The Art Monk Hall of Fame Campaign


This is a collection of articles written about Art Monk during his career:

Washington Post
August 30, 1991
At 33, Monk Leads Redskins by the Numbers
Richard Justice

Art Monk went to Coach Joe Gibbs a few months ago and asked a favor. He told Gibbs that several of the Washington Redskins were doing more and more of their conditioning work at George Mason University, where they’d discovered a small mountain perfect for doing the toughest sprint work.

Monk explained that while treadmills and StairMasters were nice, there was nothing like the mountain for a tough workout, and he wanted to know if perhaps the Redskins could have a mountain of their own. Gibbs spoke to strength coach Dan Riley and then to team owner Jack Kent Cooke, and when the team moves to a new Redskin Park next summer, it’ll come complete with a man-made mountain for Monk and friends to climb.

That mountain and what it represents is the perfect analogy as Monk begins his 12th pro season when the Redskins meet the Detroit Lions at 8 p.m. Sunday at RFK Stadium.

Monk has climbed almost all of them, both symbolically and figuratively. He begins this season with numbers that are already certain of opening the doors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and starts with a bit of history riding on every reception.

His 730 catches are the third-highest total ever and put him only 20 behind Charlie Joiner and 89 behind Steve Largent. Having averaged 66 catches per season, he seems certain of passing Joiner this season and should catch Largent in 1992. He also has caught at least one pass in 116 straight games — the fifth-highest total ever.

The numbers are amazing enough and the numbers may someday be how he’s remembered. They tell the story of a guy who was one of the most consistent performers in history, a guy who wasn’t flashy, who didn’t torch opponents. Instead, he was always there, almost never missing a game, almost never dropping a pass.

Someday the Redskins may remember the numbers. But today he’s still the prototype player, the one that Gibbs and Cooke measure all others against. He’s still the hardest worker, the one who most represents grace and dignity and intelligence, the one who is last to the interview room to talk about what he did, but the first to go over the middle and catch a 28-yard pass on third-and-nine in a playoff game at Veterans Stadium.

Monk did sit still for an interview today at Redskin Park. He said the records will mean something someday, but not now. He said he’s excited about this year’s team. He said that at 33, he has to work harder than ever, but that he’s still capable of being productive.

“I’m sure the records will mean a lot to me someday, but the impact of it really hasn’t hit me,” he said. “I don’t think it will until after I leave the game. Right now, I’m just having fun playing the game. I don’t know. I just don’t see it the way everybody else does right now. I’m more interested in playing the game and trying to win, doing what I can to help the team. I’m most proud of the fact that I’m out there every week, that I’m there when they call on me.”

He talked this summer about life in the NFL at 33. He said he has to be more careful about what he eats and more diligent about his conditioning. One of the most incredible moments of this training camp came on the final scrimmage at Carlisle High when Gary Clark and Monk were playing catch. They were talking and laughing and mostly trying to get their bodies ready for one more practice.

But in one instant, Clark threw a high pass, and while still carrying on a conversation, Monk leaped, caught the ball with one hand and pulled it to his chest. It was a dazzling moment and came from a player who is among the first on the practice field and among the last to leave. It’s not unusual for him to go through two hard practices, then go for a one- or two-mile run. During the summer, he lifted weights three times a week at Redskin Park and did some kind of running seven times a week at George Mason.

“Self-motivation is something I’ve always had because I know if you’re going to be good at something, no matter what it is, you have to work for it,” he said. “There’s an old saying I try to remember. It goes: ‘The days that you don’t work, your opponent is working.’ When the time comes that you two meet, he’s going to win because he worked harder. I take that approach. He’s out there working wherever he is, whoever he is. I have to do whatever I can to keep on that same pace.”

And because of that approach, Monk is the one the Redskins turn to when the game is on the line. “The great times are when you reach a point in a ballgame where I know they’re really looking at me to take control of a situation. Once you feel that, you just respond to it. It takes control of you. You get into a groove with the quarterback. He knows what I’m going to do, and I know what he’s going to do. You get a feeling that you can do just about anything you want to do. You can’t really describe it. It’s really hard to relate it to someone who hasn’t been out there and been through it.”

Gibbs seemed exasperated this week when a reporter pressed him on the question of leadership and why the Redskins didn’t have leaders. He meant there weren’t Redskins who gave passionate pregame speeches and who lead cheers or wave towels on the sideline.

Gibbs pointed toward Monk and Don Warren and Monte Coleman and said: “We’re a businesslike team. We play with emotion, but just because you don’t hear from guys doesn’t mean they’re not leaders.”

Gibbs said leadership comes in all forms, and it was Monk who called a players-only team meeting on the eve of the 12th game last season. The Redskins were 6-5 and about to play the Dolphins and Bears at home and they were about to find out if they were a legitimate playoff team or not.

The next day he caught 10 passes and scored twice in a 42-20 victory over Miami. The meetings became a weekly ritual as the Redskins won four of their last five, returned to the playoffs and defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC first-round game before losing to the San Francisco 49ers.

This season begins with the Redskins having been picked by many to win the NFC, but having looked terrible in preseason. “We’re a very talented team,” Monk said. “I think we’re a closer team than we were a couple of years ago. With the addition of a couple of new faces, we’ve grown closer together. We’re really excited about having a great season. I think we’ll have it as long as we stay healthy. We’ve got to win the games we’re supposed to win.”

Monk said he hasn’t once wondered what his career numbers would be if he’d played with only one quarterback. He has talked often about the magic relationship he had with Joe Theismann, but since then, there’s been Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams, Mark Rypien, Stan Humphries and Jeff Rutledge.

The Chicago Tribune
January 17, 1992
Monk vs. Lofton Grabs You
Don Pierson

Art Monk and James Lofton have caught everything except Steve Largent and the spotlight on football’s biggest stage. Now, on their way to the Hall of Fame, their careers intersect for a moment in Minneapolis in a Super Bowl that could be dedicated to the two old receivers.

This is the Redskins’ fourth Super Bowl since Monk was their No. 1 draft choice in 1980, but he has caught only two passes. In 1982, he missed the game after suffering a broken foot in the regular season finale. In 1983, Monk caught only one pass for 26 yards when the Redskins were blown out 38-9 by the Raiders. In 1987, Monk missed the first two playoff games with a knee injury and returned to the Super Bowl to catch Doug Williams’ first completion in Washington’s 42-10 rout of Denver.

“It’s the only thing I really haven’t done. It means a lot,” Monk said this week in a rare interview.

Art Monk. The name describes his profession and his personality. Because he prefers example to exhibition, others must speak about him.

“We had just watched him catch a pass and run over a defensive back (Monk, like Walter Payton, doesn’t like to run out of bounds). He came off the field and everybody was laughing, saying ‘He didn’t realize how heavy you were,’ ” defensive end Charles Mann said. “Art constantly tries to lose weight. He weights 210, not an ounce of fat, and he’s not happy.

“In the off-season last year, he never missed a weight workout. From March 1 until training camp, there are 55 workouts you can get. He had all 55. My wife has set up a Monk watch. We’ve been clipping out stories and sending them to his wife. Otherwise, he wouldn’t see it.”

Gary Clark, the most productive Redskin receiver, says: “We all want to be the best receiver on the team, but we know that Monk is the best.”

In the Redskins’ playoff loss to the 49ers last season, San Francisco nose tackle Michael Carter intercepted a pass late in the 28-10 game and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown. There was no chance for anyone to catch him and no reason to try, except here came Art Monk out of the corner of everyone’s eye, racing from downfield at full speed, giving futile chase to a lost cause, not because he had a shot to catch him but because Art Monk is a professional.

“A pure competitor,” said Bobby Mitchell, Redskins’ assistant general manager and Hall of Fame receiver himself. “He doesn’t waste his energy talking about who’s the best, who’s getting the glory, who’s catching the most balls.”

The son of a construction worker and a second cousin of jazzman Thelonius Monk, Monk works at his craft with a “no-nonsense” attitude that rubs off, according to receivers coach Charley Taylor, another Hall of Famer in the Redskins’ fold.

“How Art Monk goes, we go. He can catch two balls in practice or three or 15. He works the same. Guys look at him and they don’t get upset when balls don’t come their way,” Taylor said.

Monk once told the Washington Post: “The great times are when you reach a point in a ballgame where I know they’re really looking at me to take control of a situation. Once you feel that, you just respond to it. It takes control of you. You get into a groove with the quarterback.”

Monk has a mirror at his locker, the only clue that he occasionally notices himself and fulfils the psychological profile of receivers studied by Dr. Arnold J. Mandell during his 1972 season with the San Diego Chargers.

“The wide receiver is a very special human being. He shares many features with actors and movie stars,” Mandell wrote. “He is narcissistic and vain and basically a loner.”

If Monk were a willing spokesman for his sport, he might be able to share additional insight beyond his aversion to Super Bowl hype.

“It’s everything that I don’t particularly care for. All the media and all the attention . . . a lot of confusion. I’d rather just be behind the scenes,” he said.

Houston Chronicle
January 22, 1992
Hands of Time: Redskins’ Monk near all-time catches record
John McClain

MINNEAPOLIS — Unlike Buffalo receiver James Lofton, Washington’s Art Monk is uncomfortable struggling for answers to questions he does not especially want to answer. You can count on one hand the interviews Monk has granted in recent years.

Since the Redskins clinched a spot in Super Bowl XXVI, Monk actually has been doing interviews. He may not be singing like a canary, but at least the Sphinx is speaking.

“”Any time you get in this situation, you wonder if it could be your last,” Monk said Tuesday. “”You want to do everything you can to make the most of the situation. I’m sure a lot of players think that way. ” Monk stands at a podium surrounded by reporters. He answers politely, but he never elaborates. He looks as if he would rather be doing just about anything else — but then he breaks into a smile when asked about the importance of breaking Steve Largent’s NFL record of 819 career catches.

“”It’s important to me,” Monk said, knowing he needs only 19 to make history. “”I think it would be exciting to break the record.

“”Right now, I’m thinking about the Super Bowl, and the chance to break his record hasn’t really sunk in yet. Each year, it gets a little harder to play, and if I do break it, I’ll be very proud. ” Monk completed his 12th season with 801 catches — he had 71 this season, when he led the Redskins. He owns the NFL one-season record with 106 catches in 1984. Monk posted his fifth 1,000-yard season in 1991.

Monk is the senior member of the Posse, the Redskins’ outstanding corps of three receivers. Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders have different strengths.

“”Gary is an unusual character,” Monk said. “”He’s very tough on himself. He demands performance, not only of himself but other players around him. I think he motivates everybody. He’s very determined, the type of individual who is never going to give up.

He’s a deep threat because of his quickness and speed.

“”Ricky is more of a laid-back type of guy like myself. He’s used a lot for interior blocking as well as for throwing short and deep. I’m more of a possession-type receiver. I do a lot of blocking and catch a lot of short passes. ” Monk never has had blazing speed, but he has made adjustments. There are times when he would love to be like Lofton, who uses his speed and long stride to run so many deep routes.

“”He and I have different styles,” Monk said. “”He’s a fleet-footed receiver who makes plays down the field. Obviously, he wouldn’t have been around this long if he wasn’t talented, if he hadn’t gotten the job done so consistently.

“”James has great hands. I’ve always admired him. I just don’t see how he’s been able to maintain that great speed. I wish he would let me in on that secret. He’s running like he was 10 years ago.

“”Me, I feel like I’ve slowed down a couple of seconds. Hey, I’m struggling. But I know what my role is, and I accepted it a long time ago. We have other guys who go after the deep ball. I just have to make sure I’m in the right spots for the short ones. ” Before the Redskins selected him in the first round of the 1980 draft, there were times when Monk thought his NFL career might be at running back.

“”I was recruited by Syracuse as a receiver, but they moved me to running back for a couple of years because of injuries and eligibility problems with some other backs,” Monk said. “”When Joe Morris was ready to play running back, they moved me back to receiver.

“”I was glad to move back, too. I’ve always liked catching the ball more than running with it. ” And where might Monk be today if Morris had not come along and he had remained at running back?

“”I’d probably be back home in White Plains, N.Y.,” Monk said. “”If I had been a running back, I sure don’t think I’d be standing here today.”                                                          

Monk’s marks All-time receiving

Player              Team       Rec  
Steve Largent      Seattle     819
Art Monk           Washington  801
Charlie Joiner     San Diego   750

Most seasons 50 or more receptions
Player                Team       No  
Steve Largent         Seattle    10
Art Monk              Washington  9
James Lofton          Buffalo     8                                    

Most receptions, season
Player               Team  Yr   No  
Art Monk             Wash  1984  106
Char. Hennigan       Hou   1964  101
Lionel Taylor        Den   1961  100
Jerry Rice           S.F   1990  100
Hayw. Jeffires       Hou   1991  100

Dallas Morning News
September 5, 1992
Monk taylor-made for Hall of Fame
Rick Gosselin

It was Draft Day 1980, and the anticipation level at Redskins Park was at a suffocating height.

The Washington Redskins had a first-round draft pick. Finally.

Forget that it was the 17th overall selection – too late to grab one of the franchise players in the draft. It would be the first time the Redskins had a No. 1 pick in an NFL draft since 1968.

General Manager Bobby Beathard had identified the areas of need on his 10-6 team – an aging pass rush, no speed in the backfield and the lack of a deep threat. The depth in the draft was at running back, and popular local opinion had the Redskins using their pick on Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, Joe Cribbs or Vagas Ferguson.

Instead, the Redskins claimed a former running back, Art Monk of Syracuse. It was a bit of a projection because Monk had been a runner until his senior year, when he was switched to wide receiver. He posted modest numbers in his one season on the flank – 40 catches and three touchdowns – and appeared to be a reach by the Redskins.

But not in Beathard’s mind. At the news conference after the pick, Beathard said Monk “can come real close” to being another Charley Taylor. Talk about putting a young player on the spot. Taylor had retired from the Redskins just two seasons earlier as the NFL’s all-time leading receiver.

Thirteen years later, Monk has not come close to Taylor – he has zoomed past him. And with 19 more receptions this season, Monk will have sped past everyone else, too. He ranks second on pro football’s all-time receiving list with 801 catches. Only Steve Largent has more.

“I knew I had some ability,” Monk said. “But I didn’t know whether I’d be able to compete at this level. When I signed my first contract, I thought I’d play out those years and that would be it. But I got excited, got some confidence in myself and wanted to play some more.”

Before Monk could begin his quest for records in 1980, he needed the stamp of approval of players whose records he would chase. Beathard was sold on Monk but wanted two other members of the organization to study him – administrative assistant Bobby Mitchell and Taylor, who was then a scout.

Mitchell and Taylor made successful switches from running back to wide receiver during their careers with the Redskins. Mitchell made the move in his fifth season in 1962 and Taylor in his third season in 1966.

Both were good running backs – Mitchell went to the Pro Bowl once and Taylor was the NFL Rookie of the Year – but both became Hall of Fame receivers. Mitchell retired in 1969 as the NFL’s second all-time leading receiver with 521 catches. Taylor retired in 1978 on top with 649.

Who better to judge Monk’s star potential than the in-house experts on switching positions and catching passes? So Mitchell went up to Syracuse to see Monk in the fall, and Taylor made the trip in the winter.

For Mitchell, visiting Monk was like revisiting his former teammate Taylor. They had similar size (6-3, 210), speed and strength. They also were dynamic after the catch.

“I liked Art’s run ability,” Mitchell said. “As soon as he got the ball, you could see him divorce himself from the defensive player. Even if he ran a bad pattern, if the ball got there, he would still separate himself. He looked like a natural.”

So Mitchell gave thumbs up to Beathard.

Taylor saw a slightly more polished version of Monk when he visited Syracuse. Monk had a full season at the position by then. He still had a long way to go, but Taylor liked his chances. He also gave Monk his nod of approval.

“His talent was obvious,” Taylor said.

It took Monk five years before he slapped his name at the top of his profession with a 106-catch, 1,372-yard season in 1984. It gave him his only NFL receiving crown and first Pro Bowl berth. He has had four 1,000-yard seasons and two Pro Bowl berths since.

Monk has delivered for the Redskins in a variety of capacities. Early in his career, he was the club’s deep threat. But when Washington signed speedy Smurfs Clark and Sanders out of the USFL in the mid-1980s, Monk became the possession receiver. So he has been as flexible in the scheme as he has been productive in it.

Monk has averaged 66 catches per season in his career. But he has picked up the pace in his pursuit of Largent. Since hitting age 30, Monk has averaged 74 catches per year.

“I’ve always thought of Art as the Joe DiMaggio of football,” Casserly said. “DiMaggio always had the reputation of being a class act. He was a great player who never said much or showed much emotion.

“People might say well, Joe DiMaggio was a great player. But this guy’s stats were great, too, if not better. When you add it up in the end, you’ll have a guy who had the most catches in a season and in a career, three (Super Bowl) rings and no reason to not be in the Hall of Fame.”



    Coach Mike says Art Monk should be in the Hall of Fame

    By Mike Frandsen, January 1, 2008

    “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 Analyst Sean Salisbury

    Art Monk was one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of the NFL. It can be argued that, among non-active players, Monk was the second-greatest receiver ever behind Jerry Rice.

    Yet for the past seven years, Monk has been bypassed for election into the Hall of Fame. The omission of Monk from the NFL Hall of Fame is the single greatest injustice for the Hall in the Super Bowl era. In the seven years that Monk has been eligible for the Hall of Fame, 37 people have been inducted. This travesty diminishes the process, the voters, and the NFL Hall of Fame itself.

    1. Peter King’s Anti-Monk Campaign
    2. King’s Pro-Carson Campaign
    3. Paul Zimmerman’s Anti-Monk Campaign
    4. “Signature” Super Bowl Performance
    5. Joe Gibbs: Too Much Credit?
    6. Pro Bowls
    7. “Positional Integrity?”
    8. Comparing Apples to Apples
    9. The Game Changes
    10. Want to be in the Hall of Fame? Get on TV.
    11. Character
    12. The Old Boy Network Opens the Door a Crack…Sort of
    13. Teammates
    14. More Negative Campaigning
    15. Hall of Fame or Hall of Shame?

    Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott says, “Art Monk was an example for Jerry Rice. That’s what Jerry always told me. There’s nothing negative to say. He has the numbers, the catches, the championships. Nobody I know deserves it more.” In 1991 teammate Gary Clark said something that would prove to be prophetic: “Most times people don’t get respect until it’s too late,” he said. “I never understood that. People go into the Hall of Fame when they’re 50, 60 years old. That’s no fun. Give credit when it’s due. I’m playing with a legend right now, a living, playing legend. The guy’s incredible.” The 50-year old Monk is still waiting.

    Monk played 14 of his 16 seasons for the Washington Redskins and led them to three Super Bowl victories and four appearances. At the time of his retirement in 1995, Monk had the record for most receptions in NFL history with 940. His 106 catches in 1984 were an NFL record that stood for eight years and it was the first time 100 catches had ever been made in one season by an NFL player. The league leader in receptions has now broken triple digits in 17 of the last 18 years. But Monk needs to be judged in the era in which he played, just like Hall of Famer Lynn Swann’s paltry 336 catches (604 fewer than Monk) need to be judged in that era.

    Monk has more catches than any of the 17 receivers currently in the Hall. He also had 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns, and scored seven touchdowns in the playoffs. Monk also set the record for most consecutive games with a reception (183), later broken by Rice. Monk was named to the NFL’s all-decade team of the 1980s. In The Sporting News’ list of Top 100 NFL players of all time, there are 11 receivers including Monk. All are in the Hall of Fame except Monk. All nine players behind Monk on the list are in the Hall of Fame, including two receivers, Charlie Joiner and Fred Biletnikoff.

    Monk was voted by Washington fans as the greatest player in the franchise’s history, a team that has 21 players in the Hall of Fame, though not one from its two most recent Super Bowl-winning teams in 1987 and 1991. The 1991 team was one of the greatest teams of all-time, and Monk was the Skins’ greatest player. Monk had more catches, yards, and touchdowns than Michael Irvin, who was indicted – oops – I mean inducted in 2007.

    Monk was also an excellent blocker who loved to hit opponents, a truly respected teammate, and gave maximum effort on every play. He ran precise routes, had excellent footwork, and never took plays off. Monk was nicknamed “Money” for his uncanny ability to make crucial catches in big games. If there was a statistic kept for most critical first downs receiving, Monk would surely be at the top of the list. Monk was a winner and a champion.

    One of the best ways to evaluate players for the Hall of Fame is to look back at their draft class and analyze where the player should have, and would have been taken had teams known then what they know now. At the 18th pick of the first round in 1980, Monk was an absolute steal. Knowing back then what teams know now, Monk would have certainly been selected in the top three overall picks along with Anthony Munoz, the Hall of Fame tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals, and Dwight Stephenson, the Hall of Fame center for the Miami Dolphins. It’s up for argument as to which of the three was more valuable, but Monk might have been the number one overall pick. Neither Munoz nor Stephenson won a Super Bowl; Monk won three. Each player was one of the greatest ever at their respective positions. The top pick in 1980 was running back Billy Sims, who had a fine career – three 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Detroit Lions – but didn’t have near the impact that Monk did. No other players in the 1980 draft would come close to Monk’s accomplishments.

    Monk was the most respected player on a three-time Super Bowl winning team. In 1990, with the Redskins’ season on the line, the normally reserved Monk called a now legendary team meeting that lit a fire under the Skins. Said offensive tackle Jim Lachey, “He talked about rededicating himself to the season as if he weren’t dedicated enough. It was big boost for the whole team.” The Redskins went on to win four of their next five games to make the playoffs and won the Super Bowl the following year. Their record was 6-5 before the meeting and 22-4 after. After that team meeting before week 12 in 1990, the Redskins continued to have similar players-only meetings through the next season. The day after the meeting, Monk had two touchdowns and 10 receptions in a 42-20 drubbing of Miami.

    So why has Monk been passed over so many times? A couple of the most influential voters have actively campaigned against Monk for many years. The worst offender has been Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.

    Peter King’s Anti-Monk Campaign

    For many years King has said that Monk doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall. He based his view on first-hand experience, since King covered the New York Giants from 1985-1988, and the Giants played the Redskins nine times during that span. There are a few problems with this. What about the other 215 Games Monk played? The Redskins fared significantly worse against the Giants those years than they did against the rest of the league. In fact, Bill Parcells’ Giants beat Joe Gibbs’ Redskins six straight times at one point and nine of the last 11 times they played. Still, in 1991, then-Cleveland Browns coach Bill Belichick, who ran the Giants defense in the late 80s, said, “I think Monk is one of the great receivers ever to play the game. I wish the damn guy would retire and I told him that in the preseason. The sooner the better for me.” Who knows more, Belichick or King?

    King says Monk was the “third or fourth most dangerous skill player on those teams.” Quite frankly, King either doesn’t understand Monk’s greatness and importance to the Redskins or he refuses to acknowledge it. One of the many major flaws in King’s argument is that he fails to take into consideration the fact that Clark and Sanders simply didn’t have hands as good as Monk. As great as Clark was, he dropped his fair share of passes, and Sanders dropped even more. And part of the reason Clark and Sanders made big plays was because Monk often had safeties ready to meet Monk in the middle of the field. If you don’t believe that, then do you really think a 5-10, 180 lb cornerback would be able to bring down the 6-3 210-pound Monk by himself? Charlie Brown was a very good receiver for the Redskins in the early ‘80s too. But Monk is the constant.

    Let’s also remember that Clark and Sanders each played eight seasons for the Redskins and when they left the team they were unproductive without Monk. Doesn’t longevity count for anything or should Monk be penalized for it? Longevity benefited Joiner, but apparently it hurts Monk. King notes that Clark had more speed than Monk. Well, Monk had more size than Clark, better hands, and more longevity. Monk ran his routes flawlessly and was a much better blocker than Clark. Why does King focus on just one aspect of receiving – speed – in which Clark and Sanders surpassed Monk? Finally, Monk holds the distinction of being the only Redskins receiver to gain 1000 yards in receptions for three consecutive seasons.

    I’m not sure why Monk gets held to a higher standard than other players (actually, I have a theory, so read on). Other players aren’t penalized because they played with other great or very good receivers. Swann and John Stallworth didn’t get barred from the Hall because they played together – they’re both in there, and the Steelers had three other Hall of Famers on that offense, two of them at skill positions, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris. Could it be the snappy alliteration of “Swann and Stallworth?” Or maybe it was the poetic name of “Lynn Swann.” Understand, I’m not saying they don’t belong, but they don’t belong in ahead of Monk. Alongside, yes. Ahead of, no. Fred Biletnikoff didn’t get barred from the Hall because he played across a faster Cliff Branch who led the league in TD receptions twice – 13 in 1974 and 12 in 1976. James Lofton wasn’t hurt by the fact that he played early in his career with John Jefferson and later with Andre Reed, Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. He had the advantage of playing in a no-huddle, almost run and shoot type system at the end of his career with the Super Bowl Bills. Joiner at various times played with John Jefferson, Wes Chandler and Kellen Winslow. Cris Carter certainly won’t be hurt by the fact that he played four seasons with Randy Moss.

    King’s Pro-Carson Campaign

    However, while King has spent the better part of a decade bashing Monk’s accomplishments, King took it upon himself to actively campaign for former New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson, who was inducted shortly after King’s complaints in 2006. King wrote, “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 offensive line – equated to Carson’s impact on the Giants’ D.” Really? Do the facts support this? Carson had a great defensive player – Lawrence Taylor, the greatest of all-time – alongside him starting in 1981. Carson had consistently good defensive linemen, and a great linebacking corps.

    Carson’s Giants were 24-52 before LT arrived. Those Giants won almost half as many games as they lost. The Giants’ best record with Carson before LT was 6-10. However, the Giants with both Carson and LT were 65-54-1 and they won the Super Bowl after the 1986 season. Oh, and after Carson retired, the Giants were 25-7 the following two years and won another Super Bowl after the 1990 season. So who rode whose coattails? Meanwhile, the Redskins didn’t make the playoffs the three seasons before they drafted Monk in 1980, and then they won three Super Bowls and went to a fourth with Monk. The Redskins were 9-23 in the two years after Monk left the team, and have made the playoffs just three times since he left the team after the 1993 season.

    Carson also had great linebacker teammates such as Brian Kelley and Brad Van Pelt and later Carl Banks and Gary Reasons – in fact, LT, Banks, Gary Reasons, and Carson made up one of the best linebacker units in the Super Bowl era in 1986 – the others that come to mind are the Steelers of the ‘70s and the 1985 Bears. Those Giants had a great defensive line led by Leonard Marshall. In 1986 they were one of the greatest defenses of all-time. You’re right, Peter. Monk’s impact on the Redskins offense didn’t equate to Carson’s impact on the Giants’ D. Monk was more important to the Redskins than Carson was to the Giants. I guess Banks’ incessant whining on Sirius NFL Radio in support of his former teammate didn’t hurt. It’s a shame that politics has to be brought into the process, and that members of the media from New York have a disproportionate influence on the voting. I’m not saying that Carson didn’t deserve to be in the Hall, just that Monk clearly deserves it just as much if not more.

    Paul Zimmerman’s Anti-Monk Campaign

    Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman is another sportswriter who has voted against Monk for many years. Here is an actual quote from Zimmerman from August 2007:

    “Ok, we all know I have been a Monk negative for many years. My line has been catching 800 8-yard hooks just doesn’t do it for me… Maybe a player who has drawn such a loyal following, year in year out, deserves more serious consideration. And perhaps those Redskin fans aren’t mere nudniks, as I’ve unfortunately come to regard them, but people who might, just might, have a more accurate reading on the situation than I do. I’m not saying that you’re swinging me over completely; it’s just that I’m a lot closer to Monk’s legitimacy as a Hall of Famer than I used to be.”

    Zimmerman says Monk’s propensity to catch the eight-yard hook “just doesn’t do it for me.” Well, what does do it for you, “Dr. Z?” King has said that “you never got the feeling that Monk was a great player.” Sorry if he wasn’t glamorous enough. I guess with Monk, facts don’t matter. Maybe Monk’s detractors would feel more starry-eyed if Monk was on national TV all the time like many of the other Hall of Famers. Maybe that would “do it for” them or give them a better “feeling.” Let me repeat again that Monk scored seven playoff touchdowns for an average of 26 yards. You’d think that they might look at all angles of an issue rather than blowing smoke.

    Zimmerman may not realize it, but that statement about the eight-yard hooks should actually help make the case even more for Monk rather than against him – the fact that he caught a lot of short passes but still averaged 13.5 yards per catch really shows that Monk did make a lot of long receptions. If Monk really caught 800 eight-yard hooks, then he must have had 140 45-yard catches. Of course, Zimmerman is exaggerating, but look at the table below. Monk did catch a certain number of “8-yard hooks.” (Which, by the way, isn’t the worst thing in the world if it’s 3rd and 8, 3rd and 7, 3rd and 6, etc.) The table shows what Monk’s average would be for any receptions that were not “eight-yard hooks.” So if Monk had 400 eight-yard hooks, his average for the other 540 catches was 17.6. If he had 500 eight-yard hooks, his average for the other 440 catches was 19.8. If Monk caught 600 eight-yarders, his average for the remaining 340 receptions was 23.3. If Monk had 700 eight-yard hooks, then the other 240 catches clock in at 29.7 yards per catch. You get the picture.

    If Monk had _x_ “eight-yard hooks,” the average for the rest of his catches would be _y_.
    X = Number of “eight-yard hooks.” 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900
    Y = Avg. Yards Per Catch for the rest of Monk’s receptions 14.2 15.0 16.1 17.6 19.8 23.3 29.7 45.2 138

    Monk today is often referred to as a “possession receiver,” but was this really the case or is this revisionist history? Here’s a quick quiz for you. Who has the highest yards per catch average – Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison, or Art Monk? If you guessed Monk, you were right. Monk’s career average is 13.5 Yards per catch – just ahead of Marvin Harrison (13.4), nearly a yard more than Cris Carter (12.6) and only 1.3 yards less than Jerry Rice (14.8). Perception is apparently more important than facts when it comes to the Hall of Fame. I don’t think people call Harrison, Carter, or Rice possession receivers (we’ll get to touchdowns in a minute). And Monk usually made catches over the middle, where he didn’t get the opportunity to get as much yardage as outside receivers and took more punishment than other receivers. Also, because the Redskins were a run-first offense, a typical series would go something like this. 1st down: Run from whoever the primary back was (Riggins, Rogers, or Byner). 2nd down: Another run. 3rd down: pass to Monk for a first down.

    Keep in mind that Monk’s career average of 13.5 was lower than it would have otherwise been because of countless short to medium-range passes to move the chains. So, in other words, (brace yourself, Monk critics: there’s math involved here) it’s true – Monk caught a lot of 8-yard passes for first downs. Since his average was 13.5, then for every eight-yard pass he caught, he also caught another 19-yard pass; for every five-yard pass he caught he also caught a 22-yard pass. Understand that for every short pass, there was a long pass to balance it out. Monk had at least 33 catches of 40 yards or more. Does this sound like someone who wasn’t a deep threat? Monk was a national high school hurdles champion and did possess very good speed for an NFL receiver. He slowed down toward the end of his career just like every receiver did.

    Still, Monk did average fewer yards per catch than most of his Hall of Fame contemporaries. But there are speed burning receivers, and bigger, more physical types who help move the chains, just like there are different types of running backs. Would King or Zimmerman keep Earl Campbell (4.3 yards per rush), Larry Csonka (4.3), or John Riggins (3.9) out of the Hall of Fame because they weren’t the same type of running backs as Barry Sanders (5.0) or Gale Sayers (5.0)? What kind of logic is this anyway? Riggins’ 3.9 average is acceptable because he got a lot of first downs in short-yardage situations. Monk, however, gets held to a different standard. I guess first downs receiving count less than those achieved by rushing.

    Here are some excerpts from Zimmerman’s writings from Notice his flippant remarks in place of analysis, and his odd obsession with (or refusal to come up with anything different than) “eight-yard hooks.”

    Jan. 24, 2001: Monk caught a million passes, most of them eight-to-10-yard hooks.

    August 5, 2001: Monk was very valuable for what he did — sitting down in the zone and catching the 10-yard hook for a first down
    December 18, 2002: Well, they’d better pick their wideouts in a hurry, because the way things are going now, all the records are gonna drop fast. I think a Hall of Fame wideout has to be able to stretch the field, and that would eliminate Monk, a valuable receiver but a guy who made a career out of eight-yard hooks.
    July 31, 2002: I don’t think you make the Hall of Fame on 800 8-yard hook passes
    July 21, 2004: Every time I mention that I didn’t vote for him because I simply felt that other people were more deserving than a guy who caught 900 eight-yard hooks, I wake up all the Washington diehards, who start screaming about my anti-Redskins bias. Start stirring, you folk (sic) out there. It will happen again.
    Feb. 4, 2006: Monk was hurt by Michael Irvin being eligible this year. It’s done alphabetically, and Irvin was presented before Monk. I think that really hurt him.
    Oct. 5, 2006: Art Monk again will provide spirited debate, for those of us who manage to remain awake throughout this old reprise.

    “Perhaps those Redskin fans aren’t mere nudniks,” after all, Zimmerman says. Unfortunately, this is an attitude perpetuated by members of the national media– that the sports world revolves around them, and that DC sports fans are unsophisticated. How else could you explain the lack of respect for the Redskins Super Bowl teams? Thanks for “softening your stance, Zim.” It’s a real shame that you and Peter King had so much influence over this smoke-filled room process over the years.

    “Signature” Super Bowl Performance

    Another argument against Monk is that he didn’t have a “signature” performance in a Super Bowl. Since when did this become necessary to make the Hall? (It’s a good thing this criterion wasn’t applied to Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton; Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Warren Moon, Jim Kelly; Steve Largent, Joiner or Lofton). Everybody remembers the catch Swann made against Dallas in Super Bowl X or the over-the-shoulder catch Stallworth made against the Rams in Super Bowl XI. I guess it helps to bobble a catch to make it look spectacular like Swann did. But what about the catch Monk made against the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII? I understand that there wasn’t much fancy about it, but the Redskins were down 10-0 and in danger of being routed. It was 3rd and 16. Think about that for a minute. Doug Williams threw it toward the left sideline and Monk made a 40-yard gain. The rest is history. 42-10, Redskins. History very likely would have been different without that catch. The Broncos would have regained possession with good field position and a 10-0 lead. In January 1992, Monk had seven catches for 113 yards as the Redskins beat Buffalo 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI. If another receiver had had that game, it would be considered great. For Monk, it’s ignored.

    It’s bizarre logic that says that a player must have highlight reel catches during a Super Bowl, yet that performance during the rest of the playoffs shouldn’t matter. Here are the facts. Art Monk scored seven touchdowns in the playoffs. On the road to Super Bowl XXII, Monk scored a 40-yard touchdown and a 21-yard TD in a 51-7 rout of the Rams in a January 1984 playoff game. In January 1987, the year after the Bears won the Super Bowl at 15-1 and were considered by most experts to be the greatest team of all-time – certainly the greatest defense – the Redskins beat the 14-2 Bears in the playoffs 27-13. Monk scored two touchdowns in that game – a 28-yarder and a 21-yarder against the top-ranked defense in the NFL. The national media were shocked and disappointed at that one, that the Big Bad Bears lost to the Redskins. (Of course the next game the Skins got shut out by the Giants with Peter the King watching from his throne in the swamps of Jersey).

    In January 1991, the Redskins beat Buddy Ryan’s Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs 20-6, and Monk scored a 16-yard touchdown to give the Redskins a 7-6 lead. You know, those Eagles coached by Buddy Ryan with Jerome Brown, Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, and Andre Waters? Just one of the most feared defenses in the NFL. That Philly team had dominated the Skins earlier that season 28-14 in the infamous “Body Bag” game, knocking nine Redskins out of the game.

    In the next playoff game, Monk caught 10 passes for 163 yards and a 31-yard TD from quarterback Mark Rypien in a loss against the 49ers, who had beaten the Broncos 55-10 in the Super Bowl a year earlier. The following season, Monk also scored an amazing over the shoulder 21-yard TD against Detroit in the 1992 NFC Championship game as the Skins were victorious, 41-10. Lions linebacker Chris Spielman had this to say, “Art Monk is a Hall of Famer. He doesn’t get enough credit compared to Jerry Rice. He’s a special player.”

    Joe Gibbs: Too Much Credit?

    Another possible factor to Monk’s glaring omission from the Hall is the fact that Joe Gibbs is considered to be such a great coach that he overshadows his players. The perception is that the Skins didn’t have great players and that is wrong. Gibbs gets too much credit; the players didn’t get enough. It’s ironic that Gibbs constantly gets called a Hall of Fame coach simply because he won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. Somehow the same rules don’t apply to Monk – the fact that he played with four quarterbacks, none of them in the Hall of Fame, doesn’t help his case. Yet Swann, Stallworth, Joiner, and Irvin all had the benefit of playing with Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and they also played with Hall of Fame (or soon to be Hall of Fame) running backs except for Joiner.

    (And as an aside, is anyone as sick as I am of the media constantly reminding us that Gibbs is a great coach solely because he won Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks? Can’t these guys come up with another reason? Winning three Super Bowls period is impressive. It demeans the Redskins quarterbacks, their other players, and Gibbs himself to reduce his career to the fact that he won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. There have been a bunch of Super Bowls won with good but not great quarterbacks –, Jim Plunkett (twice), Jim McMahon, Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer, and Brad Johnson).

    Joe Theismann was the NFL MVP in 1983, and at the time he was one of the two best quarterbacks in the league along with Joe Montana, and you can look it up. So it’s insulting to Theismann to say that Gibbs must be a great coach if he could win with him. Now, the other three quarterbacks Monk played with – Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien, weren’t as good. Schroeder had 22 interceptions in 1986. Williams was the MVP of Super Bowl XXII in 1988 but had a career 49% pass completion percentage. Rypien, though he was MVP of Super Bowl XXVI at the end of the 1991 season, had a TD-interception ratio of 17-27 from 1992-93. So here’s the whole point of this – Gibbs does not deserve ALL of the credit for the Skins Super Bowls. Crazy, unbelievable and blasphemous as it may seem – the Skins actually had some great players. Monk was the best of them, and if Gibbs gets credit for three Super Bowls with three quarterbacks, Monk should too.

    In fact, perhaps if the past four years have shown us anything, it’s that maybe Gibbs wasn’t quite the genius that everybody thought he was. In his second go-round, Gibbs has taken a team with above average talent to a mediocre 30-34 record. He’s made numerous blunders in clock management, play calling, and instant replay decisions, not to mention lost a ridiculous number of close games as well as games they’ve lost after leading at the half. During Gibbs’ first tenure with the team, the Skins were 86-11 after leading at the half. In his second go-round, Gibbs has lost 13 times with a halftime lead – more times than any other team since 2004. That’s not to say that Gibbs doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall, just that it’s not fair to say that because the Redskins won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks, that it was all due to coaching and that none of the players were great.

    Anyway, if Gibbs is constantly lavishly praised for winning three Super Bowls with three quarterbacks, why doesn’t Monk get any credit for being the NFL’s all-time leading receiver when he retired, playing with four quarterbacks, three of whom weren’t in the NFL’s all time top 85 quarterbacks in passing yards? So Monk is held to a different standard as other Hall of Famers. Like Monk, Riggins had a relatively low average compared with other Hall of Famers but it’s apparently only ok for Riggins to gain entrance, because first downs rushing are apparently more important than first downs passing.

    Pro Bowls

    Another argument against Monk is that he made just three Pro Bowls. I believe that Pro Bowl selections, if used as criteria at all, should be weighted more heavily for non-skill position players like offensive linemen, who have fewer statistics to judge them on. Pro Bowl voting is flawed. Pro Bowl voting is completed before the final two weeks of the year, and Monk and the Redskins were always strong finishers. Also, Pro Bowl voting does not take into consideration post-season accomplishments, and Monk had a stellar post-season career.

    Joiner, Swann, and Bradshaw each only went to three Pro Bowls, and last I checked, they were in the Hall of Fame. Stallworth and Biletnikoff went to four Pro Bowls. Riggins went to one. Just another example of Monk being held to a different standard than other players. Still, Monk could have easily been voted to a few more Pro Bowls. (There’s that dreaded word again – “voted.”) Pro Bowl voting is a popularity contest. In 1981, Monk (56 catches, 894 yards, six touchdowns) had similar stats to Ahmad Rashad (58, 884, and 7), but the affable Rashad got in. In 1989, Monk (86, 1186, and 8) had far superior numbers to Anthony Carter (65, 1066, 4), but Carter got in. In 1991 Monk (71, 1049, 8) had slightly better stats than Lofton (57, 1072, 8) but Lofton was in the AFC. Monk played in a superior NFC – the NFC won 11 straight Super Bowls during Monk’s career – and he also played against tough NFC East competition. The Giants won two Super Bowls during Monk’s Redskins career, the Cowboys won two, and Buddy Ryan’s Eagles had a great defense in the late 80s and early 90s.

    There are always 1, 2, and 3-year flashes in the pan who have great stats but don’t have long periods of excellence. If you’re going to rely on Pro Bowl selections to determine who goes in the Hall of Fame, you’re being lazy and you’re not doing your homework. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and Monk was one of the quietest players in the league. Making the Pro Bowl shouldn’t be the only standard for making the Hall. If it was, then there wouldn’t be any need to have a Hall of Fame – just have the players with the most Pro Bowls in the Hall. In fact, nobody cares about this awful, boring, “all-star” game. It’s a joke.

    King’s argument that Monk had better players on his teams might have more credibility if any of Monk’s teammates besides Riggins were in the Hall of Fame. But despite winning three Super Bowls and losing a fourth during Monk’s era, those Skins have no other Hall of Famers, and Riggins wasn’t even on the two most recent Super Bowl teams. The last of those teams, the 1991 Redskins at 17-2, were one of the greatest teams of all-time, losing twice by a point, though they are rarely regarded as such.

    The 1991 Redskins only outscored their opponents by 17 points a game, better than every team in history except for the 2007 Patriots and the 1985 Bears. (It’s unfair to compare the 2007 Patriots to the 1991 Redskins, though, because the Skins were so much better. They had one of the best running attacks in the NFL while the Pats have one of the worst). Those Redskins took teams that spread the field with multiple wide receivers – the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills – and shredded them. The average score of the two playoff games and the Super Bowl that year was Redskins 34, opponents 14. And that team doesn’t have one Hall of Famer.

    True, former Redskins cornerback Darrell Green will probably make it, and deservedly so. I can just see another anti-Monk argument now. “Well, Darrell Green is now eligible, and we can’t put two Skins in the same year.” Maybe it’s an anti-Redskin thing, come to think of it. Conspiracy theorists could note that Monk’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame has just about coincided with Dan Snyder owning the Redskins, and Snyder has spoken out against Monk not making the Hall of Fame. (When you’re disliked, the NFL knows how to hold a grudge. Just look at the most penalized team in the NFL the last 25 years – the Raiders, whose owner Al Davis sued the league to move from Oakland to L.A.)

    No multiple Super Bowl-winning teams whose players are eligible for the Hall have fewer Hall of Famers than those Redskins teams, except for the Denver Broncos, whose only Hall member is John Elway. Even Minnesota and Buffalo, who never won a Super Bowl, have five and three players in the Hall of Fame from their Super Bowl teams, respectively. Check the table below.

    Team Seasons They Won Super Bowl Number of Hall of Famers from any of those teams.
    Dallas 1971, 1977 9
    Dallas 1992-93, 1995 2
    Denver 1997-98 1
    Green Bay 1966-1967 8
    Miami 1972-73 6
    NY Giants 1986, 1990 2
    Oakland/L.A. Raiders 1976, 1980, 1983 9
    Pittsburgh 1974-75, 1978-79 9
    San Francisco 1981, 1984, 1988-89, 1994 3
    Washington 1982, 1987, 1991 1 (zero from ’87 and ’91 teams)

    Another criticism of Monk is the fact that he “only” scored 68 touchdowns. First, that’s a similar number of TDs to contemporaries Lofton (75) and Irvin (65) who are both in the Hall. Again, if you were to ask people who had more touchdowns, Irvin or Monk, most people would say Irvin. The facts simply don’t matter, apparently. It’s better to have a fancy nickname (“The Playmaker”), spend two years on ESPN – just enough to put him over the top – and get his name in the news for countless, well, “other” reasons. (If you think this explanation of why Monk deserves to be in the Hall of Fame is long, check out Irvin’s rap sheet). The difference is that Monk had 940 career catches while Lofton had 764 and Irvin had 750. Second, the Redskins were primarily a running team. Look at the high touchdown numbers from the Redskins’ running backs from Monk’s era. Riggins had 24 in 1983 and 14 the following season. George Rogers had 18 TDs in 1986. Gerald Riggs had 11 in 1991 and the team had 21 rushing TDs total that season. The Redskins often ran the ball in the red zone. If they had needed to throw for more touchdowns they would have. The threat of a great receiver like Monk helped open some of those runs for the Redskins too.

    “Positional Integrity?”

    King says, “We can’t elect them all. There has to be some positional integrity to the Hall.” I’m not sure I’m following you, Pete. Too many receivers either have been or will be elected and therefore Monk has to be sacrificed? Positional integrity? We’re not electing them all, Peter. Quarterbacks from the 80s and early 90s get into the Hall of Fame regularly (Fouts , Marino, Montana, Moon, Young, Kelly, Elway, Aikman), but the only receivers from that era are Largent, Lofton, and Irvin. In fact, there have been very few receivers elected to the Hall in comparison with players at the other skill positions.

    Take a look at the number of quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers inducted into the Hall of Fame during the modern era. In a starting lineup, there’s a quarterback, two running backs, and two receivers, among other positions. It is true that quarterbacks are the most important players on the field. So instead of having a ratio of one quarterback to two running backs to two receivers, let’s say that quarterbacks are twice as important as running backs and receivers so there should be a ratio of two quarterbacks to two running backs to two receivers. Are running backs more important than receivers? Fine, but we can keep the ratio for running backs the same as for receivers, though, because the second running back on a given team doesn’t get many carries in comparison to the first running back.

    So we should have about the same numbers of quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers in the Hall of Fame. But the actual numbers are 23 quarterback, 25 running back, and 18 receiver. So, there should be at least 5-7 more receivers in the Hall of Fame than there currently are. In reality, though, the number of receivers should probably be even higher, since both starting receivers usually figure prominently in the offense whereas only one of the two running backs usually does. So it’s not just Redskins Super Bowl players who are grossly underrepresented in the Hall of Fame – it’s also receivers overall.

    Remember also that numbers from the current era are inflated compared with those from the ‘80s. The fact that there is a greater emphasis on passing today shouldn’t keep Monk out of the Hall. Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Marvin Harrison will get in. Jerry Rice is also obviously a first-ballot Hall of Famer, very possibly the greatest football player of all time at any position. But Peter King’s old argument that Monk should be held back because players like Jimmy Smith, Eric Moulds, Mushin Muhammed, Torry Holt, Keenan McCardell, Issac Bruce, Tim Brown, and Andre Reed are either on pace to have similar numbers, pass Monk, or have already passed him in some cases is false logic. First, the combination of greatness, numbers, and championships that Monk has puts him ahead of all of these guys. Second, some of these players (Bruce, Holt, Reed) played in pass-happy, turf systems. Finally, all of these players played much, most or all their careers after Monk, in an era in which passing numbers are higher, and many teams use the pass to set up the run.

    Comparing Apples to Apples

    The argument is often made that although Monk has 403 more receptions than Stallworth (that’s 43% more catches), that those numbers are irrelevant because they played in different eras. Again, facts don’t appear to matter to the Hall of Fame voters – just perception. In reality, their careers overlapped for eight seasons, enough to give us a good comparison. And, no, Stallworth wasn’t over the hill during those seasons. In fact, he had his best year in 1984, which was also Monk’s best year. During the Steelers’ first two Super Bowl seasons, Stallworth had just 16 and 20 receptions. Ok, he was young, but I don’t know that one catch per game for those first two years qualifies as better than Monk. Because of this common misconception that Monk and Stallworth played in completely different eras, we should compare apples with apples, and include a comparison of Monk with contemporaries who are in the Hall of Fame. We’ll compare seasons in which the players’ careers overlapped with Monk’s Redskin career (none before 1980, and none after 1993). I color coded the table with yellow for areas that Monk came out ahead or even. That will make it easier for Monk’s critics to understand.

    Monk’s Redskins seasons compared with Hall of Famers stats those same years
    Players Years HOF’ers overlapped w/Monk’s Redskin Career Average catches per year Average yards per year Average touchdowns per year Super Bowl Titles
    Monk 1988-1993 64 717 5.2 1
    Irvin 56 949 5.7 2

    Monk 1980-1989 66 917 4.7 2
    Largent 60 934 6.9 0

    Monk 1980-1993 63 859 4.6 3
    Lofton 47 873 4.6 0

    Monk 1980-1987 63 880 4.4 2
    Stallworth 42 644 4 0

    Monk 1980-1982 50 713 3.3 1
    Swann 32 493 4 0

    We find that when we compare Monk’s Redskins career with the seasons that the Hall of Famers overlapped, Monk’s numbers were about even with the numbers of Largent and Lofton, dramatically better than the stats of Swann and Stallworth, and slightly worse than those of Irvin. Keep in mind that we’re comparing the second half of Monk’s career with the first half of Irvin’s career, so you would expect the younger Irvin to fare better. Overall, Monk had more catches, yards, and touchdowns than Irvin, and catches weren’t even close (940-750). And though we’re comparing the beginning of Monk’s career with the end of Swann’s career, during the three seasons in which their careers overlapped, Swann was 28, 29, and 30 years old. Monk had more touchdowns per season than Stallworth, the same number as Lofton, and only slightly fewer than Irvin. So from 1980-1993, Monk and Lofton each had 65 touchdowns. If Monk and Lofton had the same number of touchdowns during Monk’s Redskins career, but Monk had significantly more catches per year and more Super Bowl titles, what’s missing? Style points? Also, note that Irvin is considered a much deeper threat than Monk, but counting the years they were both in the league while Monk was a Redskin, Irvin only averaged slightly more touchdowns, 5.7 to 5.2, per year.

    The Game Changes

    Here’s another example of Monk getting held to a different standard than nearly every other player in the Hall. Monk has more catches (940) than both Swann 336 and Stallworth 537 combined. It’s true that the passing rules were liberalized in 1978, so naturally numbers from 1978 on will be higher. Yet Monk’s critics hold a double standard for him, downplaying his accomplishments by saying that some receivers of the ‘90s and today have similar numbers to Monk, but ignoring the fact that league-wide numbers are higher today than in the post-Monk era, with a lot of teams spreading the field and using the pass to set up the run. The jump in stats from Monk’s era to the current era isn’t as dramatic as the one from pre-1978 to Monk’s era, but if you’re going to downgrade Monk’s accomplishments because he played in a different era than Swann played in, then don’t refuse to take into consideration the fact that league-wide, numbers are considerably up since Monk’s retirement.

    If we look at the rise in offensive statistics in the Super Bowl era, we see three distinctly different eras. The first 14 years of the Super Bowl were characterized by run-first teams. The middle 14 years (Monk’s Redskins career) were dramatically different with the passing game opening up because of the rules changes in the late 70s. What some of the voters either fail to recognize or acknowledge is that the most recent 14 years have also had significant increases in passing and receiving numbers due to further changes including the west coast offense and other schemes in which passing is used to set up the run. See the table below.

    NFL 1966-1979 1980-1993 (Monk’s era with the Redskins) 1994-2007
    Number of individual 4,000 passing seasons 2 19 46
    Number of individual 100 catch seasons 0 3 50
    Number of 1500 catch seasons 0 5 15

    Want to be in the Hall of Fame? Get on TV.

    Could it really be that Art Monk is held to a different standard than other receivers? If he has the numbers and the Super Bowls, not to mention the intangibles like being a great blocker, a standout influence in the locker room, and a tireless worker, what else could be holding him back? I have a theory. If we look at the receivers who are currently in the Hall who have been inducted in the last 20 years, most of them have one thing in common: at the time of their induction, they were either prominent members of the media or either held or were running for political office. (Isn’t it surprising that politics enters this equation?) Art Monk, unlike many of his contemporaries, did not go into broadcasting after he retired from football. This was a colossal mistake in terms of his chances for making the Hall of Fame – one from which he may never recover.

    Not only has Monk not gone into broadcasting like most of his peers, but during his career he did not talk much with the media, and this has hurt him in two ways. Sportswriters, consciously or not, held this against him. Tony Kornheiser called Monk “Harpo” for years because of his silence with the media. This from a guy whose favorite bit of analysis is to constantly say on national TV, “I can’t name anyone from that team!” and thinks that the louder somebody screams, the more people will pay attention. (Actually, it’s probably true – how else do you explain his success?) Second, out of sight, out of mind. The power of TV, especially ESPN, clearly helped Irvin in his candidacy. (Never mind the fact that Irvin could barely open his eyes when he was on the air – the sycophants at ESPN still treated him like a hero). ESPN promoted Irvin’s bid for the Hall of Fame pretty heavily, and they rarely if ever had anyone on who said Irvin wasn’t worthy of the Hall. How can that not be a conflict of interest? We live in an age in which athletes put videos of themselves on YouTube to get into all-star games, and it’s a sad commentary that those who don’t promote themselves get forgotten.

    Longtime NFL scout Gil Brandt and former NFL General Manager Pat Kirwan, both Sirius NFL Radio talk show hosts, agree that if a former player wants to improve his chances of making the Hall of Fame, he should get into the media or in the public eye. They agree that this is unfortunate and unfair but that realistically, the voters are swayed by ex-players being on national TV because it gives them additional exposure. Most of Monk’s contemporaries had a great deal of national exposure after they retired from football. Largent was a Congressman from Oklahoma from 1994 to 2002. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. Lofton worked for eight years as an NFL broadcaster for Fox, CNN, and NBC and was inducted in 2003 while he was a broadcaster. Irvin was given a job on ESPN’s ultra-popular NFL shows from 2005 to 2007. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. Swann has been a broadcaster for much of the past 30 years; he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2001. Unbelievably, Stallworth had virtually no broadcasting experience yet was still inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. Congrats to Stallworth for bucking those amazing odds – making the Hall without being part of the television media. Cris Carter, eligible in 2008, works for HBO’s Inside the NFL, is a football analyst for Yahoo Sports, and had a show on Sirius NFL Radio. Let’s just say the media exposure will not hurt Carter.

    Here’s another comparison. Two years ago, when the Pittsburgh Steelers made their run to the Super Bowl in running back Jerome Bettis’ final season, members of the media constantly said Bettis was a lock for the Hall of Fame. You couldn’t hear his name without the phrase, “Future Hall of Famer” preceding it. Bettis ranks fifth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 13,294 yards. Monk ranked fourth all-time in receiving yards when he retired. Bettis averaged 3.9 yards a carry for his career, a low number until you realize that many of those runs were short yardage rushes for first downs. Monk’s number of 13.5 yards per catch was also shortened because he gained countless first downs. The difference? Bettis is an outgoing, gregarious personality who was well liked by the media for giving great interviews and is now on a national TV football show (the same show Peter King is on). Bettis will have no problem getting in. Again, this isn’t anything against Bettis – in fact, an interesting side note is that both Bettis and Monk overcame asthma to become all-time football greats – just that if he’s a lock, Monk should be a lock too.


    It may sound crazy, but I actually believe it’s possible that the character issue may be hurting Monk. Let me explain. Monk was known as a quiet team leader, a great locker room influence, hugely respected for his effort on the field and the way he conducted his life off of it. Monk is a family man of faith who is humble and has devoted his post-football life to helping others. Former teammate Gary Clark said, “Art is the only player who can walk into a room and get absolute respect from everyone in that room. In 1991, Clark said, “Playing with Art is a thrill of a lifetime. Every catch he makes seems to set some kind of record. I’m playing with a living legend.” Theismann has said that if you spend a day with Monk, your life will improve by 10%. So how could this possibly hurt him? I believe that, paradoxically, when you bring up the character issue, the first answer anyone gives is that character doesn’t and shouldn’t matter – that the only thing that matters is what happens on the field. Somehow it’s assumed that because Monk had great character, that that diminishes his accomplishments on the field, as if when we mention his character, that somehow that implies that he needs something extra to put him over the top, which isn’t the case. Maybe instead Monk should have gotten arrested multiple times to get his name in the media. Maybe he should have had a fancy nickname like “the Playmaker.” So I won’t even state that Monk’s character should matter because the moment you do, people assume that his football career wasn’t enough. But Monk’s character should not hurt him.

    The Old Boy Network Opens the Door a Crack…Sort of

    Well, apparently Zimmerman and King have finally changed their tune – sort of. Zimmerman wrote this on on November 8, 2007:

    I’m tired of being a negative. I’m tired of all the impassioned letters asking me what did he ever do to me. I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. OK, he caught a lot of short passes but he also bought (sic) a lot of first downs, and he was a terrific team guy, well-respected and a pleasure from whom to borrow money. Why must I continue to pound a shoe on the table?“Because the heel is falling off,” says The Flaming Redhead. Hey, can’t you see this is serious? What’s the matter with you?

    Where was I? Oh yeah, Art Monk. OK. He’s got my vote. D.C. e-mailers can mail their contributions to me, care of the office.

    The funny thing is, the remark about the contributions, though not literally true, probably has a grain of truth to it in that Zimmerman influenced a lot of voters throughout the years as did Peter King, who also has changed his opinion. Who knows, maybe they can now influence voters the other way. But is the damage already done? Their old anti-Monk rants on the internet outnumber their more recent, shorter, lukewarm endorsements by a large margin. Many of the lambs and parrots – people who can’t think for themselves and only listen to the so-called experts on a particular topic just because their title or organization has “National” in front of it – have followed these two guys throughout the years. Let me be clear: these people would rather listen to the so-called experts and repeat what they say than make decisions for themselves by using their eyes, ears, and sound judgment. Those old opinions last forever on the internet, and references to their old opinions outnumber their new opinions by a huge margin.

    In November 2006, King wrote, “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.” So after all these years, King admits that neither he nor the voters understand what a Hall of Fame receiver is. Great. But King admits that he has been one of the extremely large obstacles to Monk’s enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

    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. 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.

    Gee, thanks Peter. He admits that he’s been “anti-Monk.” Should we trust this guy after the poor judgment and/or the vindictiveness he has shown the past seven years? I guess there’s no choice – it’s our only hope. King, Zimmerman, and a handful of Hall of Fame voters have held the key for Monk to get in for the past seven years. King mentions that part of his rationale for his anti-Monk filibusters was that Monk played 16 seasons and led his own team in receiving just six times. What about Stallworth? He led the Steelers in receiving five times in 14 years. Joiner led his team in receiving four times in 18 years. Biletnikoff led the Raiders in receiving three times in 14 years. Plus, Monk had just one fewer catch than Clark in both 1986 and 1988.


    I recently had the opportunity to talk to former Redskin defensive end Charles Mann about Monk after a speech he gave. Mann, like many ex-teammates, opponents, coaches, and fans, spoke from the heart about what Monk meant to the team and how much he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I also bumped into former Redskins defensive end Tony McGee on a plane who was also very upset that Monk has been bypassed. You can tell that these guys are actually really hurt by the fact that this injustice continues. When I interviewed Monk’s teammate Gary Clark a week and a half before the 1991 Super Bowl as a free-lance reporter, Clark’s reverence for the football ability of Monk as well as the man off the field was apparent. Monk won’t seek publicity, and in this day and age, that has certainly hurt his Hall of Fame candidacy. However, it is honorable to let one’s accomplishments speak for themselves.

    More Negative Campaigning

    Cris Carter, who will almost certainly make it to the Hall of Fame, if not in this, his first year of eligibility then after, has disgracefully campaigned against Monk. Hey, it works in real politics – why not the Hall of Fame? In a recent blog, Carter parrots, almost word for word, the same argument Peter King has made for many years. I put the text in tiny size font because that’s what I think of Cris Carter’s opinion.

    “The No. 1 argument I hear against Monk is the lack of Pro Bowl appearances. He only made it three times. When you look at the amount of time he played – 16 years – and in his conference, he was only among the top four receivers three times, then how could he be a Hall of Famer?”

    I called Carter’s radio show a couple of years ago to make the case for Monk. Carter pointed out the relatively low number of touchdowns – when compared with himself. Don’t worry, Cris. You’ll get in. Even though you played your entire career on artificial turf, most of it in a dome, in a pass-friendly system, with several years lining up across from Randy Moss. You didn’t come up big-time in the playoffs like Monk did. Monk had four 100-yard games in the playoffs as well as seven touchdowns for an average of 26 yards per catch for those touchdowns. In fact, you choked in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons after the 1998 season, when your Vikings, the biggest favorite in championship game history, lost 30-27. After the 2000 season, your Vikings lost in the NFC Championship game 41-0 to the Giants. You averaged 45 yards receiving and 0 TDs in those games. Of course, you made up for those championship losses by helping your teams to a 4-8 record in all other playoff games. I’m not saying Carter shouldn’t get in, but to put him in before Monk would be an outrage.

    Hall of Fame or Hall of Shame?

    I used to be a huge baseball fan. I lived and died with the Orioles. By the mid-90s, I had lost interest and had become bitter at the game, because of steroids, the strike of 94, and the fact that certain teams (i.e. the Yankees) bought all the best players, causing a drastic competitive imbalance. I’ve been a huge NFL fan for 30 years. There have been Sundays in the past that I watched the pre-game shows, the 1:00 games, the 4:00 games, NFL Prime Time, the night game, and more highlights. I’m slowly losing my enjoyment of the sport in large part because of this Hall of Fame fiasco. It’s in danger of no longer being the Hall of Fame, but instead becoming the Hall of Shame. It’s a popularity contest, based on subjective, ever changing criteria with massive advantages being given to those who are themselves members of the media. Other voters actively campaign against certain players in favor of their favorites, recklessly disregarding the facts.

    It simply isn’t the Hall of Fame without Art Monk, and the Hall is tarnished because of it. The situation is perhaps summed up best by Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian, a longtime NFL scout and executive who believes Monk should be in the Hall of Fame and can’t understand why the selection committee has bypassed Monk. About the people who have voted against Monk these past years, Polian says, “It’s hard for me to believe they ever saw him play.”

    Comment by Mike Frandsen — January 18, 2008 @ 1:34 am

  2. I could almost see the “compiler” argument if Monk had not been constantly helping the Redskins WIN games, or if all he ever did, or was capable of doing, was catch a few short passes each game, but none of these is the case. A classic “compiler” is not on a winning team. He’s a talented player on a losing team who piles up stats because somebody has to. I tend to think of basketball players fitting into this category; guys like Chris Morris or Armon Gilliam. No matter how bad your team is, somebody is going to be leaned on to score.
    In fact, Monk was quite the opposite of a compiler, because he NEVER complained about not getting the ball. He cared first and foremost about the success of the team. He blocked downfield and on running plays at the line of scrimmage, being used much like a TE much of the time. What if a tight end had put up the numbers Monk did while playing for a winning team? He’d be lionized. As it stands, the only TEs with career numbers anywhere close to Monk’s weren’t as good at blocking as he was. Monk also ran plenty of end-arounds, using his college running back skills, to help loosen up the defense. Monk’s major reputation was as a 1st down machine. Would a compiler put the thought and effort into attaining 1st downs the way he did? All of the above helps to explain WHY the teams he played on were winning ones.
    Considering his unselfish team-first attitude, his football skills which went beyond just making a few catches a game, and the consistent success of the Redskins teams he played on, Monk CANNOT be considered a “compiler.” Any attempt to label him as one is either misinformed or dishonest.

    Comment by remember the redskins — July 7, 2008 @ 9:51 am

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