By Mike Frandsen
A year ago I went up to Canton, Ohio to see former Washington Redskins wide receiver Art Monk inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was a long wait – eight years after Monk was first eligible, he got in. The good side of that is that Art learned how much the Redskins fans really supported him. In fact, the support Monk garnered was unprecedented as far as athletes getting into a Hall of Fame. I wrote an article stating that Art was truly worthy of being in the Hall of Fame at http://www.coachmike.net/artmonk.php. There were many other articles, emails – even a highlight film. All along, the vast majority of voters were for Monk – it was just a couple of influential voters who held him back, and they finally admitted they were wrong.
Of course, Darrell Green also made it. He was a great cornerback for 20 years – a shut-down corner, and could have played even longer if he had wanted to, but I write this mainly about Monk, because he was my favorite player, and because he had to wait so long. Monk was such a great team player, with a legendary work ethic, and was so humble, that sometimes it gets lost on people that he was simply one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game.
Monk held three NFL records at one time – most receptions in a career, most catches in a season, and most consecutive games with a catch. He had seven playoff touchdowns for an amazing average of 25.5 yards per catch for those TDs, and the Skins were 4-1 in those games. He had a game-changing 40-yard catch vs. the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII when the Skins were down 10-0 that helped change the course of the game, even though he was coming off an injury. He had at least 38 catches of 40 yards or more. He had the ultimate respect of his teammates and the players he played against.
The induction ceremony itself was amazing, and it was highlighted by Monk’s speech. There was an unbelievable amount of electricity in the air when it came time for Monk’s speech. The moment was finally here. I snuck forward and stood right next to former Skins receivers Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders, who were there cheering on Monk. Monk was presented by his son. Monk’s standing ovation lasted more than five minutes and surely would have lasted longer had he allowed it to continue. It was the greatest standing ovation I’ve ever seen.
“The reality of getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame didn’t really hit me till a few days ago,” Monk said. “And then to see the magnitude of all of this, and all of you, it’s been something amazing.”
I felt a little bad for some of the other inductees – Gary Zimmerman, offensive lineman for the Broncos and Vikings; Fred Dean, defensive end for the Chargers and 49ers; Andre Tippett, linebacker for the Patriots; and Emmitt Thomas, cornerback for the Chiefs (and former Skins Assistant Coach) – because almost all the fans there were Redskins fans cheering for Monk and Green.
Clark actually deserves to be in as well but the committee would never put another Redskins wide receiver in who played with Monk, although there is precedent as both Lynn Swann and John Stallworth of the Steelers are in. In my previous blog entry, I note that Clark’s statistics were nearly identical to Michael Irvin’s, and Irvin got in several years ago. In fact, it was insulting to see Irvin get in ahead of Monk, especially since Monk had more yards, catches, and touchdowns than Irvin, and Monk didn’t get to play with a Hall of Fame quarterback. Anyway, it was great to see Clark, along with Sanders, cheering on Monk.
A bunch of former Redskins players and coaches made it to cheer on Monk and Green. Here’s my unofficial list:
- Gary Clark, Wide Receiver
- Joe Gibbs, Coach
- Tim Johnson, Defensive Tackle
- Jim Lachey, Offensive Tackle
- Charles Mann, Defensive End
- Mark Moseley, Kicker
- Mike Nelms, Kick Returner
- Ricky Sanders, Wide Receiver
- Joe Theismann, Quarterback
- Rick “Doc” Walker, Tight End
- Don Warren, Tight End
I’m sure there were a bunch of other players who were there that I didn’t see. I was a little disappointed that John Riggins didn’t show up from the standpoint that he was the only other Redskins player in the Hall of Fame from those teams. It’s pretty amazing that until last year, no other Redskins from those teams that went to four Super Bowls and won three between the 1982 and 1991 seasons made it in. Especially because that 1991 team, though underappreciated by the national media, was one of the greatest teams of all time. Excuse me while I sprain my arm patting myself on the back here: On January 1, 2008, after the Patriots had completed their regular season undefeated, I wrote on www.coachmike.net, “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.”)
Anyway, it was cool seeing some of the former Redskins. I saw former Skins kick returner Mike Nelms and got a photo with him. I told him I remembered a punt he returned against the Eagles. He didn’t score on the play but it was an unbelievable run. He ran into a pack of defenders, it looked like he was down, and with just about the entire Eagles special teams surrounding him, he broke out of the pack and got an extra 20 yards. Maybe it was my imagination, but mark Moseley had a look on his face like, “Why is he getting a photo with Nelms instead of me?”
I saw Redskins left tackle Jim Lachey after the ceremony and told him that he should be in the HOF too and he would be in a few years. He thanked me and seemed like he genuinely appreciated it. He was definitely good enough – anyone who is good enough to move Joe Jacoby from left tackle to right tackle was good enough – and Lachey had the athleticism to go along with size – he was the prototypical left tackle. He helped QB Mark Rypien have a great season in 1991 that resulted in Rypien being Super Bowl MVP. But in reality, Lachey probably won’t get in because his career was cut a little short because of injuries, and if any Hogs get in it’ll be Russ Grimm or Joe Jacoby. I definitely think the Skins should have at least one representative from the Hogs – one of those three, maybe two.
After the ceremony, Skins fans went to the NFL Network set to support Monk and Green as they were interviewed along with Gibbs live on TV. Former NFL Coach Steve Mariucci was there along with Michael Irvin for the NFL Network. Mariucci seemed to be marveling at the fact that so many people were singing “Hail to the Redskins.” The crowd was pretty hostile toward Irvin, but he took it in stride. John Elway was there to support Gary Zimmerman – a few fans reminded Elway of the Skins win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.
So the long wait is over. Art Monk is in the Hall of Fame. As I said when I finally finished my MBA to a few classmates, “Now what?” What do we do now? Even if the Skins get back to the Super Bowl several times like they did in the 80s and early 90s, it’ll never be the same because of free agency as well as the type of players the Skins had back then.
I think everyone should try to be more like Art Monk. Great, but humble.