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Help Art Monk Get Into the Hall of Fame

Help Art Monk Get Into the Hall of Fame

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com

When the subject of the Pro Football Hall of Fame comes up among Redskins fans, the same question comes up:

What about Art!

The fact that Art Monk, who once held the NFL records for both receptions in a career and receptions in a season, is 0-3 for getting his bust into the museum in Canton really eats at most Redskins fans. Here was a player who had a period of sustained excellence, who has three Super Bowl rings (plus a conference title), who was the first NFL player to catch 100 passes in a season and a man who carried himself like the consummate professional both on and off the field and he is not in the Hall of Fame.

I could go on, but since most of the readers here are well familiar with Monk’s achievements as a player and with his class as a human being there’s no point. What I want to do here is give you some information that will help you turn your frustration over Monk’s exclusion into action.

What I’m providing here is a link to a page on the site that this blog proudly calls home, WarpathInsiders.com. On that page are the names of every one of the 39 football writers that make up the Hall of Fame’s Board of Selectors and contact information for each of them.

Here’s the link to the page:

http://redskins.scout.com/3/monktohall.html

Note that some of the syndication partners that this blog goes out to do not make all links live, so you may have to copy and paste the link into your browser’s address window.

Once you get to the page, you’re on your own. There are some facts listed on the page and below I’m going to do a recap of what I think is Monk’s greatest game, but after that it’s up to you. There isn’t any form letter for you to copy and paste, the thoughts will have to be your own.

I also don’t want to overlook the fact that two other deserving Gibbs-era Redskins are on the list of 25 finalists. If you want to communicate with the selectors about Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby, both deserving candidates in my opinion, either instead of or in addition to campaigning for Monk that would be great. In fact, I plan on giving each of them their own spotlights in this blog in the next few weeks.

The only thing I will say about your communication is that my impression is that a letter sent in an envelope has more impact than an email does and that a thoughtful, professional tone is more effective than a more confrontational one.

But, hey, if you’re like a lot of folks who have forgotten how and where to buy stamps and if you believe in telling it like it is, go for it. While the calm letter in the envelope is likely to be more persuasive than the fiery, passionate email, either is more effective than no communication al all (provided that you do not insult the recipient in the latter format).

Again, this isn’t a crusade and I don’t think it would be very effective if the selectors received a flood of emails all saying the same thing about Monk (or Grimm or Jacoby). You now have the information you need, and it could possibly make a difference. You can act on it or not. It’s up to you, the Redskins fan, to decide.

To help reactivate those hidden brain cells from where your warm memories of Art Monk in Burgundy and Gold emanate, I’m presenting an excerpt from my book Gut Check that tells the story of what I think was Monk’s greatest game. If, say, Jerry Rice, or a receiver for the Giants or the Cowboys had a game like this, I think that they would have immediately waived all of the eligibility rules and would have immediately inducted that receiver into the Hall.

OK, maybe not, but if anyone can give me the story of a player putting on such a clutch performance to both set a record and give his team a division title on the last day of the season, please pass it along to me. Otherwise, I’ll keep calling this the greatest and most unappreciated regular season performance by a player ever.

December 16, 1984, RFK Stadium—Mark Moseley’s 37-yard field goal with 1:42 to play lifted the Redskins to a 29-27 win over St Louis and the NFC East division title. The Cardinals, who would have claimed the division crown, had a shot to steal it back at the end, but Neil O’Donoghue missed a 50-yard field goal attempt on the game’s last play. The loss eliminated the Cards from the playoffs.

In an historic sidelight to the contest, Art Monk needed seven catches to break Charley Hennigan’s 20-year old record of 101 in a season, set in the AFL with the Houston Oilers. As one would expect of a player of Monk’s caliber, he broke the record in style and extended it with clutch plays down the stretch; more on that later.

Monk caught a pair of touchdown passes from Joe Theismann to get the Redskins off to a fast start. Then late in the half, the Redskins blocked a punt to set up a 21-yard Moseley field goal and they enjoyed a seemingly comfortable 23-7 lead going into the locker room at halftime. It wasn’t long before Neil Lomax and the Cards would begin to make them sweat.

Lomax directed a drive at the outset of the second half that got the Cards a field goal. About three and a half minutes later, Lomax had his team on the board again, this time in more spectacular fashion with a 75-yard touchdown bomb to Roy Green. At 23-17 the Redskins’ cruise to the division title had run into some choppy waters.

Monk helped to wake up the offense with a 36-yard catch to set up a 37-yard Moseley field goal to make it 26-17. That was catch number 102 on the season, breaking the record. The mark was noted on the RFK Stadium scoreboard and on the PA system, but there was no on-field celebration as there was still work to be done.

Lomax helped see to that. In the fourth quarter, he led one drive to a field goal, another to his second TD toss to Green. That lifted St. Louis into a one-point lead at 27-26 and the 54,299 in attendance stunned, along with the Redskins. Lomax racked up 468 yards passing on the day, with 314 of them coming in the second half.

The Washington offense responded, but the drive was in trouble after end Elois Grooms sacked Theismann to create a third and 19 at the St. Louis 47. With 2:40 remaining, everyone in the stadium knew the ball was going to Monk.

Therefore, Joe Gibbs had to try to find a way to hide Monk, inasmuch as that was possible. He sent in a play and formation that he had just installed that week called Two Divide. It called for Monk to line up at tight end on the right side. He fought his way off the line, found a hole on the right sideline and, Monk said, “The ball was perfect.” It worked for a 20 yards and the first down at the 27. On the day, Monk caught 11 passes for 138 yards.

Three plays later, Moseley came in. “I felt comfortable and positive,” Moseley said after the game. His feelings were justified as his 37-yard kick was perfect with room to spare and Washington was ahead 29-27 with 1:42 left to play.

Lomax and the Cards, though, weren’t done just yet. The quarterback completed four passes in five plays to move his team to the Washington 39 with 32 seconds left. On third and nine from there Lomax flipped the ball to back Danny Pittman, who had just one obstacle to getting a first down and getting out of bounds to stop the clock, linebacker Rich Milot. The defender made a solid open-field tackle at the 33 and Cardinals rushed their field goal team in to attempt a 50-yard game winner.

“I was so worn out by then that I had a hard time working up the energy to be nervous,” said Riggins after the game. He could have been speaking on behalf of most members of both teams.

The snap and hold were good, but Neil O’Donoghue’s 50-yard attempt was a couple of yards short and a little wide to the left. The Redskins as division champs had a week off to prepare for a home playoff game. The Cardinals, out of the playoffs due to wild card tiebreakers, had six months to prepare for next year.

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The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER WITH KEY STATS FOR KIRK COUSINS IN 2017

Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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