If you look at the two players, both changed the game – just in different ways.
One opened his mouth.
The other hardly gave interviews.
One redefined his position.
The other changed the attitude required to fill that position.
One was named to the 1990s All-Decade Team.
The other made the 1980s All-Decade Team.
So why did it take Michael Irvin two years to get inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame while Art Monk is still patiently waiting his turn since his retirement after the 1995 season?
The reason: people remember Irvin.
The Cowboy receiver played the game with flair and arrogance. He started the current trend of self-promotion and cockiness that wideouts Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens have continued. And, last weekend, the Hall of Fame Committee cemented Irvin’s legacy.
I’m not saying Irvin doesn’t deserve a bust in Canton, Ohio, but is he really more deserving than Art Monk, who has been on the ballot seven years?
Monk made the first cut – from 17 to 11 candidates – but couldn’t push through to the final five. And it couldn’t have been because of his stats.
In his 16 seasons, Monk caught 940 passes for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns. He’s currently sixth on the NFL career reception list and 11th on the NFL career receiving yards list.
Monk’s critics will tell you that his numbers resulted from his longevity, but they forget his role on those Redskin teams, that went 134-82 and won the Super Bowl in 1983, 1988 and 1992.
Drafted 18th overall by Washington in 1980, Monk usually lined up in the slot. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs used him as a possession receiver to complement the deep threat posed by fellow wideout Gary Clark. Monk picked up the tough yards over the middle and moved the chains to keep drives alive.
But the problem remains: No one really knows the truth behind Monk’s career.
Many of today’s fans just want to see stars like Irvin, the flashy playmakers. Meanwhile, Monk sits on the outside looking in even though he stayed in the league for more than 15 years. He once held the record for receptions in a season (broken by Chris Carter), most consecutive games with at least one catch (broken by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice) and career receptions (also broken by Rice).
Irvin talked up his game and backed it up.
But just because Monk didn’t say much or hype his skills doesn’t mean he should be kept out of Canton.
Monk’s nicknames say everything you need to know about his character. “Quiet Man” and “No. 81” don’t really lend themselves to someone who likes to talk.
If Monk had been inducted this year instead of Irvin, fans would have made just as much of a fuss as I’m making right now. Still, as seen from the induction of the humble Joe Dumars into the NBA Hall of Fame, the criteria shouldn’t just come from the stats (even though Monk makes a good case in that category).
Irvin was and, for the most part, still is a man of controversy. He’s not afraid to speak his mind. Remember when he told ESPN Radio that he joked with Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo that he probably has a little black ancestry? Or 2000 when he was caught with marijuana in an apartment and has since been found in the possession of other drugs, including cocaine?
But these off-the-field issues aside, Irvin deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame – just not before Monk got his.
The Redskin legend did his job.
The only problem was that he didn’t talk about it.
Hopefully, the Hall of Fame voters will one year make him – that is, at his induction speech.
– Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.