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Old 02-05-2007, 11:45 AM   #10
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Default Re: Michael Irvin HOF

"It's legalized theft, a crime, that Art Monk is not in the Hall of Fame. Those voters ought to be absolutely ashamed of themselves.''
-- ESPN football analyst Sean Salisbury.

I'm one of the voters, Sean. And I'm not ashamed at all. Over the past few years, there's been significant outrage over Monk not getting into the Hall of Fame. Salisbury's feelings are shared by many. Mel Kiper has raked me over the coals a time or two on this one. How can the 39 guys who sit in judgment of the merit of retired players think that Monk didn't do enough to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame, particularly when he had more receptions than any of the 17 current receivers enshrined in the Hall?
Since I get a lot of mail on this particular issue every year, I want to spend a couple of minutes going over Monk's case. At the end, you may think I'm wrong, but at least you'll know my reasoning.
It's a complicated situation, at least from my standpoint, but I'll start by explaining a couple of things about the voting system. Monk is one of the 15 finalists for the Hall this year, as he has been the last several years. We elect a minimum of three and a maximum of six to the Hall each year. There is a winnowing process that cuts the list to six in the room, and then the 39 voters are asked to vote yes or no on the final six. To make it, a player either has to have 80 percent of the vote, or in the event that fewer than three get 80 percent of the vote, the players with the most votes up to three are then elected. And so, if Monk makes it to the final six, basically, he needs to have at least 31 of the voters go his way. Eight no votes can squash a finalist, and obviously, he's had at least eight no votes every year he's come before the board of selectors. I am certainly not the gatekeeper. I have voted yes on Monk when the Hall asks us to cut the list from 25, and then to 15, in advance of the meeting, because I do think he is worthy of discussion, and I think he's one of 15 most deserving candidates in a given year -- which is different from thinking he's a Hall of Famer. But I have voted no on Monk each year he has gotten to the final six. These are the reasons:

1. I think numbers should be considered significant, but shouldn't be the god of election to the Hall. And they should be put in perspective. This says everything about why statistics alone shouldn't put people in the Hall of Fame: The year Jerry Rice entered football, 1985, there were four players with 600 career catches in NFL history. Today there are 34. Monk led the NFL in receptions with 940 when he retired after the 1995 season. Since then, four receivers have passed him. One of them is Andre Reed, who I also consider to be a marginal Hall-of-Famer. In the next few years, others will get into the 900 range: Marvin Harrison, Isaac Bruce, Jimmy Smith, maybe even Keenan McCardell (755 now, and he wants to play two or three more years). Think of the receivers who haven't turned 32 yet who could get to 900ville: Terrell Owens (31, 669 catches), Eric Moulds (31, 594), Muhsin Muhammad (31, 578), Randy Moss (27, 574). Torry Holt's 28. He's got 517. Four more years in that offense, and he's in Monk's neighborhood statwise. In other words, in the 30-year window between 1980 and 2010, a dozen guys, or more, could pass 900 catches. We can't elect them all. There has to be some positional integrity to the Hall of Fame. I believe that Redskins-era team, for instance, should have three offensive Hall-of-Famers: Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby and John Riggins (though Riggins was obviously on the early side of that era), along with the offensive mastermind, Joe Gibbs. Two are in now. I hope at least one of the linemen makes it.

2. Monk was about the fourth-most dangerous skill player on those teams. I covered the New York Giants for Newsday from 1985-'88, and I remember covering a lot of those great Giants-Redskins games. And the guys in that locker room really respected Monk as a consistent player who gave a great effort on every play. But they feared Gary Clark. To a lesser degree, they feared Ricky Sanders. And they feared the run game, whoever was toting it on that particular day. If you stopped the run, and you stopped the fast, quick guys on the outside, the Giants felt, you'd beat the Redskins every time. I started covering the NFL in 1984, and I saw much of Monk's career. Some of what he did was unseen and important to the success of that offense. He was an excellent blocker downfield. That helps his candidacy. It doesn't get it over the top, at least not to me.

3. Monk was the not considered one of the very best receivers of his era either by his peers or the media. He played 16 years. Twice he made the AP's All-Pro Team, which honors the top two receivers in football. He never made the second-team. So twice in 16 years the media considered Monk to have had one of the top four seasons by a receiver in football. Three times he was named to the Pro Bowl. That means three times in 16 years his peers thought he'd had one of the top four seasons by a receiver in the NFC. Those facts are significant to me. We're saying no to guys who made 10 Pro Bowls. Mick Tinglehoff was an All-Pro center seven times, more than any center in history, and five times more than enshrinee Jim Langer ... and that guy can't come close. Think of it this way: Eight wide receivers go to the Pro Bowl every year. In three of 16 NFL seasons Monk was judged to be one of the top eight. Is a Hall of Fame player one considered one of the top eight at his job three times in 16 seasons?

One of the interesting things this time of year is listening to the passion of people advocating for their favorites for the Hall of Fame. I respect the opinions of the Monk side very much, but I don't believe he was a Hall of Fame football player. I just thought you'd like to know the feelings of one of the 39 people in that room.

- Len Pasquerlli (however his last name is spelled)
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