NFL Hall of Famer Art Monk

Now is a good time to reflect on former Washington Redskins receiver Art Monk making it to the NFL Hall of Fame last year after an 8-year wait. He should have been in on the first ballot, but it was better late than never. The majority of the voters supported him all along, making him a finalist for so many years.

Monk’s numbers stack up favorably against all the wide receivers in the Hall of Fame, he was a crucial part of four Super Bowl teams, and the Skins haven’t been the same since he left. Monk was nicknamed “Big Money” for his ability to make the critical catches in big games.(See http://www.coachmike.net/artmonk.php for the article I wrote a year ago).

Art Monk makes his speech at the NFL Hall of Fame, 2008
Art Monk makes his speech at the NFL Hall of Fame, 2008

The NFL Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony last summer was a great time for Redskin fans. One of the greatest teams of all-time, the 1991 Washington Redskins, who went 17-2 and won the Super Bowl, didn’t have any Hall of Famers until Monk and Darrell Green made it last summer. Those Skins outscored their opponents by a greater margin than any team except the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 2007 New England Patriots, but those were incomplete teams. I’m going to write about that Hall of Fame ceremony in another blog entry and include some great photos, but for now, let me say that the standing ovation Monk got – 5 minutes long (and would’ve been longer had he not ended it), was the greatest ovation I’ve ever seen.

One stat that jumps out at me is the 7 touchdowns Monk had in the playoffs for a 25.5-yard average for those TDs. The longest of his playoff TDs was 40 yards; the shortest was 16. The long distance from the goal line on those receptions says to me that without those TDs the Skins might have had to settle for field goals or possibly even come away empty on some of those drives. Plus, the Skins won all but one of those games. Two of those TDs were against the Bears a year after they had the greatest defense ever. Another was against Buddy Ryan’s Eagles, one of the best defenses of the ‘90s.

Other highlights from Monk’s stellar career:

  • Monk had 3 NFL records at one time – most catches in a career, most in a season, and most consecutive games with a catch.
  • Monk had more catches, yards, and TDs than Michael Irvin.
  • Monk averaged 15.4 yards a catch in the playoffs.
  • Monk had at least 38 catches of 40 yards or more.
  • In 1990, with the Skins at 6-5, the normally reserved Monk called a legendary team meeting, asking the Skins to rededicate themselves.The Skins finished 10-6 and made the playoffs, and went 17-2 in 1991 and won the Super Bowl.
  • Monk got the tough yards over the middle – he dished out a lot of hits too as his blocks sprang some big runs. Monk still averaged more yards per catch than Marvin Harrison or Cris Carter. In fact, as I write this, I’m looking at the list of the AFC’s top receivers (ranked by number of catches) for the 2008 season. Monk’s career average was better than the average of any of the top 14 receivers in the AFC this year except for Reggie Wayne. This despite the fact that receiving stats are way, way up in 2008 as opposed to where they were in the 1980s.
  • If the 1980 draft were done over again, Monk probably would have been selected first overall. Or third at the worst if you want to argue for Anthony Munoz or Dwight Stephenson, but almost all would say a HOF wide receiver is more valuable than a HOF offensive lineman.
  • Monk did it all without a HOF quarterback, with Joe Theismann, Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien throwing to him.Imagine what Monk’s numbers would have been if he had had a HOF QB (like Montana, Young, Aikman, Bradshaw, or Kelly) for his whole career, or even part of it. (In fairness, Theismann was the NFL MVP in 1983).
  • He did it on a team that ran the ball a lot with a conservative coach.At the end of games the Skins were killing the clock, not padding WR stats. He did it during an era in which receiving stats were much less prolific than they are today (there were 3 individual 100-reception seasons from 1980-1993; there were 50 from 1994 to 2007).
  • In 1985, of Monk’s 91 catches, 32 occurred on 3rd down. 31 of those 32 went for first downs. Think about that.
  • Miscellaneous excerpt from the Redskins 1987 Press Guide: “Art exploded in Week 3 (of the 1986 season) in San Diego. He exploded for catches of 58, 41, and 38 yards. All three plays set up a score.” So for those people who say Monk should have had more TDs, keep in mind that he also set up a lot of TDs.
  • Here’s something that I missed in my 10,000 word article last year about Monk. In 1984, with the Redskins down 27-26 to the St. Louis Cardinals late in the final regular season game, Monk converted a reception on a 3rd and 19 play, setting up a game winning field goal that put the Redskins into the playoffs. Monk had 2 TDs in the game along with 11 catches and 136 yards in the game.
  • In 1985, first year starting quarterback Jay Schroeder completed 6 passes over 40 yards, all to Monk.

All the grass roots support for Monk by fans was a true phenomenon. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like it again. I wrote my article atwww.coachmike.net January 1, 2008. But many people had been sending letters and emails to the voters for years. Along the way, there was occasionally a little bit of bad blood from some of the fans aimed at some of the voters.

I’ve never communicated with Monk, but I’m certain that he was embarrassed by all the attention, and didn’t approve of any of the negativity. (Monk’s foundation is the Good Samaritan Foundation). To show how modest Monk is, on his bio on the website it doesn’t even mention that he is in the Hall of Fame (elsewhere on the site there is one mention of it). The fact is, Monk should have been in on the first ballot, and none of the extra stuff should have been necessary. But the outpouring of support says a lot for him.

Art Monk’s playoff touchdowns

Season

Opponent

Yards

Result

1983

L.A. Rams

40

51-7 victory

1983

L.A. Rams

21

1986

Chicago

28

27-13 victory

1986

Chicago

21

1990

Philadelphia

16

20-6 victory

1990

San Francisco

31

28-10 loss

1991

Detroit

21

41-10 victory

Finally, I don’t want to sprain my arm by patting myself on the back here, but a year ago, on January 1, 2008, I wrote:

“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.”

With former Redskins receiver Gary Clark

With former Redskins receiver Gary Clark

Gary Clark was a great receiver, and deserves to be in the Hall as well, and if he played for the Steelers or the Cowboys, he’d be in. He doesn’t stand a chance, though, but to his credit he was Monk’s most vocal supporter to get into the Hall. Take a look how similar Clark’s stats were to Irvin’s:

Catches per Year

Yards per Year

Total TDs

Years

Clark

64

962

65

11

Irvin

63

992

65

12

One final note – the Redskins, who won three Super Bowls and went to a fourth, helped make offensive linemen famous with the Hogs. They won Super Bowls with three different QBs, and three different running backs gained more than 1000 yards. The Hogs were known as devastating blockers. They should have at least one offensive lineman represented in the Hall of Fame.

Joe Jacoby was one of the first of the mammoth offensive tackles at 6-6, 315. He set a trend for left tackles that size. Russ Grimm was also there for all the Super Bowls, and he and Jacoby would pull toward the opposite side of the field, another trend that changed the game. Then later, Jim Lachey took over at left tackle and had the size of Jacoby and also possessed ridiculous athleticism, a precursor to players like Tony Boselli.

(And how come nobody talks about Russ Grimm, the Cardinals offensive line coach, as a possible NFL head coach? He almost got the Bears job in 2004, and was a candidate for the Steelers coaching job in 2007. Then he helps the Cards to the Super Bowl and no one talks about him as a potential head coach?Just another example of anti-Redskins bias by the media).

Anyway, it’s fitting that Monk is now in the HOF alongside former Redskins great Charley Taylor. Congrats to Darrell Green too.

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