- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2008

PHOENIX — Four of the NFL’s all-time great receivers believe Art Monk shouldn’t even be up for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame today.

Each of them says the former Washington Redskins star already should have a bust in Canton, Ohio.

“It’s clear cut,” said former Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed, another one of the 17 finalists. “The guy was the standard for NFL receivers for years. He should have been in the Hall five years ago.”

Reed’s endorsement is echoed by former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, who said his election last year lost a little something when Monk fell short for the seventh time.

“As great as it was for me last year going into the Hall, that held a hole for me,” Irvin said. “I don’t think I necessarily deserved to be in before Art. How is it you can be No. 1 [in all-time catches as Monk was from 1992 to 1995] and not be in the Hall?”

The receiver whom Monk surpassed to be No. 1 — as well as the one who passed him and still ranks first — remain equally mystified by Monk’s omission.

“Art was a great receiver,” Hall of Famer Steve Largent said. “He was a playmaker and a leader on teams that won three Super Bowls. Of course he should be in the Hall of Fame.”

When he retired after the 1995 season, Monk held the records for career catches (940), catches in a season (106) and consecutive games with a catch (164).

Jerry Rice broke each of those records, but he doesn’t see how there’s a question about Monk’s spot in Canton.

“People want to question some of Art’s numbers,” said Rice, who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2010. “He was incredibly productive for a very long time. What more do people want? He’s a Hall of Famer.”

Only eight Hall of Famers have more touchdown catches than Monk’s 68, but Reed caught 87 and newly eligible receiver Cris Carter had 130.

Only James Lofton and Largent have more yards among Hall of Famers than Monk’s 12,721, but Reed had 13,198 and Carter had 13,899.

And while Monk’s 940 catches are more than any enshrinee, Reed caught 951 passes and Carter had 1,101. But their careers lasted five and seven seasons longer, respectively, into the era that featured more wide-open offenses.

“You have to look at a player in his time,” said former Redskins linebacker Andre Collins, Monk’s teammate from 1990 to 1993. “Art was the best of the best in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Rice supporters probably would argue that point, and he has the Super Bowl hardware to match and pass Monk.

But Irvin has an answer for those who question Monk’s lack of “signature moments” or his impact.

“We have a limited picture of what talent is,” Irvin said. “We like to think of talent as how high somebody jumps or how fast he runs. People talk about big plays. Big plays can be the catch for a first down on third-and-9 with the game on the line. People say what was Art’s flagship mark? His mark was the consistency of his play.”

While Monk is, at least indirectly, competing against Reed, Carter and former Redskins teammate Darrell Green, the lone cornerback among the finalists.

That should help Green’s candidacy, as should such memorable plays as chasing down Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett in his 1983 debut and his punt return touchdown to beat the Chicago Bears in a 1987 playoff game.

“Darrell was one of the best,” Rice said. “He was like a little gnat. You couldn’t get away from him.”

Irvin said Green, whom he battled twice a year during his 12-year career, should be a lock after playing a record 20 years at cornerback and making seven Pro Bowls, the last at 37 years old.

“Darrell was the first guy to say, ‘Show me your baddest man, and I’m eliminating him,’ ” Irvin said. “He was the first shutdown corner.”

While Monk’s chances for election are cloudy and Green’s are strong, the outlook is less optimistic for former Redskins guard Russ Grimm, a finalist for a fourth straight year after not advancing that far in his first eight years of eligibility.

Grimm is hindered by the injuries that limited him to 11 seasons, eight as a starter, and by the presence of more decorated offensive linemen Gary Zimmerman and Randall McDaniel on the ballot.

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