'It's a Redskin day'
Monk, Green top list of deserving Canton inductees
Posted: Saturday February 2, 2008 5:20PM; Updated: Saturday February 2, 2008 8:08PM
PHOENIX -- The six-man 2008 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame did a great service Saturday to some of the rank-and-file deserving souls who'd been backlogged behind some of the top players of this generation.
What the class also did is disappoint a couple of worthy candidates, one a surprise and one quite predictable. Cris Carter had the numbers (1,101 catches, 130 touchdowns) but not the support of the 40 selectors as a Hall rookie. And in his second year, former commissioner Paul Tagliabue again failed to make the cut from 15 modern-era candidates to 10, falling far short of election.
With the exception of the selection of first-year-eligible candidate Darrell Green, this year got some veterans who'd been on the bubble into the Hall. Wideout Art Monk, as beloved a Redskin as recent history has produced, finally made the Hall after seven frustrating years on the sidelines. This was Patriot linebacker Andre Tippett's 10th year as a candidate, and one of the best strongside linebackers of the modern era made it. Fred Dean, a great edge pass-rusher for the Chargers and 49ers, gained entry in his 18th try. Denver and Minnesota tackle Gary Zimmerman, a rarity as a two-time all-decade player, was elected in his sixth year as a candidate.
The longest wait rewarded Saturday was former Kansas City cornerback Emmitt Thomas, a Seniors Committee candidate who retired 30 years ago. Considered one of the best corners of the American Football League and later the NFL, Thomas had been bypassed until the Seniors group resurrected his cause last summer.
Dean beat out pass-rushers Richard Dent of the Bears and the late Derrick Thomas of Kansas City. The 40 voters judged Tippett better than Randy Gradishar of the Broncos. The dogged strength of Monk's candidacy -- buttressed by an unending stream of e-mails and phone messages to the selectors -- probably knocked out Carter and Buffalo's Andre Reed.
The three eligible guards -- Washington's Russ Grimm, Miami's Bob Kuechenberg and Randall McDaniel of the Vikings -- got shut out. The committee may have been starting to make up for the pronounced emphasis in recent years on the offensive side of the ball. In the previous five years, 18 of the 23 men elected to the Hall were offensive players. This year, four of the six picked played defense.
Monk and Green were as emotional as almost any of the candidates in recent years. "Goodness sakes,'' Green said, nearly breaking down when he took the podium to react to the news. "It's a Redskin day, baby.''
"The support of the Redskin community has really carried me in recent years,'' said Monk, whose disappointment in not making the Hall in recent years was tempered by being able to go in with Green. "I'm sort of speechless right now. This is even more special, because I get to go in with one my best buddies.''
"This was the hardest thing I've ever gone through,'' Green said. "I'm just so grateful for this privilege. I want to say to all of you, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you so very much.'