Wouldn’t it be great to see all three of Washington’s glorious receiving “Posse” high-fiving in Canton? As it stands, only Art Monk has been invited to the party, but after you read this story, you may feel a little more confident that Monk will have a teammate to high-five in Canton sometime soon. Sorry Ricky Sanders, we’re not referring to you.
Could a man whose name sounds more like an old country music singer than a professional athlete get selected for football’s greatest honor? Here are five reasons why Gary Clark should be the third Redskins receiver of the modern era (after Monk and Charley Taylor) to be selected to paint the esteemed halls of fame burgundy and gold.
*All comparisons are made to Hall of Fame receivers unless otherwise noted.
Reason No. 5: Durability
A few things were certain for Redskins fans of the 80s and early 90s: stellar offensive line play, frequent quarterback controversy, and Gary Clark. In 11 seasons, Clark only missed nine total games. These numbers certainly stack up against some of the Hall of Fame’s less durable wide receivers. For example: Clark played more games in 11 seasons than Michael Irvin did in 12, Bob Hayes missed as many games in three seasons as Clark did his entire career, and Lynn Swann only suited up for every game three times in his nine-year career.
I understand that luck is a big component of durability, but luck is also a large factor in many facets of the game, such as how talented a receiver’s quarterback happens to be, and how pass-happy the team’s offense is.
Clark played 11 seasons, which is long for an NFL career, but could have been longer when you consider that he had over 500 yards in his last season which he played in Miami; extremely impressive for a final season in the NFL. All of these facts combined indicate that when it comes to durability, Clark is up there with names like Lance Alworth, Charlie Joiner and Jerry Rice as one of the best of all-time.
Reason No. 4: Size
There is no other way to slice it; if the 5’9” Clark was voted into the Hall of Fame he would become the shortest (based on my research) wide receiver ever to be inducted. I realize that one must look at career length, hands, route-running and final stats when considering a wide receiver for induction, but honestly the guy could have been mistaken for an unopened Clark Bar if one wasn’t careful.
That aside, it is extremely hard to discount the diminutive Clark’s ability to post impressive numbers when he was out-sized by many of the defensive backs that he matched up with. Clark was Santana Moss minus a little size and plus a little talent; a jockey in a world of horses.
Reason No. 3: Art Monk
Clark caught passes like few other Redskins in history, but he never seemed to be able to catch Art Monk in the running for the greatest receiver of his time. Clark was always Roy to Monk’s Siegfried, Mello Yellow to Monk’s Mountain Dew. This seems odd to me, as Monk, a recent inductee into the Hall of Fame (albeit after years of waiting) had fewer catches, yards, yards per catch, and touchdowns than Clark in the eight years that Clark was with the Redskins. In my book (that no one who votes for the Hall of Fame would read), the superiority of Clark’s stats to Monk’s while they played with the Skins is proof enough that Clark did what it takes to join Monk in Canton.
Art Monk, 1985-1992 totals: 545 catches 7,372 yards, 13.5 yards per catch, 41 TD
Gary Clark: 1985-1992 totals: 549 catches 8,742 yards, 16.0 yards per catch, 58 TD
Clark and Monk also had very similar postseason numbers, with the only glaring difference being the two touchdowns that Clark caught in Super Bowls compared to none for Monk. Clark also made four Pro Bowls while with the Redskins compared to Monk’s three.
Once again, I realize that numbers do not tell the whole story, and many Redskins fans loved Monk’s demeanor, hands, size and timely receptions. He was already an established Pro Bowler while Clark was running routes in the USFL and continued to be afterwards. But, if Clark didn’t do enough to unseat Monk from his title as best Redskins receiver of the 80’s, he was certainly his equal.
Some may think that the similarity in their statistics may bode well for Clark being inducted. Then again, the likelihood of the Hall choosing another Redskins receiver from that same era is extremely slim, especially one with smaller career numbers and a shorter career.
Reason No. 2: Numbers
Before I get into comparisons with other great Hall of Fame wideouts, let us take a quick look at the kind of statistics that Clark posted in his 11 years in the league:
Career: 11 seasons, 167 games (only missed nine games his entire career), five 1,000-yard seasons, four-time Pro Bowler
Totals: 699 catches (33rd all-time) 10,856 receiving yards (26th all-time), 15.5 yards per catch (61st all-time), 65.0 yards per game (27th all-time), 65 touchdowns (99th all-time)
Before I get into some comparisons, I need to make a slight disclaimer:
We all know that statistics can lie like Clinton and Nixon playing golf, but they are a key element to how the Hall of Fame selects its inductees. With that in mind, the NFL has shifted gears to a more pass-oriented league of late, and numbers must essentially be adjusted for inflation. So where does all of this leave Gary Clark?
Reason No. 1: Comparisons
Whilst not at the very top of any statistical categories (except height, or is that the bottom?), Clark definitely goes toe to toe with many Hall of Famers in several categories. I slightly discount the stats of players who began their careers after Clark because of the explosion in wide receiver numbers during the '90s and 2000s due to fewer running plays being called.
And now for all you numbers junkies, here is some statistical meat to sink your teeth into:
Career Receptions: Of the 32 players with a greater number of career receptions, only six (Art Monk, Irving Fryar, Steve Largent Henry Ellard, James Lofton, Charlie Joiner) began their careers before Clark. This goes to show how the league has changed drastically even since Clark retired in 1995. Some of the Hall of Famers that Clark out-caught in his career are Don Maynard, Raymond Berry, Charley Taylor, Fred Biletnikoff, Lance Alworth and John Stallworth.
For whatever those numbers are worth, Clark is certainly in the conversation based on career receptions. A similar résumé and list of players can be found when looking at total career receiving yards.
As I continuously mention, though, these stats are deceiving due to the changing nature of the NFL game. For example: non-Hall of Fame receivers like Muhsin Muhammad and Eric Moulds outpace legends like Alworth and Taylor in total receiving yards, and you know they aren’t getting into Canton without buying tickets anytime soon.
The more important statistics to look at comparatively would be per-game stats. When Clark squares off with Hall of Famers in these categories, he refuses to be left in the dust. Here is a sampling of per-game statistics:
Receiving Yards Per Game: With 65.0 yards per game, Clark is neck and neck with the great Steve Largent (65.4). He falls a few yards shy of Don Hutson (68.9), and beats out Don Maynard (63.6) James Lofton (60.1) and Art Monk (56.8) as well as others.
Yards Per Catch: Gobbling up the field at a rate of 15.5 yards per catch, Clark is no Paul Warfield (20.1) or Bob Hayes (20.0). He does fall into the same category as Hall of Famers Lynn Swann (16.3) Michael Irvin (15.9) and Fred Biletnikoff (15.2). It would be of interest to know that for all his down-field heroics, future Hall of Famer Randy Moss only gained 15.6 yards per reception.
Finally, just a note for all Redskins historians and Clark fans: you will sleep well knowing that Clark’s 15.5 yards per catch just beat out fellow Skin and lifelong head-case Michael Westbrook at 15.3.
All other statistics aside, Clark very rarely dropped any passes, and always seemed to hit pay-dirt by hauling in deep bombs from the likes of Mark Rypien and Doug Williams. If the NFL had been keeping a statistic for dropped passes throughout the 20th century, one would see that Clark’s hands were as reliable as Jimmy Buffet tours in summer. He says a lot, but can future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens say that?
Final Analysis: Clark Barred
Despite all of these reasons and statistics, Clark still hasn’t even received a single Hall of Fame vote. The current number of 21 Hall of Fame wide receivers from the modern-era is about to expand considerably with the boom in great receivers who are nearing eligibility. These names include Issac Bruce, Marvin Harrison, Tim Brown and Chris Carter. Not to mention other greats at or nearing retirement such as Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.
Will Clark ever receive football's greatest honor and join the company of Rice, Largent, and Warfield, or will Clark be relegated to the pool of good but not good enough along with the likes of Irving Fryar, Andre Rison, and Henry Ellard? But I'll still bet that ringless Hall of Fame receivers such as Largent and Joiner would trade their esteemed Hall of Fame busts for just one of Clark’s two Super Bowl rings.
Lately it seems that Redskins Hall of Fame inductions are all this town has to look forward to. Brian Mitchell, anyone?