We’re going to find out very shortly—if it hasn’t already leaked prior to this publishing—who is going to be included in the NFL’s Centennial Slate wing of the 2020 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 15-member group is supposed to be revealed just a short time from now.
We already know that former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, as well as former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson, have been selected. There are still three contributors and 10 senior players to be announced. Among the 20 finalists for the player portion is Steelers safety Donnie Shell. Will he join Cowher—and possibly, down the line, Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca?
That remains to be seen, but the very existence of this Centennial Slate has left some divided. One of the local beat writers has expressed his opinion recently, essentially arguing that it cheapens the entire Hall of Fame. Though biased, Art Rooney II had a different view of what this class means, in honor of the league’s 100th anniversary.
“I have to say that I do think that that does get factored in”, he told Stan Savran in talking about potential saturation bias, “that voters decide, ‘well, there’s enough Steelers in there’, and I honestly think that that has hurt Donnie Shell over the years, and that’s why I’m glad that Donnie has a chance to go in through the Centennial process this year”.
He added, “I’m glad that the NFL has come up with this special process this year. It’s almost like a makeup class for guys. The league’s been around for 100 years now, and this is kind of recognizing that there are more guys that deserve to be in there than are in. I think it’s great, and again, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that Donnie’s gonna get in there”.
Personally, I tend to lean more toward Rooney’s view. I think the Hall of Fame voting process is a bit too restrictive, as there is clearly a greater and expanding pool of players who I believe deserve to be in the Hall of Fame than there are players allowed to enter every year.
While I cant understand the need to have some limit on the number of individuals who can enter Canton in any given year—after all, that’s the quickest way to run out—I do think five modern candidates, plus two senior candidates, is too restrictive. If there is an overflow of worthy candidates that is creating a backlog, there’s no reason that nine or 10 individuals can enter the class at the same time.
This is especially problematic for all non-modern player candidates, who are limited to just two slots per year, and sometimes they don’t even vote in both. So yeah, maybe this ‘cheapens’ a very stingy process just a bit, once every century. Maybe it’s a ‘makeup’ class. But maybe that’s what the Hall needed. It’s certainly what guys who have been wrongfully overlooked like Donnie Shell need.