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.