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After getting pasted twice in consecutive weeks, the Redskins have fewer wins in their possession than the first-year Carolina Panthers—and the Panthers have played one less game. Small wonder that fans are choosing to spend this bye week yearning for days gone by.
Tim Brant, host of WMAL-AM’s morning drive-time show and a consistent homer, used a good chunk of his Monday broadcast to suggest that former Skins receiver Art Monk be put back in uniform. Most of Brant’s pitch focused on how Monk’s presence could add some luster to a dismal season, particularly during upcoming home games. His contemporary nostalgia was so enthusiastic that even Gus Frerotte agreed on the air that the “12th man” would be more likely to show up at RFK if Monk were dressed out again.
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Brant’s hardly the first to advocate a return engagement for Monk—the topic has picked up a lot of steam on local talk radio shows in recent weeks. The clamor isn’t hard to understand; this is the third straight season the Skins are in thetoity, and Monk is a poster child for the Skins’ glory days. He was, after all, the very first player drafted by Washington in the 1980s, and he remained the steadiest performer throughout the greatest decade in franchise history. When he left after the 1993 season, he took more than just the NFL record for most receptions in a career (888) with him—he was our own Cal Ripken. And the fact that Monk’s tenure in burgundy-and-gold ended acrimoniously is an amazing shame.
Charley Casserly came off as incredibly heartless during Monk’s send-off, and until reparations are made to beloved No. 81, the GM’s Tin Man image will remain intact. Still, Monk deserves his share of blame for the soured relationship. Fair or not, Monk could have remained a Redskin if he’d abided by management’s verdict that his skills had declined substantially, and accepted the same salary cut so many other veterans were forced to take. But he appealed the team’s ruling to other general managers around the NFL and ended up playing a season in a Jets uniform for less than what the Skins had offered. When even the Jets—quite likely the least talented team in the league—instructed Monk to run a down-and-out all the way back to his home in the Virginia suburbs after last season, it was clear he should hang up his cleats.
Now, instead of going out gracefully by doing one of those sign-and-retire deals like the one Joe Montana did with the 49ers, Monk’s been in a holding pattern all year. Every few weeks, he’s gotten word out through his agent that he’s still in playing shape and ready to suit up.
Nobody ever convinced Monk it’s better to burn out than rust: Ten games into the season, nobody’s called Monk up, but he still sits by the phone. Monte Coleman, who was hung out to dry during the last off-season after 16 years with the Redskins, tried the same wait-and-see tack when Casserly didn’t offer him a contract for 1995. But Coleman smelled the coffee by the five-week mark and officially retired. And once Coleman made his announcement, the team made amends—including holding a luncheon in his honor and naming him an honorary captain at a home game. Casserly even stepped up, delivering an emotional public address extolling Coleman’s contributions. Monk could get that and more if he’d simply accept the obvious: His playing career is over. Yeah, yeah, Monk was great in his day, but the truth is he wasn’t doing much more than maintaining that overblown one-catch-per-game streak during his final few seasons in a Washington uniform. And none of the routes he ran in the Meadowlands last year indicated that the stopwatches at Redskin Park were faulty.
So how come Art lovers all around the Beltway are again asserting with straight faces that Monk should be put back in uniform for utilitarian purposes? Well, 24-3 about says it all—the Kansas City cataclysm provided plenty of incentive for fans to, like Monk, avoid reality. Washington’s receiving corps was sufficiently depleted even before the Chiefs game, and basically devastated afterwards. The team’s most gifted wideouts, well-seasoned Henry Ellard and the Redskins’ latest nominee for the All-Potential squad, rookie Michael Westbrook, were already out with injuries. That meant second- year man Leslie Shepherd, one of those dime-a-dozen receivers who lack Ellard’s speed and Westbrook’s size, was tossed atop the depth chart. Which is why Redskins quarterbacks, even when they weren’t on their backs, couldn’t find a receiver open in K.C.
At times, Frerotte played like, well, Heath Shuler, so he was yanked by Norv Turner in the fourth quarter. By then, even Shepherd had pulled a hamstring and joined Ellard and Westbrook on the bench. Until they come back, Tydus Winans, who didn’t have a catch in the Chiefs game, is the go-to guy of the Redskins passing game. No wonder people are invoking the the ghost of Monk.
It’s indeed a sorry situation. As long as there is no one to throw the ball to—regardless of who gets the nod at quarterback—Brant’s Monday-morning general managing will likely find a constituency. Here’s hoping the team doesn’t submit to the misguided, if well-intentioned, pleadings to dust Monk off.