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Before Moving Ahead, One Final Look Back

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 7, 2006 4:10 PM

Three months to the NFL draft, four months to mini-camp and six months to the first rookie scrimmage, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take one last look back at Super Bowl XL and a few lingering issues.

Hall of Fame Shame: That's right, another year, another snub of Art Monk.

Some people take it personally. Dan Snyder, the man who almost always declines interview requests, instead issued a statement decrying Monk's exclusion, and of course, that's really going to turn the tide next February when the selection committee meets again.

Yes, I'm on the committee and it remains somewhat of a mystery to me how a guy who caught more than 1,000 passes in his career -- regular and postseason -- couldn't even make it from the cut from 15 down to 10, where he was eliminated along with the best of the Hogs, Russ Grimm.

I say "somewhat" of a mystery because, during the selection meeting the Saturday morning before the Super Bowl, some selectors opposed to Monk's induction at least had the courage of their misguided convictions and did speak up.

The main knock on Monk is that opposing defenses feared Gary Clark and the Riggo running game more than they did Monk. It's an argument that's been made very publicly by my friend Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who was the beat guy covering the N.Y. Giants for Newsday on Long Island when Monk was in his prime in the 1980s. The Giants back then had a defensive coordinator named Bill Belichick -- remember him -- who devised various schemes that often effectively shut Monk down in an era when the Giants also dominated the Redskins.

I'm not telling tales out of school here; Peter has made his views very well known in his writings and broadcast appearances. He doesn't think Monk is a Hall of Famer because he didn't play like a Hall of Famer against the Giants, when King was watching. That's his opinion, and I respect the man and the opinion. I don't agree, but he's certainly entitled to it.

I just wish he and other selectors not in Monk's camp would look at the total body of work. And by the way, opposing defenses were likely more concerned with the Raiders Cliff Branch, but selectors still put his teammate, possession receiver Fred Biletnikoff, in the Hall. Opposing defenses were far more concerned with Kellen Winslow on the old Chargers, but selectors still voted Charlie Joiner a place in Canton.

Bottom line on Monk: when he retired, no receiver in league history had more catches. Second number: no receiver now in the Hall of Fame had more career catches than Monk. I still believe Monk is going to get in, as will Grimm and maybe even fellow Hog, Joe Jacoby. In a few years, Darrell Green should be a first ballot pick when he becomes eligible. Right now, the only Redskin player from that era in the hall is John Riggins, but that's going to change.

Seattle Got Jobbed by the Refs: Oh please. Yes, there were some questionable calls in Super Bowl XL, but that's not why the Seahawks lost.

They had seven penalties for 70 yards. They missed two long but makeable field goals off a perfect surface with no wind. They had a killer fourth quarter interception thrown by their quarterback and their clock management at the end of both halves was atrocious.

Did Ben Roethlisberger score? He admitted he probably didn't. But that play was on third down, and Bill Cowher said there was no question the Steelers would have gone for the touchdown on fourth and an inch. They had a guy named Bettis in the backfield, and don't you think he might have been slightly motivated to score a touchdown in his last game and playing a Super Bowl in his home town.

Look at the replay, and you'll see a push off by the receiver on that Seattle touchdown that was nullified by offensive pass interference. It was a semi-ticky-tacky call, not even close to the way Michael Irvin used to mug defenders trying to keep him from catching the ball, but it's still not allowed under the rules.

The Seahawks and their fans need to stop whining about the officiating and start celebrating the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance, because there's no question in my mind, the Steelers were the better team, especially on Sunday.

Say it Ain't So, Joe: So Joe Montana, a three-time Super Bowl MVP, was one of three no-shows among all the former Super Bowl MVPs who were introduced before the kickoff. There were published reports in San Francisco quoting league sources as saying Montana didn't come because the NFL declined to meet his demand for a $100,000 appearance fee.

Montana, well known for not showing unless a check is cut, denied that report, using the Kid Card to explain his absence, as in "my kid had a basketball game and I wanted to be there." Terry Bradshaw was a no-show as well (along with former Dolphin Jake Scott, who was in Australia). Bradshaw said he wanted to be with his family. Both guys ought to have their heads examined. The game and the league made their lives, made their fortunes and this would have been a sweet give-back gesture to appear with all their fellow MVPs. Montana grew up in Western Pennsylvania and Bradshaw played for the Steelers. They should have been there, and shame on them for not participating.

Danny Boy Strikes Again: So the Redskins owner took out an ad in The Washington Post Sunday to thank the team's fans for their support by also taking a cheap shot at two reporters, Sally Jenkins of The Post and Dave Elfin of The Washington Times, who actually had the audacity to write during the season that his football team wasn't very good.

When Jenkins wrote the team was "unremarkable" on Nov. 30, she actually was quite right. They were 5-6 at the time and had just lost games to teams coached by men Snyder had fired, Norv Turner and Marty Schottenheimer. To their credit, the Redskins rallied down the stretch and made the playoffs.

Good for them, but few could deny this was a flawed team hardly ready for a primetime Super Bowl.

In my recollection, it also should be noted that Snyder had never before taken out an ad to humbly apologize to his fans for so many wretched years of football under his stewardship since 1999, all those genius decisions to bring us Jeff George, Deion Sanders and Steve Spurrier (among many others), not to mention allowing people like Trent Green, Brad Johnson and Marty Schottenheimer to get away.

The guy who owns a team that has won only two playoff games in the seven seasons since he bought in ought not be throwing too many stones, unless he's facing a mirror.

Leonard Shapiro can be reached at Badgerlen@hotmail.com.

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