DALLAS — The Pro Football Hall of Fame could expand to 20 inductees for the 2020 class, and that could mean a backlog of former Dallas Cowboys could finally be inducted.
Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker joined SiriusXM NFL Radio Monday and said that the board is mulling over the idea of expanding the induction class from the usual eight to 20 to commemorate the NFL's 100th season.
"It is extremely elite company, and it's not the Hall of very, very good," Baker said. "It's the Hall of Fame, and so it should be difficult to make it," Baker said. "But there's a lot of guys through the years. We have several guys who are on all-decade teams who aren't in the Hall of Fame. And, so, this is an opportunity with the Centennial coming up."
There are no better examples of players on all-decade teams who aren't in the Hall of Fame than former Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson and safety Cliff Harris. The two ex-Cowboys made the all-decade team for the 1970s, and even are in the franchise's Ring of Honor, but can't seem to crack into the eight inductees list. Harris, who played from 1970-79 for Dallas, went so far as to be a finalist in 2004. The undrafted free safety from Ouachita Baptist was a four-time first-team All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler, and won two Super Bowls with Dallas in Super Bowl VI and Super Bowl XII.
Former Cowboys executive vice president of player personnel Gil Brandt told WFAA.com in 2016 that Harris deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.
“I am so disappointed that he got to the threshold where he got and then didn’t get in,” Brandt said. “And in my estimation, it was a case of Cowboy bias. But I thought that Cliff deserved to be in. I think Cliff Harris is a Hall-of-Famer without any reservations whatsoever.”
For Pearson, while he has not as many accolades as Harris with three All-Pro selections, three Pro Bowl selections, and a win in Super Bowl XII, the former undrafted wideout from Tulsa has more career catches and career receiving yards than contemporary Lynn Swann, who made the Hall of Fame with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pearson racked up 489 for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns while Swann caught 336 passes for 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns.
Like Swann, Pearson also was on the receiving end of memorable plays from Clint Longley's "triumph of an uncluttered mind" on Thanksgiving 1974 to the "Hail Mary" in the 1975 divisional playoffs to executing the Cowboys' comeback in the 1980 divisional playoffs at the Atlanta Falcons. Pearson was an integral part in the Cowboys' ability to win a few "games with names" in the 1970s.
Nonetheless, the board, according to Baker, is still in the concept phase of expanding the number of inductees, but they have considered how the breakdown would work.
Said Baker: "This would be quite a few guys, but it would be the five normal modern-era players elected from 15 finalists, and then 10 seniors, three contributors — like Gil — and two (coaches)."
The full board will vote on expanding the Hall of Fame class on Aug. 2 during Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio.
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