Making Monk’s Case: Talking to David Elfin

You may have heard that Art Monk was enshrined in the Hall of Fame this weekend, and that he had something of a long wait to get there. It’s been frustrating for Monk’s many fans, but very few people could do anything about it. David Elfin could.

David Elfin at work in the press room.

David Elfin at work in the press room.

For the last two years, as the Washington area selector for the Hall, Elfin has been the one making Monk’s case before the Board of Selectors. This year, he was successful, which is why Monk thanked him by name in his enshrinement speech.

Since he was here covering practice today, I talked to him about what went in to getting Art enshrined.

Tell me about the process for presenting a player for the selection committee.

It’s a weird process, because if you go to a courtroom, the attorneys make the case and then there’s a jury that decides. But when you present at the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, you are the defense attorney and part of the jury. So I have a vote, but I also have to present the cases of the Washington players. It’s a weird thing, because you know you’re voting on this anyway. That takes you a little aback.

And it’s hard – I’ve asked and suggested that no one ever have to do three in one year again. With three presentations, I don’t know that you do justice to all three guys. I probably owe Russ Grimm an apology, because I did not do as effective a job on him as on the other two.

How many times did you present for Art?

Twice. Len Shapiro did six. My first meeting in there, I was head of the Pro Football Writers, not the Washington selector, so I was helping Len and I got up and talked, but this was the second time I was presenting Art and Russ, and Darrell obviously once.

What’s the presentation like? Is it PowerPoint? Video? Just talking?

You get up there and talk, and I think maybe one occasion ever there’s been video. You say here’s why this guy should be in and you throw your best stuff out. Maybe you think, I’m going to have to come back at least once more so you hold something back for your final bullet in your gun, and it can be a free-for-all.

Two years ago, in ’07, we talked about Art for 45 minutes. We talked about Paul Tagliabue even longer.

How does the order of the presentations go? Do you present all the players and then discuss, or…

We go through each player one by one, and the Hall decides which player goes first. I actually was worried this year because Darrell went before Art. And one of my arguments was, this team went to four Super Bowls and won three in a decade. The only player in the Hall is John Riggins, who wasn’t even there for most of those years including the last two Super Bowls. But when Darrell goes first, pretty much everyone in the room knows Darrell’s going in, so they’re going, “Wait a minute, there’s a second Redskins going in already.”

I used it anyway on Art, but it wasn’t as effective as it would’ve been if he went before Darrell in the presentation.

Do you think your presentation helped to get him in?

You’d have to ask someone else who was in the room – I don’t want to toot my own horn or anything like that.

Right, right.

I think it helped, and I think there were some fans who helped. One guy sent me some video—

Tom Kercheval?

Tom Kerchaval definitely helped me. Another guy sent me some direct Art Monk/Cris Carter comparison stuff in the playoffs, and Art’s numbers per game in the playoffs are better than Cris Carter’s. You talk about impact and big plays and things that matter, and they always said that Art didn’t have it and Michael Irvin and Cris Carter did. Well, Cris Carter in the playoffs did not do it, not to mention that his team never got to the Super Bowl.

There were a lot of very visible writers very publicly opposed to Art’s enshrinement over the years. Have you seen steady changes in the room as you’ve been presenting?

Peter King obviously very publicly changed over. He actually called me after the game Jason Campbell first started in 2006 in Tampa and said he talked to Gibbs and Gibbs had changed his mind. And Peter saying that probably influenced some people.

You can’t tell sometimes in the meetings, because a lot of people don’t say anything. Dr. Z tends to be very vocal, so you know where he stands. I’ll say this: I won’t tell you how he voted, but I made a point of sitting next to him in this meeting, because I knew if I could win him over, it would help.

Some people think the ovation Art received was a response to the committee, a sort of rebuke. Do you see that?

I think a little bit, but I think it was more that people really appreciated that Art had to wait so long, so it was, “It’s over, a relief, you deserved it all along.”

Do you think the selection procedure works?

I’m of two minds on it. The fact that we’re all in the room, that everybody hears everybody’s argument, is really good, as opposed to baseball where everyone sits at home and votes. But I think too few people vote. I think if you covered for the last ten years and you’re still covering it, you should vbote.

So there are people in this Washington press corps – John Keim from the Examiner, Rick Snider from the Examiner, Dan Daly from the Washington Times – they should all vote. Paul Woody from Richmond has been covering them much longer than I have, and he should vote.

So that to me is the problem. There are not enough people voting. 44 people deciding something this important is not enough.

It seems like sometimes an individual presenter might be a very good writer, but not an articulate speaker, and that might affect someone’s chances as well.

Yeah, I guess a little. But there are people also who don’t believe in the people they’re arguing, so we’ve also had discussions about if the local guy doesn’t believe, somebody else on the committee should make the presentation.

Wrapping up, then, what was your reaction to the whole experience of the enshrinement?

I’m a jaded journalist, but it was pretty cool. To see two people you’ve covered, two people you’ve written about and argued for, finally (in Art’s case, at least) get in … that was pretty cool. And I also covered Emmitt Thomas here, so I don’t know if I’ll ever cover another Hall of Fame ceremony again where I actually covered three people who get in.

There’s watching teams win games and Super Bowls, but the Hall of Fame is forever. So seeing these people in there and knowing they can never come out of there … it’s pretty cool.

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14 Responses

  1. Numero Uno!

    You guys need to lighten up in here…..

  2. Do they really have a bunch of unframed posters hung up on the wall in the press room? They need to get Bolno to invest some of that McDonalds breakfast money in some picture frames…spruce that place up a bit.

  3. Good interview with Elfin. Notice he left the Post out.

    I would suggest that Maske would qaulify in the terms he’s speaking of, though……

  4. Nice! Thanks Elfin. I forgive you for the Arrington story you published the week of a playoff game in 2005…really ticked about that one but this makes everything peachy with me.

    Cheers

  5. Nice insight into the selection process but nothing that isn’t already known. Good to hear that sometimes fan’s efforts can help the enshrinement arguments. I wonder if the Monk/Cris Carter information was from Al Zeke?

  6. Once again great insight.

  7. Best blog post on any blog I’ve read in a while . This is good bloggin’.

  8. http://www.washingtontimes.com/weblogs/redskins/2008/Aug/05/devin-thomas-responds/

    Devin Thomas responds

    Redskins 360
    POSTED August 05 2008 3:43 PM BY Corey Masisak
    Second-round pick Devin Thomas spoke after the special teams practice today about his hamstring injury and Jim Zorn’s revelation that he and fellow rookie WR Malcolm Kelly didn’t pass the conditioning test at the onset of training camp. Thomas thinks he will be back practicing at full speed by the end of this week with an eye toward making his preseason debut in the team’s third preseason game , Aug. 16 at the New York Jets.

    ……………

    Q: COACH ZORN SAID HE THOUGHT YOU AND MALCOLM KELLY FOUND OUT YOU’LL NEED TO DO MORE CONDITIONING NEXT OFFSEASON — DO YOU AGREE?

    THOMAS: “I’ll probably do some extra things so my legs are loose and ready to run when training camp starts right away. It was an eye opener, so I definitely will be even better prepared next year.”

    Q: DO YOU THINK YOU DID ENOUGH THIS OFFSEASON?

    THOMAS: “I feel like you can always do more, whether it is preparing for a test or coming in for training camp. I feel like I did a good job preparing. It was just a deal where I pulled my hamstring from not stretching enough while it was getting tight. I need to be more careful with that.”

    Q: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT COACH ZORN TELLING US THAT YOU AND MALCOLM KELLY FAILED THE CONDITIONING TEST AND THE PRECEPTION THAT YOU WEREN’T PREPARED FOR CAMP?

    THOMAS: “I don’t think that is a fair thing to say. We came in prepared enough to do what we could do. We had a lot of other distractions going on as far as becoming a rookie. But as far as being in shape, we were in shape – it was just a tough deal that we both got hurt.”

    Q: WERE YOU SURPRISED YOU FAILED THE TEST?

    THOMAS: “I was surprised. It is a test with 300 yards and you are stopping and going, so it is a little difficult for guys that are 200-plus [pounds]. At the same time, we should have passed it. It is something we will look forward to doing next year, I guess.”

    [EDITOR’S NOTE] There are 75 guys on the current roster who were here when camp started and 67 weigh at least 200 pounds. Kelly and Thomas were the only two who did not pass the test. The only other guy who didn’t pass it was 185-pound CB Fred Smoot.

    Q: DID YOU THINK YOU WERE PREPARED?

    THOMAS: “Definitely – we went through the OTAs and all that stuff. We were in shape; we just couldn’t through the 300-[yard] shuttle. We’re recovering now, and we’ll be ready.”

    “It was just a tough deal to do. We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for it. It was thrown at us pretty fast. … No excuses though – we should have passed it and we continue to try and get in shape each and every day.”

    Q: ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO MAKE AN IMPACT RIGHT AWAY BECAUSE OF THE TIME YOU ARE MISSING WITH THE INJURY?

    THOMAS: “As far as making an impact from the get go, I don’t think that is going to be a difficult thing to do. I am just so eager to get out there. That’s the hardest part. You see the team out playing last weekend, and it is hard sitting there at home watching the guys knowing that we’ve all been through the same thing together.”

  9. I am begining to not like Devin Thomas. He needs to prove he is more than a one year wonder…..

  10. THOMAS: “I don’t think that is a fair thing to say. We came in prepared enough to do what we could do.

    I wonder what my boss would say if this was my explanation for not being prepared. I’m pretty sure he’d either laugh in my face or fire me.

    prepared to do what we could do…… that makes me sad.

  11. Let’s be fair about the whole “only 2 200 ponders didn’t pass the test.” Lineman get more time to do these shuttles than WR’s do. Nonetheless, shoulda passed.

  12. Great blog. I do like the members of the team that didn’t pass taking ownership of that fact. What are they doing to improve upon that? We are all held accountable to that standard.

  13. Monk is the “they won’t let me in!” poster boy. Response: let’s vote him in to get him to shut the H*ll up!

    Giants–super bowl champs

  14. Is that really a B-CC Barons t-shirt!

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