MIAMI — Art Monk has been a bridesmaid seven straight years. It’s three years and counting for Russ Grimm after eight years of not even getting to the finals. Today, the longtime former Washington Redskins teammates will again wait to hear if they have finally been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Neither receiver Monk — who retired in 1995 with a record 940 catches (888 for the Redskins) — nor guard Grimm — chosen for four straight Pro Bowls from 1983 to 1986 before injuries began to shorten his career — will find the road to enshrinement any easier today.
The 40 selectors must choose three to six candidates from among a distinguished field of 17 that includes nine-time All-Pro guard Bruce Matthews and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue — both on the ballot for the first time — and nine repeat finalists: defensive end Richard Dent, punter Ray Guy, guards Gene Hickerson and Bob Kuechenberg, receiver Michael Irvin, linebacker Derrick Thomas, running back Thurman Thomas, cornerback Roger Werhli and offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman. Defensive end Fred Dean, receiver Andre Reed, tight end Charlie Sanders (like Hickerson, a Seniors Committee nominee) and linebacker Andre Tippett are all first-time finalists.
There had been some thought that the tide has finally turned in Monk’s favor after last year’s election of Harry Carson, a contemporary also with more substance than style and because of the belief that receivers have been under-represented in recent Hall classes. But fellow receivers Irvin and Reed were picked for more Pro Bowls and also have strong statistics.
Grimm’s cause is hurt by the presence of Matthews and Zimmerman, a seven-time Pro Bowl choice who was named to the All-Decade teams in the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike Grimm, both of those linemen remained healthy for a decade.
While both Monk and Grimm have taken a “que sera, sera” attitude toward the Hall, their former teammates believe their elections are overdue.
“I can’t see why it’s taken so long for Art,” said Brian Mitchell, the most prolific return man in NFL history. “I hear, ‘He didn’t have a signature catch.’ Constantly catching first down, first down, first down, that’s signature to me. And unlike most receivers, Art blocked linebackers and defensive ends. He caught the tough passes over the middle. He had a lot of deep catches, too. And when Art left the game, no one had caught more passes. He’s got three [Super Bowl] rings and his stats speak for themselves.”
Mark Schlereth, a pretty fair guard himself, said he has never seen a smarter player than Grimm. Tight end Doc Walker said he never saw anyone physically dominate like Grimm.
“No one else could overpower [Hall of Fame defensive tackle] Randy White one-on-one,” Walker said.
Monk and Grimm — teammates from 1981 to 1991 as the Redskins reached seven postseasons, five NFC Championship games and four Super Bowls — also were leaders in their own ways.
“Russ was the ultimate teammate,” said Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who played with Grimm on the 1990 Redskins. “To me, a Hall of Famer is a guy who always has your back. Russ also played for successful teams who were built around the running game. That, of course, starts with the offensive line. Russ was a great guard who also started at center and could also play tackle. He and the rest of ‘The Hogs’ had to block [Hall of Famer] Reggie White and the rest of the Eagles, [Hall of Famer] Lawrence Taylor and the rest of the Giants and Randy White and the rest of the Cowboys twice every season.”
Quarterback Mark Rypien said that while the offensive linemen — nicknamed “The Hogs” — had plenty of great players, Grimm was “the head Hog.” Mitchell said that the quiet Monk showed him a different style of leadership.
“A lot of guys think they have to be great talkers to lead, but Art led by example,” Mitchell said. “He was the hardest-working guy in football. I watched Art work his butt off and said, ‘If he’s doing it, I better do it.’ Art was always trying to become better. A lot of guys play pro football, but not a lot of guys are professionals. Art was a professional.”
Linebacker Andre Collins said that professionalism also was true of Grimm, even though he was a blue-collar worker compared to Monk, who would arrive at Redskin Park in slacks, dress shoes and maybe a sportcoat while carrying a briefcase.
“Russ had a real serious side when he was talking about the game, but when he was in the locker room sharing those old stories, it was worth the price of admission,” Collins said with a smile.
Perhaps today will be the day that Monk and/or Grimm finally end up smiling.