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In HoF Voting, Monk Deserves Better

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Joe Gibbs said it best last week: "I can't understand somebody not putting Art Monk in the Hall of Fame."

Well, the Board of Selectors has some explaining to do to Gibbs, who's in the Hall of Fame himself.

Monk, a Redskins wide receiver from 1980-93, was again denied induction to the Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Gibbs knows greatness when he sees it. Perhaps the Hall's voters, comprised of sports journalists from various NFL cities, should pay more attention to what one of the game's greatest coaches has to say about who belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Art Monk posted remarkable career statistics--certainly Hall of Fame caliber--but Gibbs always looked beyond the numbers. Gibbs recalls a wide receiver who was the consummate team player and a high character individual who many young players emulated.

"To me, Art was the right kind of person--a great character guy," Gibbs said. "When Art Monk talked, everybody listened. He was a great leader and a meticulous student."

Most of all, Monk would do anything asked of him if it helped win games.

If winning games meant going across the middle of the field to catch a tough pass, then that's what Monk would do.

If winning games meant blocking a 250-pound linebacker so that Joe Theismann, Doug Williams or Mark Rypien had enough time to throw to another wide receiver, then that's what Monk would do.

"What has hurt Art--and I believe should actually boost his credentials--is that we asked him to block a lot," Gibbs said. "He was the inside portion of pass protection and we put him in instead of a big tight end or running back. He was a very tough, physical, big guy."

Monk and teammate Russ Grimm were among the 10 finalists for induction, but neither made the final six. Four nominees--Dan Marino, Steve Young, Bennie Friedman and Fritz Pollard--were selected as the Class of 2005.

Rather surprising was the inclusion of former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin--and not Monk--among the final six.

That's not to say Irvin doesn't warrant consideration. But since voters tend to lean toward statistics in evaluating Monk, let's consider the numbers for a moment: Monk surpasses Irvin in virtually every statistical category.

Monk caught 940 passes for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns while Irvin caught 750 passes for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns.

Here's the key difference between Irvin and Monk that seems to jump out to some Hall of Fame voters: Irvin had a 15.9 yards-per-catch average to Monk's 13.5.

There's another way of looking at those statistics, though.

"Because Art was an inside receiver, he caught a lot of balls inside," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "So almost everything he caught was inside, where he would take some hard hits. I think that should go to his credit, but what some [Hall of Fame voters] do is downplay it because his average-per-catch wasn't as high."

Focusing solely on the statistics--even if Monk's statistics measure up to Hall standards--may be exactly what Hall of Fame voters want, though.

And focusing solely on statistics devalues what Monk meant to the great Redskins teams of the 1980s and early 1990s--and what he still means to the Washington, D.C., community, where he continues to help in charitable causes.

Perhaps voters missed the Redskins.com feature last week about Monk's Good Samaritan Foundation, a nonprofit organization in the Washington, D.C., region that benefits and serves youth. For the last 11 years, the foundation has helped educate and train dozens of Washington teens, giving them the skills and knowledge they need to go to college and start careers.

The shame of it all is that, in a way, Monk's accomplishments are diminished through the Hall of Fame induction process.

One prominent Hall of Fame voter went so far as to detail his rationale for not voting for Monk in a widely read Internet column written two weeks before Saturday's vote.

Simply put, Monk deserves better.

And for the people who matter most--from Gibbs to Monk's legions of fans across the country--Monk is already among the game's elites, whether he's in the Hall of Fame or not.

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