Friday, November 25, 2005

The Washington Redskins community has started its annual dance with the voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This week, the list of prospective candidates was whittled down to 25 semifinalists, and, of course, Art Monk is on the list. Monk’s supporters again will make the case for the Redskins wide receiver, and most likely he will be passed over again. And with each passing year, the distance will widen between his receptions compared to those who followed him.

Only six players can be selected in any given year, but the class is usually smaller than that. The late Reggie White looks to be a lock. Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman (three Super Bowl rings) is probably in, too. From the seniors committee, expect former New York Giants general manager George Young to get the nod.

So who’s in after that? L.C. Greenwood, the great defensive end from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl teams of the 1970s? Cornerback Lester Hayes from those shutdown Oakland Raiders defenses? Linebacker Harry Carson, the heart of those great Giants defenses? John Madden? How can John Madden not be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Some would ask how Art Monk isn’t in the Hall of Fame as well. He caught 940 passes in a 16-year career for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns. He caught passes in 183 consecutive games and caught 106 passes 1984. He became the NFL’s all-time receptions leader Oct. 12, 1992, with 820.

But time — and other players — is passing Monk by. In this passing-friendly era, Monk’s numbers look less and less impressive, and there is nothing distinctive about his style that will stand out in voters’ minds. He was not a home-run receiver but was the valuable third-down, move-the-chains pass catcher that quarterbacks looked to in the clutch. And his quiet style off the field, even to this day, only has given his detractors a reason to ignore him.

He became a finalist in last year’s voting and was ignored. As time goes on, it will be easier to ignore him.

Monk is no longer among the top four in career receptions. He has been passed by Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown. Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison (903 catches) also might pass Monk this season.

Reed, the former Buffalo Bills receiver with 951 catches, is on the ballot for the first time. So is Michael Irvin, who doesn’t have Monk’s career numbers but certainly has eclipsed him in the public consciousness and is on ESPN every week. In the near future, Carter, Rice and Brown also will qualify.

There are only 17 modern era receivers in Canton. If Monk doesn’t get in this time, what are the chances of him ever getting in? Not good.

And if that’s the case, perhaps the collective energy of the Redskins community might be better served pushing for the Hall of Fame induction of two other Redskins greats who, perhaps more than anybody, symbolize the greatness of the franchise’s glory era — offensive linemen Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby.

From the 1982 season to 1991 season, the Redskins went to four Super Bowls, winning three of them, and the one constant that stands out among the changing faces of that era were the Hogs. And Grimm and Jacoby were the best of them.

They made four consecutive Pro Bowls together (for the 1983 to 1986 seasons), going up against players like White and Carson on a regular basis and anchoring great Redskins offenses with various quarterbacks and running backs. Art Shell and Gene Upshaw are in the Hall of Fame. And Grimm and Jacoby should be, too.

Does anyone really think it was Timmy Smith who was responsible for his 204 rushing yards in Super Bowl XXII? The Redskins have the two largest rushing totals of any team in Super Bowl history — 280 against Denver in Super Bowl XXII and 276 against Miami in XVII. What does that tell you?

It’s difficult for an offensive lineman to get into the Hall of Fame. How hard? It’s arguable Bob Brown was the greatest offensive lineman ever. He was named All-NFL seven times in a 10-year career. He played the position with the ferocity of a linebacker. And it took him 26 years before he made the Hall in 2004.

The Hall of Fame’s 39 selection committee members will choose 15 finalists in mid-January, and the 2006 class will be announced in Detroit on Feb. 4, the day before the Super Bowl.

Grimm is one of this year’s semifinalists. Jacoby isn’t. If Monk’s Hall of Fame campaign falls short again and Grimm is also passed over, it may be time for Redskins supporters to cut their losses and set their sights on what might be an even more egregious oversight: No Hogs in the Hall.

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