk. Not only did he lead the NFL in all-time receptions when he retired, but he blocked superbly and was the most important locker-room influence on a three-time Super Bowl champion. I’m voting for him.

I’ll support Monk and Irvin — the most important locker-room guy and a constant offensive weapon on a three-time champion — in my voting. I remain unconvinced about Reed. I saw a lot of the Bills in their Super Bowl prime, and I’m squarely in the corner of Thurman Thomas as the Bill’s other offensive weapon who deserves entry. Does Reed belong when all the other mega-catchers — Carter, Brown, Rice and, down the line, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss — come before the committee in the coming years?

Sports Illustrated
November 28, 2006
An open book: Hall of Fame debates never open-and-shut cases
Peter King

BREAK THE LOGJAM. Frank Murtaugh of Memphis: “Terrific stance on the receiver conundrum in the Hall voting. And yes, this is the year to clear the logjam (before the eligibility of Jerry Rice, Cris Carter and Tim Brown further muddy the waters). You’ve got a healthy idea: expanding the panel to 50 voters. The club of 39 right now is way too exclusive. It’s too easy to blackball a player when only seven votes are needed. And I’m in line with your stance on this year’s vote: Monk and Irvin are Hall of Famers. They stand above the crowd of other great pass-catchers for having won THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS, and having played integral roles on all three. The last variable for consideration by any and all Hall voters should be winning championships. Reed was close, but was he merely this era’s Ahmad Rashad?”

I think Reed was better for longer than Rashad. I’m just not sold that four players and a coach from that Bills regime should be in the Hall. My order of Bills to get in if they all could be accommodated would be Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Steve Tasker, Andre Reed and Kent Hull.

MONK AND IRVIN? NO. From Scott Rich of Minneapolis: “Art Monk and Michael Irvin belong in the Hall of Good, not the Hall of Fame. Because Lynn Swann was elected to the incorrect Hall, do not compound that mistake by electing Monk and Irvin, whose contributions to their respective teams have been recognized in the most appropriate of locations, each team’s Ring of Fame/Honor.”

Disagree. But let’s see what everybody else thinks.

MONK? YES. From David Davis of Ottawa: “Peter, I no longer hate you. For years I couldn’t understand what you had against Monk. To me it just seemed like you didn’t want to listen to anybody about why he’s deserving. Then you said you would go for a guy like Michael Irvin, a player with character issues among other things, and I just thought Monk maybe hit your car one day and you had a grudge. You have just made my week, you have seen the light; you understand that a good teammate is a guy who will do the dirty stuff and take a backseat to other teammates while leading by example. That’s what those Redskins were all about.”

Part of being on the committee is to take the heat, and I’m fine with that. Part of it too, I think, is not being so rock-solid and absolute that a good argument can’t change your mind. As far as Irvin goes, off-field stuff, by our by-laws, shouldn’t be part of our deliberations. I can’t speak for everyone, but with me, I don’t care if Irvin robs four banks tomorrow. He’ll have my vote because of his consistent greatness on the field.

Sports Illustrated
February 1, 2007
Hall of Fame Handicapping
Peter King

2:1 — Art Monk, Michael Irvin. Monk and Irvin could cancel each other out, though both deserve to make it. There’s going to be some sentiment in the room along the lines of “Geez, could we please get Monk in and end this annual melodrama with him?” Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson are really trying to help Irvin’s candidacy with some gentle reminders to voters about how hugely important Irvin was to the Cowboys’ success.

Sports Illustrated
February 5, 2007
Monday Morning Quarterback
Peter King

“A good man and legitimate Hall of Famer is being denied entry for reasons we never know, by people who secretly vote. Art Monk is a Hall of Famer by any measure. This is not right.”
– Washington owner Dan Snyder.

Dan, not a bad point. As one of the 40 Hall selectors, I’d love to see Hall voting be opened up so we would be accountable in such an important election for how we stand. But what happened to Monk, in my opinion, is mostly bad. Good for Monk: The major roadblock in front of him, Michael Irvin, is no longer a roadblock; he’s in. Bad for Monk: Next year comes Cris Carter, with 161 more catches, five more Pro Bowls and 62 more touchdowns in the same number of seasons. Then Tim Brown, with 154 more catches, and the stat race is on. Every year, Monk will fall farther behind in the numbers game. As someone who changed his mind on Monk and strongly advocated him this year (unquestioned leader on a three-time Super Bowl champ, superb downfield blocker, retired as the all-time receptions leader, never squawked for the ball with some other me guys in the locker room), I think it’s going to be tough to get him in if he hasn’t gotten in by now.

Sports Illustrated
August 4, 2007

Don’t forget the ‘D’

What to do at receiver. Art Monk is gaining traction, and Andre Reed — who has the same kind of vehement support in Buffalo as Monk has inside The Beltway — is still alive. Now Cris Carter becomes eligible, and his numbers dwarf all the others not in. He has 161 more catches than Monk, for 62 more touchdowns and five more Pro Bowls. Monk, of course, has the championships and Carter doesn’t, but then you come down to the issue of how much blame do you put on Carter for Gary Anderson missing a chip shot that would have put Carter’s Vikes in the Super Bowl nine years ago? Regardless, Carter’s great career muddies the water for Monk.


  1. Peter,
    Both Lynn Swann and Terry Bradshaw also made 3 pro bowls. John Riggins only made 1 and no one would even consider saying he shouldn’t be in. Gary Clark made 4 probowls and he is not in nor will he ever be in. So the number of probowls a player makes is irrelevant. Also Monk was the first player to catch 100 passes in a season and 900 in a career. And this was w/o a HOF QB. I agree with you that not every receiver who catches 900 passes should make it. But the 1st one should be a gimme. Even Michael Irvin said when asked who should be in the HOF that isnt, he said “the 1st player that comes to mind is Art Monk.”

    Comment by Campbell — August 1, 2006 @ 8:40 pm

  2. Peter,
    How is it that Irvin was “irreplaceable” and Monk wasn’t. Thomas has no rings and never set any records and he choked in his last 3 superbowls, he ran 37 times for 69 yards. I dont seen how you can give Thomas anymore consideration than Andre Reed(who you dont support) and definitely not Monk. What did Irvin & Thomas do that Monk didn’t. Not only was Monk a great pass catcher, he was also a great blocker & team leader. I cant help but think that you & other writers dont support him b/c he didnt give many interviews. When players dont give interviews, writers have a tendency to not like them. Not only did Irvin say Monk should be in. On NFL Network about a month ago, Jim Brown, Rich Eisen, and Rod Woodson also said he should be in(he was the only name they mentioned). Andfor the record, 183 straight games with a catch shows consistency. Just like Johnny Unitas’s 47 straight games with a TD pass or DiMaggio’s 56 straight games with a hit. Your were wrong for downplaying it to be “no big deal.” PS: Ozzie Newsome also only made 3 PBs, does that mean he isnt one of the best if not, the best TE of all time?

    Comment by Cammo — September 13, 2006 @ 5:10 pm

  3. Monk was also a smart player. He was on 3rd down, he always knew where the first down marker was and when he was near the sideline, he was made sure had two feet down before he went out of bounce to make the catch.

    Comment by Cdawg — October 25, 2006 @ 2:15 pm

  4. 81 Reasons to Induct Art Monk

    1) 12,721 Receiving Yards (#9 all time, eight years after retirement)

    2) 940 Receptions ( was #1, is now #5 eight years after retiring)

    3) 68 Receiving Touchdowns (still in top 30, all time)

    4) 224 Games played

    5) Caught at least one pass in 183 consecutive games (once a record)

    6) Helped Washington to three SB victories in four appearances.

    7) Three consecutive Pro Bowl Selections

    8) “Art was Jerry Rice before Jerry Rice was” – Joe Theismann

    9) Record of 106 receptions in 1984 stood for eight years.

    10) “Quiet about his work, very loud with his results” – Mark Rypien

    11) First to record 106 receptions in one season

    12) First to catch at least one pass in 164 consecutive games

    13) First to catch more than 900 passes.

    14) Caught 58 passes as a rookie, unanimous All-Rookie Selection

    15) Redskins 1984 MVP

    16) 50 or more reception in a season 9 times

    17) 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season 5 times

    18) Master of the medium route over the middle, aka “No Man’s Land”

    19) First Redskin to produce 3 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons

    20) Prototype for the modern receiver

    21) 3-time 1st or 2nd team All-NFC Team selection

    22) In ’85, named to the Pro Football Weekly All-Pro Team

    23) In ’85, named to the Associated Press All-Pro Team

    24) In ’85, named to the UPI All-NFL Team

    25) In ’86, named to the UPI All-NFC Team

    26) Founded the Good Samaritan Foundation, with teammates.

    27) 1, 062 Playoff yards

    28) Largent, Lofton and Stallworth are already in.

    29) The consummate pro; made the big catch, went back to the huddle.

    30) Not a “Hot Dog”; let his play on the field do all the talking.

    31) Nicknamed “Money” by teammates, “Artist” by the fans

    32) Founded the Student Training Opportunity Program, with teammates

    33) Started the Art Monk Football Camp” in 1983, and it’s still going.

    34) 16-year career, 0 arrests.

    35) Named to TSN’s “100 Greatest Football Players” list

    36) Never once disappointed the team or the fans, on the field or off.

    37) A first round draft pick that played like a first round draft pick.

    38) Has more career catches than anyone currently in the Hall.

    39) Putting loud jerks in over Monk sends the wrong message to kids.

    40) Art does not lobby to get himself inducted

    41) First down machine on 3rd and long

    42) Still holds the club record for catches in a season (106)

    43) Still holds the club record for passes caught in a game (13, twice)

    44) Honored as one of the “Washingtonians of the Year” in 1992

    45) Focuses on the forgotten “high school aged” youth in DC.

    46) “I don’t know about the criteria, but whatever it is, I believe Art has achieved it” –Joe Theismann

    47) “He was big, he was strong, and he was intelligent. He had everything”-Joe Gibbs, HOF inductee

    48) “Art Monk was an example for Jerry Rice. That’s what Jerry always told me.”- Ronnie Lott, HOF inductee

    49) “There’s nothing negative to say. He has the numbers, the catches, the championships.” –Lott

    50) “Spend a day with Art Monk, and your life will improve by 10%”- Theismann

    51) “You have a Hall of Fame for all it represents. 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.” –Lott

    52) If he doesn’t get in, they might as well close the Hall.

    53) “There was never a classier player in this franchise’s history, or in league history, than Art Monk. You always knew the team would be getting Art Monk’s best effort day in and day out.” –Charlie Casserly

    54) “Monk is headed to Canton downhill on roller skates”- Bill Parcells, 1995

    55) Only one other player, linebacker Monte Coleman, has been on the field for the Redskins more than Monk.

    56) Art Monk is almost as proud of his relative anonymity as he is the record-setting numbers he compiled over a 16-year NFL career.

    57) When Monk spoke, it was usually with tough catches in the clutch moments of big games.

    58) Nothing came naturally for Monk, who spent countless hours on the practice field and many more behind the projector.

    59) I never saw Monk drop a pass. Period.

    60) Monk’s 40-yard catch with eight minutes left in the first quarter of SBXXII was Doug Williams’ first completion of what would be a record setting game.

    61) Named in a 1992 poll during the team’s 50th Anniversary Season as the most popular Redskin of all time.

    62) Participates in a “Kid’s Fishing Day” for underprivileged kids

    63) Has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, reciting children’s fairy tales with musical accompaniment.

    64) “He’s more than just his receptions. Few players have been able to achieve what he’s achieved.” –Richie Petitbon

    65) “He is a gifted athlete who takes great care of himself. He’s a guy who works at his craft, and responds to any challenge. However, he does it so quietly that his accomplishments are sometimes overlooked.”- Joe Gibbs

    66) Selected to the 1989 All-Madden Team

    67) Early in his career, Art arranged and scheduled charity basketball games for the Redskins.

    68) “I can’t see how a receiver could be more valuable to a team.” –Gibbs

    69) Fame is often hard earned. Character is often elusive to define. A man of great character himself, Art Monk encompasses what it means to be a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    70) Monk wasn’t a “SportsCenter” type of receiver — more like a “Masterpiece Theatre” type.

    71) You wouldn’t see Monk pull out a Sharpie to sign a ball after scoring a touchdown.

    72) “He embodied the old school, and for that alone he should be enshrined so that when a father takes his son through the Hall of Fame, he can say, “Son, here is a man who once caught 106 passes in a season when no one was catching 100 passes. Here was a man who caught a pass in 183 straight games. And not once did he ever pull a cell phone out to make a call after any of those catches.” –Thomas Loverro, Washington Times

    73) Football is a game of first downs and Monk was the receiver who would move the chains.

    74) He has since been passed in this pass-crazy era, but in the context of when he played, Art Monk was a Hall of Fame receiver.

    75) He did this while never playing with a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback.

    76) Critics will say Monk benefited from playing in Joe Gibbs’ system. What might be the case is that the Gibbs system benefited from having Monk.

    77) “I believe he’s a Hall of Famer. I was a pro scout when he was playing, so it was my job to know who those guys were. I would put Art in that category, but apparently there are a lot of Hall of Fame voters who don’t feel Art Monk was in that category. It’s hard for me to believe they ever saw him play.” –Bill Polian, President Indianapolis Colts

    78) He was the anti-Terrell Owens.

    79) He was the standard-bearer, the mold-maker and the receiver every team of his era wished they’d had.

    80) He’s already a Hall Of Famer off the field.

    81) It’s time.

    Comment by Mark Barnette — January 10, 2007 @ 10:47 pm

  5. Mr. King, I just finished watching your Inside the NFL show this morning. At the end of the show there was a discussion about both Monk and the former commissioner. You mentioned the fact that there are several voters from California and there are many reasons they might not vote in favor of the commissioner. Mr. Costas questioned the fact that off the field type incidents or personal preferences shouldn’t sway voting opinion. My question for you is, if in fact it may or does sway opinion then how can anyone on that voting panel vote in Irvin over Monk. Off the field shenanigans related to prostitution, cocaine, and marjuana are exactly what kind of behavior I tell my children to stay away from. I am glad that you have finally seen the light on Monk and the fact that he was a role model, team first, consistently get the job done kind of a player. Remember he broke Largent’s record when you A: could still hit the QB, B: could still play pass defense ala Lester the Molester Hayes type, C: he never had a HOF QB, D: prior to and during the infusion of the pass happy west coast type of offenses that can now pad statistics. This brings up another point of contention. In many of your postings I see comments about statistics shouldn’t be the only thing or the driving force behind induction. Yet in one of your last postings you comment on the statistics on the up and coming candidates like Carter, Brown, etc… So which is it? Do statistics count and if so why isn’t Monk in being that his stats are better than Irvin’s? Or does off the field incidents and or personal agendas play a part in swaying voter opinion and if that’s the case why the heck is Irvin voted in? In todays NFL, often called the NO FUN LEAGUE for the crackdowns on the “what about me” behavior that infuriates many fans, an emphasis has been put on having a positive image and trying to be a role model. Given this fact alone, let alone the statistics debate, why would anyone vote in Irvin when he acted like he just summited Everest after every first down or touchdown, something Monk has done more of with much classier behavior. Having said all of this I want to thank you for finally coming around on Monk. I want to also thank you and the other voters who put Irvin in because now I can cross Canton off of my list of places to visit. I do not want to take my kids to a place that would put someone like Irvin in ahead of Monk. Thanks, Jim Prince.

    Comment by Jim Prince — February 11, 2007 @ 11:05 am

  6. Until Bob Hayes of the Dallas Cowboys is inducted into the HOF, there should not be one other receiver inducted . . . including the great Jerry Rice. Hayes revolutionized zone defenses in the NFL with his speed & physical ability. If anybody has gotten a raw deal, other than Art Monk of the Redskins who I personally think should be in the HOF as well, it is Bob Hayes. Anybody who saw Hayes play during the 60’s & early 70’s will know what I am talking about.

    Comment by Russell Miller — June 2, 2007 @ 1:46 am

  7. Really nice site you have here. I’ve been reading for a while but this post made me want to say 2 thumbs up. Keep up the great work

    Comment by Mortgage Information Plus — September 17, 2007 @ 1:02 pm

  8. In considering Monk vs. Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed, it should be noted that Monk’s personal playoff stats are the best of the bunch. His yards per game, catches per game, and yards per catch numbers beat out those of Carter, Brown, and Reed. Carter and Reed have Very Small advantages in TDs per game, while Monk beats out Brown even in this category. Playoff TD numbers are close, even though all of these other guys played in passing-first offenses, while Monk’s Redskins teams were power running teams at heart. If you compare each of these guys’ numbers in NFC/AFC Championship games, Monk sweeps ALL categories, outgaining the next best candidate by nearly 40 YARDS a game!
    Not only this, but Monk and the Redskins faced Much better competition in their playoff games. If you compare these candidates based on the number of Super Bowl winners and losers they played during their post season exploits, you’ll find that Monk and the ‘Skins come out WAY on top.
    Consider these purely anectdotal facts: Carter and the Vikings lost their two NFC Championship game appearances to the Chris Chandler-led Atlanta Falcons and the Kerry Collins-led NY Giants. Monk and the ‘Skins NEVER lost a playoff game to a team that was more than 2 years removed from a Super Bowl championship. I’ve created a statistic to compare the greatness of playoff opponents called the POGQ (playoff opponent greatness quotient) which I will not trouble you with here. Suffice to say, Monk and the ‘Skins win out in that comparison. Not only that, the teams who Monk and the ‘Skins faced in the playoffs actually had a higher regular season winning percentage than those faced by Carter, Brown or Reed.

    So Monk put up better personal playoff numbers, while his team was winning a higher percentage of their playoff games, against stronger playoff competition, and bringing home Super Bowl rings.
    All those pro bowls these other guys went to must look pretty insignificant.

    I have prepared a powerpoint presentation on this subject. If the person running this site would like a copy, please e-mail me and let me know where I can send it as an attachment.

    Comment by remember the redskins — September 28, 2007 @ 10:22 am

  9. Mr. King and the rest of the voters can now turn their attention towards putting more defensive players in at every opportunity (Chris Hanburger anyone?)

    Comment by remember the redskins — July 20, 2008 @ 8:22 am

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