Green Bay Packers: Why Ron Kramer Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Ron Kramer

Now that Jerry Kramer (first team) of the Green Bay Packers was finally rightfully inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after over four decades of waiting, that means that there are just two players who were on the NFL 50th anniversary team who do not have busts in Canton.

Those players are Boyd Dowler (second team) and Ron Kramer (third team).

I wrote about why Dowler deserves to be considered to have a place among the best of the best in pro football about a month ago. Today I am going to state the case for Kramer.

But before I do that, I want you to see the words that Rick Gosselin, who is on the Seniors Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said about both Dowler and Kramer in a podcast on the Talk of Fame Sports Network shortly after Jerry Kramer was named to the Class of 2018 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Can you enshrine too many players from one franchise in the Hall of Fame? That’s the question that came up last week when those of us on the Hall of Fame selection committee enshrined the 12th member of the 1960’s Packers. That’s guard Jerry Kramer.

“That’s more than half of the starting lineup, plus the head coach from one team. A team that won five championships in a span of seven years. And went to six title games in a span of eight seasons. No team of any era, has more players in Canton than those 1960’s Packers.

“They have indeed been rewarded for their success. Should the committee now draw the line there with the Lombardi Packers? Well, ponder this. In 1969, this same Hall of Fame selection committee was commissioned to pick the greatest players in the game’s first 50 years.

“There were 45 players selected to that team. And 43 are now enshrined in Canton. Only two are not. They both played for the ’60’s Packers, split end Boyd Dowler and tight end Ron Kramer. Dowler was selected to the 1960’s All-Decade team as well and Kramer would have been had the committee selected more than one tight end.

“Yet neither of those players has ever been discussed as a finalist for the Hall of Fame. If you were chosen as one of the best players in the game’s first half-century, don’t you deserve a spin through the room as a finalist to determine if you are indeed Hall of Fame worthy.

“It took [Jerry] Kramer 45 years to get in. It took teammate Dave Robinson 34 years and Henry Jordan 21. The Hall of Fame is a process. Maybe Dowler and Ron Kramer deserve to be Hall of Famers. Maybe they don’t. But they certainly deserve a few minutes in that room to start the process and have their cases heard, regardless how many teammates have been enshrined.”

Both Jerry Kramer and Dowler were on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s, as well as being on the 50th anniversary team. And as Gosselin stated in his comments above, Ron Kramer would have been on the All-Decade team of the 1960s if the team would have had more than one tight end.

That in itself makes a compelling case why both Dowler and Ron Kramer deserve to be in Canton.

Besides Jerry Kramer, Dowler and Ron Kramer, there were also a few of their teammates on the 50th anniversary team. They were Ray Nitschke (first team), Forrest Gregg (second team) and Herb Adderley (third team).

Nitschke, Gregg and Adderley were also all on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s. Plus, like Jerry Kramer, all three have busts in Canton.

The thing that voters need to realize is that the NFL was a different game back in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a much more violent game and the running game was still the main staple of most offenses in the NFL.

Originally, when the tight end position morphed into play in the NFL, it was mainly a position that helped out the running game by blocking. Catching the ball was almost an afterthought.

In fact, on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1950s, there isn’t even a tight end listed.

That was the state of the NFL when Ron Kramer was drafted in the first round by the Packers in 1957, thanks to the great scouting work done by Jack Vainisi.

Also selected in that draft was Paul Hornung, who was the first overall selection that year by the Packers, as teams were awarded bonus picks (the No. 1 overall selection) from 1947 through 1958.  Once a team was awarded a bonus pick, they were eliminated from further draws.

Ron Kramer didn’t win the Heisman Trophy like Hornung did in 1956, but he he did finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting, both in 1955 (eighth) and 1956 (sixth), when he was a consensus All-American at Michigan.

Kramer earned nine letters at Michigan, as he was also a talented basketball player who averaged 17 points a game and almost nine rebounds a game, as well being an excellent track athlete.

Kramer was so good at Michigan, that his No. 87 was retired after his senior year. Plus, Kramer was also inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor, as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.

In one of our many conversations, Jerry Kramer talked about the tight end from Michigan who shared his last name.

“Ron was a 260-pound runaway truck,” Kramer said. “He was an outstanding athlete at Michigan. He high-jumped 6’4”. He threw the shot put around 60 feet. Ron was also very good in basketball, was the captain of the team and at one point was the all-time leading scorer in team history at Michigan.

“He was an All-American in football for two years running. Overall, Ron won nine letters in sports at Michigan, three each in football, basketball and track.”

Kramer had a nice rookie year in 1957 under then head coach Lisle Blackbourn, as he was second on the team in receptions to Billy Howton, as No. 88 had 28 receptions.

Kramer missed the 1958 season due to military service in the Air Force, which was probably for the best, as the Packers had their worst season ever that year finishing 1-10-1 under Scooter McLean, who took over for Blackbourn that season.

Kramer was back in 1959 with the Packers and also their new head coach and general manager Vince Lombardi.

In 1959 and 1960, Kramer did not start a lot of games, as Gary Knafelc was the starter at tight end most of the time. Because of his athleticism, Kramer played in every game in both 1959 and 1960 (mostly on special teams), but only started four games at tight end.

Ron Kramer and Vince Lombardi in 1961 NFL title game.

That all changed in 1961. Lombardi recognized that he had an immense talent in Kramer. Not only a receiver, but as a blocker. In fact, the power sweep was the signature play of the Packers under Lombardi, and Kramer was a key attribute on the success of that play due to his great blocking.

From 1961 through 1964, Kramer became the first of the great tight ends to ever grace the NFL. Kramer led the way for players like John Mackey and Mike Ditka, who were also on the NFL 50th anniversary team, plus also have busts in Canton.

I talked to Dowler recently and he talked about Kramer, who was his roommate in Green Bay for five years.

“You should talk to somebody who can talk about the tight end position and tell you who he thinks the best at that position was,” Dowler said. “Give Mike Ditka a call. Ditka has said, and he and Ron were pretty close friends, that the best of the bunch was Ron.”

In 1961, Kramer had 35 receptions for 559 yards (16 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.

In the 1961 NFL title game against the New York Giants at City Stadium (now Lambeau Field), No. 88 caught four passes for 80 yards (20 yards per catch) and two touchdowns, as the Packers won 37-0.

That was the year Titletown was born.

In 1962, Kramer caught 37 passes for 555 yards (15 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. He later caught two passes in the 1962 NFL title game at Yankee Stadium, as the Packers won 16-7, as the other Kramer (Jerry) was the star of the game.

In 1963, Kramer caught 32 passes for 537 yards (16.8 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. And in 1964, Kramer caught 34 passes for 551 yards (16.2 yards per catch).

Ron Kramer in 1961 NFL title game

As you can see by the yards per reception average, Kramer made a lot of big plays down the seam, as quarterback Bart Starr scanned the field. And besides being a big receiving threat, he was also considered the best blocking tight end in football.

While he was in Green Bay, Kramer was named first-team All-Pro by AP in 1962, plus was named second-team All-Pro by various media sources like AP, UPI, NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association) and the New York Daily News six times in 1962 and 1963.

Kramer was also named to the Pro Bowl in 1962.

Kramer played out his option in the 1964 season, which allowed him to sign with another NFL team. Kramer wanted to go back to Michigan to be with his family, so he signed with the Detroit Lions.

Back then, if a player played out his option like Kramer did, the team he played for would get a first-round draft pick. The Packers did receive one from the Lions and used that pick on fullback Jim Grabowski in the 1966 NFL draft.

The player that was probably the closest to Kramer was Hornung, who entered the NFL and Green Bay with No. 88. Hornung has as much fun as anyone in the NFL did off the field when he played. Kramer was with No. 5 on a number of those occasions.

Jerry Kramer recounted that with me.

“Ron was also quite the character off the field,” Kramer said. “He and Paul Hornung were very close. Ron was a unique human being. He was a bit wacky at times. He loved to put a drink on his head because he had a flat spot up there, and he would dance with it up there.

“Ron also like to mess with you. He would kiss you in the ear or some silly-ass thing. Just to irritate you. He would do that just for aggravation and he would giggle and laugh.

“So when Ron died, Hornung goes to his funeral up in Detroit and Ron’s son Kurt picked up Paul at the airport. When Kurt sees Paul, he gives him a big kiss right on the lips. And Paul yells, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ And Kurt said, ‘Dad told me about three months ago that if he didn’t make it and if you came to his funeral, I was supposed to give you a big kiss on the lips and to tell you it was from dad.’

“Paul started crying like a baby after that.”

You can bet that there will be more tears shed if Ron Kramer gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perhaps it will be in 2020, as Gosselin has told me that he trying to get 10 seniors inducted into Canton on the centennial year of the NFL.

When I told Rick that I would be writing a series of articles about Packers who I believe deserve consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he told me to make sure I wrote about Kramer, Dowler and Gale Gillingham.

I have done that now. And it is my sincere desire that at least one of those three players is included among the ten seniors who will hopefully be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

Milwaukee Brewers: It will be David vs. Goliath in the NLCS

Craig Counsell and David Stearns

On Friday night at Miller Park, the Milwaukee Brewers will be hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

It will be like David battling Goliath. Almost literally.

The Brewers behind the great work of general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell, won the NL Central with a fabulous run in the month of September and also had the best record in all of the National League (96-67).

This with a payroll of just under $109 million, based on the great data that Spotrac provides. That puts the Brew Crew at No. 22 in payroll in all of MLB (30 teams).

Meanwhile, the Goliaths…er…Dodgers, have a payroll of close to $200 million, which place them third on the MLB totem pole, only behind the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants.

Now the Dodgers did win the NL West in a one-game playoff against the Colorado Rockies, just like the Brewers had to do with the Chicago Cubs. All in all, the Dodgers finished with a record of 92-71.

Of the four teams still remaining in the postseason, three of those teams are in the Top 10 in payroll. The Red Sox are No. 1, the Dodgers are No. 3 and the Houston Astros are No. 9.

In fact, if the Brewers doubled their payroll, they still wouldn’t match the payroll of the Red Sox ($228 million-plus).

That’s what the Brewers are up against in the NLCS and perhaps the World Series, if Milwaukee is fortunate enough to get there again for the first time since 1982, when they were called Harvey’s Wallbangers.

The irony in all of this for the Dodgers is that their president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, used to be the GM of the Tampa Bay Rays, who almost always had the lowest payroll in baseball, even when the club was making the postseason a habit under manager Joe Madden.

Friedman was assisted by Matt Arnold in Tampa Bay, when Arnold was the director of pro scouting. Arnold is now the assistant GM of the Brewers and was the first hire by Stearns three years ago.

I wrote about how much the Brewers and Rays had in common last year.

Getting back to the Brewers and Dodgers, just before the trade deadline, both teams were interested in trading for SS/3B Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. In the end, it was the Dodgers who were able to acquire Machado.

But Stearns did not sit on his hands at the actual trade deadline (July 31), as well the waiver trade deadline which ends on August 31. Stearns added 3B Mike Moustakas, pitchers Joakim Soria, Gio Gonzalez and Xavier Cedeno, 2B Jonathan Schoop and OF Curtis Granderson.

When the Dodgers, who are managed by Dave Roberts, and Brewers start going at it on Friday night in Game 1, the payrolls of each team will go out the window. The only thing that matters is winning baseball games.

That being said, this should be one hell of a series, based on that talent of each team.

The Brewers are riding an 11 game winning streak. A win on Friday night and people will be heading in masses to George Webb for some free hamburgers. Getting free burgers will be great for the fans of the Brewers, but getting a win on Friday night will be even more important.

George Webb

And winning is something that the Brewers have done a lot of lately. The Brew Crew went 20-7 in September which allowed them to catch the Cubs and tie for the NL Central lead.

Then in game No. 163, the Brewers beat the Cubs 3-1 at Wrigley Field which gave the team home field advantage for the rest of the National League playoffs.

The Brewers just totally dominated the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS, outscoring the Rockies by a 13-2 margin. Colorado scored those two runs in one inning, which means the team went scoreless in 27 of the 28 innings played in the series.

The major reason? The bullpen. That dynamic of the team has been fairly consistent throughout the season, although there have been a few glitches from time to time. The relief corps posted a 3.47 earned run average during the regular season, which was second to the Cubs (3.35) in the NL.

Plus, the bullpen knows how to close the door. The Brewers are 82-3 (including the postseason) when leading after seven innings. And when the Crew takes a lead to the ninth, they are 86-3.

I mentioned how dominant the pen has been in my most recent story about the Brewers, especially when you take a look at the job Corbin Burnes, lefty Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress did in the regular season. Their combined stats were unbelievable.

The trio were a combined 21-2 in the bullpen and had a combined ERA of 2.04. Plus the three combined for 25 saves, with Hader having 11 and Jeffress having 13.

Jeffress had a minor malfunction in Game 1 of the NDCS, but bounced right back in Game 2. Hader has been lights out, both in Game No. 163 vs. the Cubs and the postseason thus far. Burnes has continued to be effective in the middle innings for the Brewers and he notched a win in Game 3 of the NLDS.

Besides those three, the Brewers also have a guy who saved 46 games last year. I’m talking about Corey Knebel. The hard-throwing righty had a rough start in the first half of the season due to a hamstring injury and some ineffectiveness due to his inability to throw the curve ball. But after being sent down to the minors and working some kinks out, he has been almost flawless.

Knebel finished the season with 16 consecutive scoreless outings, striking out 33 hitters in 16 1/3 innings. Nothing changed in the NLDS for Knebel either, as he pitched three innings without giving up a run and struck out four.

In fact, the ERA of the Brewers in the NLDS was a sparking 0.64. Jeffress was the only pitcher on the Brewers who allowed a run (he allowed two). All the other pitchers had a perfect 0.00 ERA. That group includes starter Jhoulys Chacin who got a win in Game 2, as he went five innings.

Wade Miley also had a fine start in Game 3, as he he went 4 2/3 innings without giving up a run. Other than that it was bullpen by committee. That all started in Game 1 when Brandon Woodruff started the game and went three innings without giving up a run.

The rest of the bullpen did the job in the series, except for the hiccup by Jeffress in Game 1. Burnes, Knebel, Soria and Hader combined to pitch 12 innings and allowed only two hits and zero runs. They also struck out 18 batters.

The offense in the NLDS was led by catcher Erik Kratz, who hit .625 against the Rockies. Soon to be NL MVP Christian Yelich also had a nice series, as he seemed to be on the base all the time, as he had two hits (including a homer) and six walks.

Moustakas was clutch in the NLDS with his hitting, and he finished the series with a .364 average and two huge RBIs (including the game-winning walk off single in Game 1).

Ryan Braun, who is the only holdover from the 2011 Milwaukee team which also won the NL Central and advanced to the NLCS, also had a very solid series, as he hit .385.

Travis Shaw hit .364 and also walked three times.

The Brewers are going to need an effort like that and maybe more to beat the Dodgers.

Brewers vs. Dodgers 2018 NLCS

The Dodgers can really hit. They led the NL with 235 homers and also led the league with 804 runs scored. Los Angeles also had seven players hit over 20 homers this season. They are Max Muncy (35), Joc Pederson (25), Cody Bellinger (25), Yasmani Grandal (24), Yasiel Puig (23), Enrique Hernandez (21) and Matt Kemp (21).

The best hitter on the Dodgers is 3B Justin Turner, who hit 14 homers himself and hit .312. Machado hit 13 homers and drove in 42 runs after he was acquired from the Orioles.

The Dodgers also have Brewer-killer David Freese (2011 NLCS) on their bench.

So in a snapshot, one can see that the Dodgers will be tough to shut down offensively.

This where I could see the Brewers making some roster alterations to the pitching staff for this series. I could see the Brewers adding someone like Zach Davies, who has had good success against the Dodgers in his career.

Plus, with all the big power hitters that the Dodgers can bring up to the plate from the left side, I could see the Brewers adding someone like Cedeno to the pitching staff.

Speaking of having success against the Dodgers, the Brewers have two pitchers who throw from the left side and who have had their way with LA. I’m talking about Gonzalez and Miley.

Gonzalez is 4-1 lifetime vs. the Dodgers, with an ERA of 1.89. Miley has a career ERA of 3.55 against the Dodgers and was 1-0 in 2018 against them and had a 0.00 ERA. In 13 innings, Miley gave up just six hits.

Chacin is 11-9 lifetime against the Dodgers and has a career ERA of 4.41, which skyrocketed after his worst start of the season at Dodger Stadium, when LA thrashed Milwaukee 21-5.

In terms of the pitching for the Dodgers, it all starts with lefty Clayton Kershaw, who will start in Game 1. The three-time Cy Young award winner was 9-5 in 2018, with an ERA of 2.73.

Throughout his career, Kershaw has pitched well against the Brewers, as he has a career ERA average of 2.86. Still, he is only 6-5 against Milwaukee, including a loss to the Brewers at Miller Park earlier this year.

As good as Kershaw has been in the regular season in his career (153-69, 2.39 ERA), he hasn’t had the same success in the postseason. In that scenario, Kershaw is just 8-7, with an ERA of 4.08.

That could be a good omen for the Brewers.

The rest of the LA pitching staff is very good as well, as the Dodgers had a team ERA of 3.38. Next to Kershaw, the best starting pitcher on the Dodgers is Walker Buehler, who went 8-5 and had an ERA of 2.62.

The rest of the starting staff is rounded out by lefty Rich Hill (11-5, 3.66), Alex Wood (9-7, 3.68) and lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97).

The closer for the Dodgers is still Kenley Jansen (1-5), who isn’t as imposing as he once was. Still, he saved 38 games and had an ERA of 3.01.

The Dodgers also have lefty Caleb Ferguson, who always seems to pitch well against the Brewers. In 2018, he was 7-2 with a 3.49 ERA.

The LA bullpen also can bring in pitchers like lefty Scott Alexander, Pedro Baez, Ryan Madsen and Kenta Maeda.

Bottom line, this should be a very good series. The Brewers obviously want to get out of the gate quick by beating Kershaw and the Dodgers in Game 1.

Kershaw gives up homer to Yelich

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers gives up a solo home run to Christian Yelich of the Brewers.

At this stage of the game in the MLB postseason, it doesn’t matter who comes up with the clutch hit, as long as someone does. It could be Yelich, Braun, Moustakas or Kratz. Then again it might be Jesús Aguilar, Lorenzo Cain, Orlando Arcia, Hernán Perez or Manny Piña.

The Brewers are playing their best baseball of 2018 at the very best time. I expect that to continue in the NLCS as well.

If that happens, the Brewers will be going to their second ever World Series and will be in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1982.

The 2018 Milwaukee Brewers Have Some Similarities to Harvey’s Wallbangers of 1982

Craig Counsell and Harvey Kuenn

Now that the Milwaukee Brewers have officially clinched a playoff spot as the top Wild Card team in the National League, with aspirations of still winning the NL Central, I see some similarities to the 1982 Milwaukee club.

I covered Harvey’s Wallbangers back then and I would love to have that same opportunity now with this team.

Like that ’82 team, this Milwaukee club is having a lot of fun, both on the field and in the clubhouse.

I believe that all stems the type of manager the team had 36 years ago and also the type of manager the club has today. There is no doubt Craig Counsell is very similar to Harvey Kuenn in the way he manages the Brewers.

Both Kuenn (15 years) and Counsell (16 years) were former players who had long careers in the Big Show and they utilized the lessons learned from the various clubs they played with to become a player’s manager, which is apropos based on their lifespan as players in MLB.

Like Kuenn’s team in ’82, the Brewers in 2018 are a loose and frolicking group when they go out on the diamond. But also like that AL pennant winning team, this year’s Brewers play extremely hard.

Let’s look at some of the similarities.

The 1982 Brewers had a record of 95-67. The 2018 Brewers have a record of 92-67 and with a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers (31 games under .500) over the weekend at Miller Park, they will end up with the same record.

And like in 1982, this year makes the last weekend of the year very important in terms of the postseason. In 1982, the Brewers had to win just one game against the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore to clinch the American League East title.

The Brew Crew lost the first three games of that series before winning on the last day of the season on a Sunday.  That pivotal game had Jim Palmer of the Orioles going against Don Sutton, who the Brewers had traded for late August.

The eventual AL MVP, shortstop Robin Yount, led the way in that game, as he was three for four, scored four runs and had two homers, as the Brew Crew won 10-2.

Speaking of Sutton and Yount, that leads to two more similarities to that 1982 Milwaukee team compared to the 2018 version.

Like they did with Sutton, when then general manager Harry Dalton acquired the future Hall of Famer via trade with the Houston Astros on August 31st, current Milwaukee GM David Stearns traded for pitcher Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals, also on August 31.

In both cases, the trades paid off down the stretch in the regular season. Sutton was 4-1 in the regular season in September with an ERA of 3.29. Gonzalez thus far is 2-0 with an ERA of just 2.66.

Christian Yelich and Robin Yount

Yount was the AL MVP in 1982, as he hit 29 homers, drove in 114 runs and hit .331, which narrowly missed him winning the AL batting title by just one point. No. 19 also had 46 doubles, 12 triples and stole 14 bases. Yount also won a Gold Glove for his outstanding defense at SS.

This year, the odds on favorite to win the NL MVP award is outfielder Christian Yelich of the Brewers. With three games to go in the season, Yelich has hit 33 homers and driven in 104 runs and leads the NL with a .321 batting average. Yelich also has 34 doubles, seven triples and has stolen 21 bases.

Yelich has already won a Gold Glove when he was a Miami Marlin and has a chance to win another one this year, as he has played all three outfield positions this season and is an outstanding defender.

Now back to the pennant race with three games to go. The Chicago Cubs have a one game lead on Milwaukee. And unlike the Brewers who are playing a team (the Tigers) that will end the season with close to 100 losses, the Cubbies are facing the desperate St. Louis Cardinals, who need to close strong to have any chance at a Wild Card berth in the NL.

The Brewers need to concentrate on getting a three-game sweep vs. the Tigers, and do no worse than winning the series by getting two wins. If the Brewers sweep and the Cubs lose two of three to the Cards, the Brewers are the NL Central champs and can avoid the one-game Wild Card round.

Even if the Cubs lose just one game against St. Louis (and the Brewers sweep the Tigers), that would force a one game playoff for the NL Central title between the Brew Crew and Cubbies. That game would be played in Wrigley Field because the Cubs won the season series between the two teams.

Before they were called Harvey’s Wallbangers, the Brewers were called Bambi’s Bombers. That was because of their prowess in hitting home runs.

With that being said, you could call the 2018 Brewers, Craig’s Crushers, as the team has hit 211 homers so far this season, which is very close in matching the season total of 216 by Harvey’s Wallbangers in 1982.

That ’82 team had three players who hit over 30 round-trippers that season. They were Gorman Thomas (39), Ben Oglivie (34) and Cecil Cooper (32).

The 2018 version of the Brewers also has three players with over 30 homers. They are Jesús Aguilar (34), Yelich (33) and Travis Shaw with 31.

The biggest difference between both clubs, is that in 1982, Kuenn very rarely changed the lineup, except at DH when Don Money and Roy Howell would interchange. Harvey usually had the same guys in the lineup everyday, except for giving guys a day off now and then.

Counsell is more liberal in changing lineups, as he has a much deeper bench.

The 2018 squad also steals a base more often, as the team has 121 swipes so far this season, while the 1982 Brewers had 84 stolen bases.

Another similarity that I see is that the starting pitching staff of both teams were both classified in a Rodney Dangerfield type of way. As in, no respect.

Sutton certainly helped the staff in 1982, as he joined Pete Vuckovich (18-6, 3.34 ERA and the AL Cy Young award winner), Mike Caldwell (17-13, 3.91 ERA), Moose Haas (11-8, 4.47 ERA) and Bob McClure (12-7, 4.22 ERA). McClure was used in the bullpen in the postseason.

Like Sutton did in 1982, Gonzalez has helped the starters down the stretch in 2018, as he has joined Jhoulys Chacin (15-8, 3.56 ERA), Chase Anderson (9-8, 3.93 ERA), Wade Miley (5-2, 2.32 ERA) and Zach Davies (2-7, 4.65 ERA) as the current starters on the staff.

Finally, like in 1982, the strength of the pitching staff was the bullpen. But unlike that World Series year for the Brewers, the 2018 team is healthy and much deeper in the pen.

Bullpens were used differently in the ’70s and ’80s compared to today’s game. Case in point, Rollie Fingers. In 1981, Fingers was the AL MVP and the AL Cy Young award winner as he was fantastic.

No. 34 was 6-3 with 28 saves, plus had a phenomenal 1.04 ERA. That helped lead the Brewers to the second-half AL East title in 1981.

Fingers was brilliant again in 1982, as he had five wins and 29 saves. But an arm injury ended his season in early September. That injury cost the Brewers dearly in the World Series, as the Milwaukee lost two games in the later innings to the Cardinals because of issues with their bullpen.

Back in 1981 and 1982, it wasn’t rare to see Fingers come into a game in the seventh inning to finish out a game. Today, it is very abnormal to see a closer come into the game for more than one inning, although Josh Hader of the Brewers has done that on occasion this year.

Speaking of Hader and the current Milwaukee bullpen, that is without a doubt that strength of the pitching staff. You want to see an eye-opening stat? Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corbin Burnes are a combined 21-2 in the bullpen and have a combined ERA of 2.04. Plus the trio has combined for 25 saves, with Hader having 11 and Jeffress having 13.

Add to that, it looks like Corey Knebel is back to being his old self as closer, as he has been dominant lately. Although Knebel is just 3-3, with an ERA of 3.78 with just 16 saves, he is looking more and more like the Knebel of 2017, when he saved 48 games and had an ERA of 1.78.

The Brewers can also utilize a couple of other late-season additions to help out in the pen, as Stearns also acquired right-hander Joakim Soria and left-hander Xavier Cedeno from the Chicago White Sox. The Brew Crew also can utilize lefty Dan Jennings in the pen.

Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals

Bottom line, the Milwaukee bullpen is one of the best in baseball and has incredible depth. That was not the case in 1982 when the team wasn’t able to use Fingers in the postseason. The team had to rely on young Pete Ladd, who gave it his best shot and did save Game 5 in the ALCS against the California Angels, when he retired Rod Carew and put the Brewers in the 1982 World Series.

But Ladd was not Fingers and his lack of experience cost the Brewers in the World Series, as he walked two batters in less than an inning in a key situation during Game 2 of the series, as the Brewers blew a 4-2 lead and lost 5-4.

The bullpen should not be a problem for the Brewers this upcoming postseason and it’s abundance of depth gives Counsell the option of winning a game by utilizing a number of pitchers to get a win, like he did in the recent series against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

The Brewers obviously would prefer winning the NL Central as opposed to playing in a one-game Wild Card game, which would be at Miller Park by the way. Still, the team is in the postseason for only the fifth time in the history of the team.

And if the Brewers do win the NL Central, they would have the home field advantage throughout the NL postseason.

Finally, like that 1982 squad managed by Harvey Kuenn, this team managed by Craig Counsell has the ingredients to get to the World Series.

Perhaps even winning it.

Green Bay Packers: Why Sterling Sharpe Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Green Bay Packers vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Donald Driver is the all-time leading receptions leader in Green Bay Packers history. Driver accumulated 743 receptions in 14 seasons. That averages out to about 53 catches per season.

Can you guess who is No. 2 all time in receptions for the Packers?

Don Hutson? No. James Lofton? No. Jordy Nelson? No. Boyd Dowler? No.

The answer is Sterling Sharpe, who had 595 catches in just seven seasons in Green Bay. That averages out to a whopping 85 catches per season.

Driver is also first in pass receiving yardage, as he had 10,137 career yards. That averages out to be about 724 yards per season.

Lofton, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003, is next with 9,656 career yards in nine seasons. That averages out to be about 1,073 yards per season.

Sharpe is next with 8,134 career yards. That averages out to be about 1,162 yards per season.

There is no doubt that Sharpe was heading for a place among the best of the best in the Pro Football Hall of Fame before he suffered a career-ending neck injury in 1994, which cut short his career in the NFL.

Early in Sharpe’s career, he and quarterback Don Majkowski were a great tandem, especially in the 1989 season, when Sharpe caught 90 passes for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns.

But that was just a precursor until the arrival of quarterback Brett Favre. Once Favre became the starter early in the 1992 season, No. 4 and No. 84 became the dynamic duo.

From 1992 through 1994, Sharpe caught 314 passes (an average of 105 receptions per season) for 3,854 yards (an average of 1,295 yards per season) and 42 touchdowns (an average of 14 TDs per season).

Just imagine the numbers Sharpe would have put up in his career had he not been injured. Plus, also think about the effect he would have had being on the great teams the Packers had from 1995 through 1997, when the Packers won three straight NFC Central titles, went to three straight NFC titles games (winning two) and two straight Super Bowls (winning one).

Sharpe only had one opportunity to play in the postseason, which was in 1993. No. 84 was truly exceptional. In two games, Sharpe had 11 receptions for 229 yards (20.8 average) and four touchdowns.

Football: NFC playoffs. Green Bay Packer

The most memorable reception by Sharpe in that postseason, was when Favre in the last minute of the game vs. the Detroit Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome, threw a bomb across the field to No. 84 for a 40-yard touchdown pass to win the game 28-24.

It’s difficult to fathom just how dangerous the Packers would have been in the passing game from 1995 through 1997 if Sharpe was on the team. Favre won three straight MVPs in those three seasons, but his numbers would have been off the charts with Sharpe as his No. 1 receiver.

As it is, in his short seven-year career from 1988 through 1994, Sharpe was second only to Jerry Rice in receptions and touchdowns. Rice had 620 catches, compared to 595 by Sharpe. Rice also had 91 touchdowns versus the 65 caught by Sharpe.

But it’s also important to note that Sharpe was escalating upward in TD receptions once Favre arrived in 1992. And even with Rice dominating the NFL, Sharpe led the NFL in receptions three times, plus led in touchdown receptions twice.

Sharpe also won the “Triple Crown” in receiving in 1992, by leading the NFL in receptions (108), receiving yards (1,461) and touchdowns (13).

That has only been accomplished by six other players in NFL history. They are Rice, Hutson, Elroy Hirsch, Pete Pihos, Raymond Berry and Steve Smith. All except Smith have a bust in Canton and he just recently retired.

Sharpe was also named to five Pro Bowls, plus was first-team All-Pro three times by the Associated Press.

Had he not been injured, Sharpe would definitely been on the NFL’s All-Decade team in the 1990s. In my opinion, he would have joined Rice on the first team. But because of his injury, Cris Carter joined Rice on the first team, while Michael Irvin and Tim Brown were on the second team.

Rice, Carter, Irvin and Brown are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Let’s imagine that Sharpe played only three more years in the NFL had he not been injured in 1994. Based on what he had done in the regular season from 1992-1994 and what he had done in the postseason in 1993, one can certainly envision that the Packers may have been even more successful than winning just one Super Bowl in those three years.

If we take the production of Sharpe while Favre was his QB and add that to his career numbers for three more years, Sharpe would have had 910 career receptions, 12,019 career receiving yards and 107 career TDs.

Plus, just imagine the damage Sharpe would have done in the postseason. The Packers played in nine postseason games from 1995 through 1997. In the 1993 postseason alone, Sharpe averaged 5.5 catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns per game.

Sharpe was one of 102 names on this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee’s list which was released a couple weeks back. Sharpe deserves to make the first cut to 25 players and then the final cut to 15 players when the the 48-person Hall of Fame selection committee names the Class of 2019 the day before Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

Sharpe should definitely be one of the members of the Class of 2019.

The great Gale Sayers is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even with just a seven-year career in the NFL, which was cut short by a knee injury. The voters knew that Sayers was a special player who was a dominant force on the field when healthy.

2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony

The same holds true with Sharpe, who also just played seven years in the NFL. No. 84 was truly a dominant player in the NFL, plus his career was cut short due to injury while he was in his prime.

I believe it’s time for Sharpe to be on the enshrinement stage in Canton receiving a bust like his brother Shannon did in 2011.

It was Sterling who presented Shannon that day.

In 2019, Shannon can return the favor.

Sharpe will then become the 26th player from the Packers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining the group that recently added Jerry Kramer.

Sharpe will also be joining a couple of players who were on those great Green Bay teams in the 1990s. I’m talking about Favre and Reggie White. Safety LeRoy Butler is also deserving of consideration in Canton and I will write about that at a later time.

The bottom line is that Sharpe was second only to Jerry Rice in terms of production at wide receiver while both were in the NFL together. That has to tell you something, as Rice is considered the greatest wide receiver in modern-day NFL history.

Pre-1950, the greatest receiver ever in the NFL was certainly Hutson.

Like Kramer recently had happen, Hutson has his name on the Lambeau Field facade, which represents all the players from the Packers who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sharpe deserves his name up there too.

Green Bay Packers: Why Don Chandler Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Don Chandler punting vs. the Colts in Baltimore

The NFL All-Decade team of the 1960s was a star-studded squad. There were also a number of Green Bay Packers on that team, which was led by legendary head coach Vince Lombardi. The Green Bay players were quarterback Bart Starr, fullback Jim Taylor, halfback Paul Hornung, flanker Boyd Dowler, offensive tackle Forrest Gregg, guard Jerry Kramer, center Jim Ringo, defensive end Willie Davis, linebacker Ray Nitschke, linebacker Dave Robinson, cornerback Herb Adderley and safety Willie Wood.

All of those players except Dowler have a bust in Canton. I recently wrote a piece about why No. 86 also deserves consideration in a place where the best of the best reside in pro football.

There was a reason why so many Packers were on that team. It’s because Green Bay ended up winning five NFL championships in seven years in the 1960s.

Another Packer was on that All-Decade team as well, although he spent five years with the New York Giants in the decade of the ’60s before spending the last three years of his career in Green Bay. I’m talking about kicker/punter Don Chandler.

Chandler was named to the 1960s team as a punter.

The former Florida Gator started his NFL in 1956 with the G-Men, as New York won the NFL title that year (with Lombardi as offensive coordinator). Being in NFL championship games became a habit for Chandler, as he ended up playing in nine of them in his 12-year career, winning four.

Overall, Chandler played in 14 NFL postseason games, with his team winning nine times.

Three of those championships came in Green Bay at the end of his career, when the Packers won three straight NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowls.

Chandler punted almost exclusively for the first six years of his career. No. 34 led the NFL in punting in 1958 and had 43.5 yards-per-punt average over his entire career. That includes a 90-yard punt Chandler had his first year with the Packers in 1965. That is still the best mark ever by a Green Bay punter.

Starting in 1962, Chandler also took over placekicking duties for the Giants. In 1963, Chandler led the NFL in scoring with 106 points. For most of that season, the battle to lead the league in scoring was between Chandler and a man he would soon become very close friends with, Jerry Kramer.

Over his entire career, Chandler made 248 extra points and 94 field goals, which added up to 530 points.

In terms of the postseason games Chandler played in, he was money. Overall, Chandler basically matched his regular season career punting average, with a 43.06 mark per punt.

Plus, Don also made 10-of-15 field goals in crunch-time games, including four in Super Bowl II, as he ended up scoring 15 points in the 33-14 win by the Packers over the Oakland Raiders.

Don Chandler in Super Bowl II

Overall, Chandler scored 54 points in the postseason with both the Giants and Packers.

The most controversial field goal Chandler ever kicked was in the 1965 Western Conference title game at Lambeau Field between the Baltimore Colts and the Packers.

The Packers were down 10-7 late in the game when backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski led the Packers from their own 28 to the Baltimore 15, before Chandler attempted a 22-yard field goal.

Bratkowski was in the game because Bart Starr had injured his ribs trying to tackle linebacker Don Shinnick after he recovered a Bill Anderson fumble on the very first scrimmage play of the game.

Starr tried to tackle Shinnick near the end zone, as the linebacker scored to put the Colts up early 7-0.

On Chandler’s late game-tying field goal, the referees said the kick was good. Meanwhile the Colts were complaining to anyone who would listen that the kick was definitely no good and wide right.

That kick led the NFL to raise the height of the goal posts the following season.

There has been quite a debate on whether that kick was good or not, but one person was sure that it was good. That would be Bratkowski.

“The field goal was good,” Bratkowski told me in one of our chats. “The reason I say that is Bart and I were both holders. If he was hurt and couldn’t hold on kicks, I would hold. In practice, the quarterback who wasn’t holding would be under the goal posts catching the kicks, just like in that game.

“But with those short goal posts, unless you were under them, you couldn’t tell if a kick was good or not. And that’s were the officials were when they said the kick was good.”

The 1965 season was also Chandler’s first in Green Bay and it was then when he made a huge difference in the life of Kramer, whose career was at the crossroads.

“I reported to camp at around 220 pounds,” Kramer told me in one of our many conversations. “I nine operations that offseason, which involved removing 16 inches of my colon because of a bunch of slivers that were in there for 11 years.

“So when I went to talk with Coach Lombardi about playing, he said, ‘Jerry, we can’t count on you this year. I just want you to go home and we’ll take care of your salary and your hospital bills.’

“I told Lombardi that I really wanted to play. I knew that I had already missed most of the ’64 season and if I missed the ’65 season, I would probably never get a chance to play again.

“I told Lombardi that I would not go home and that I wanted to play. We went back and forth about this for about 35 or 40 minutes. Finally Lombardi says, ‘Okay, I’m going to put you with the defense.’

“I said, great. I always wanted to play defense anyway.”

Kramer soon found out that his task of getting in football shape would be very difficult.

“We always used to take three laps around the field to start practice. I ran a half of a lap and my lungs seized up. I just couldn’t breathe or get any air. Don Chandler came up to me and asked, ‘What’s wrong, pal?’

“I told Don that I can’t breathe. Don told me that, ‘Between the two of us, we would do what one of the players does in terms of an exercise. If you can only do a half of a lap, I’ll do the other two and half laps.’

“So Don worked out besides me for the next month and we did just that. If the team did 50 sit ups and I could only do 10, Don would do the other 40. If the team did 50 side-saddle hops and I could only do 15, Don would do the other 35.

“So Don kept me in the game and kept me from being embarrassed. That kept me from feeling like a jerk in front of a bunch of world-class athletes. So by doing that procedure with Don, I gradually was able to do more and after a month I was able to do all of the exercises.

“I gained about 15 pounds. I knew that the colostomy was reattached, the hernia was fixed and the intestines were okay. It was just going through the reconditioning which was so difficult.

“Without Don, I really doubt that I could have made it through that camp. So all the books, all the Super Bowls and all the great things that happened to me after that was because of my teammate.”

Kramer also shared that story when he made his enshrinement speech in Canton last month.

Even as consistent as Chandler was in both punting and placekicking, he only went to one Pro Bowl, which was in 1967, the last season of his NFL career.

Don Chandler hits a field goal vs. the Rams in '67

In terms of All-Pro honors, Chandler was named first-team All-Conference in 1964, 1965 and 1967 by The Sporting News.

The NFL All-Decade team for the 1950s didn’t have a punter on it, otherwise Chandler would have been an excellent candidate to be on that team as well.

In terms of kicking specialists in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there are very few. There are only four placekickers. They are Lou Groza, George Blanda, Jan Stenerud (who was with the Packers from 1980 through 1983) and Morten Andersen.

There is only one punter. That would be Ray Guy.

If the Hall of Fame adds another punter, Chandler would be an excellent addition, not just because of his All-Decade status and his consistency, but also because he could placekick as well. Plus, Chandler was a dangerous runner on fake punts, as he ran for 146 yards on just 13 attempts, which equates to an 11.2 yard-per-rush average.

Chandler ran twice on fake punts when he was with the Packers and his first attempt in 1965 went for 27 yards and his second in 1966 went for 33 yards.

Chandler also caught one pass for five yards as a rookie in 1956 with the Giants and then later in the 1956 NFL title game, he caught another for 12 yards.

While I definitely feel that Chandler deserves consideration for a place in Canton, he already is in the Packers Hall of Fame, which occurred in 1975, appropriately with a number of his Green Bay teammates, including his close friend Kramer.

Sadly, Chandler passed away at the age of 76 in 2011.

He will never be forgotten by Kramer, as it was Chandler who helped No. 64 through the very difficult training camp in 1965, when it appeared Kramer’s career might be over.

“Don was the epitome of being a great teammate,” Kramer said. “He set the standard. But he was more than that for me. Don was truly a great friend.”

Jerry Kramer and the Packers Were Both Kicked in the Stomach at Lambeau vs. the Vikings

Jerry getting his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring at Lambeau

Evan Siegle, packers.com

Lambeau Field sure looked like the place to be on Sunday. The 1-0 Green Bay Packers were hosting the 1-0 Minnesota Vikings, plus quarterback Aaron Rodgers was cleared to play.

This after the knee injury Rodgers suffered last Sunday night versus the Chicago Bears, as he led the Packers to a thrilling 24-23 victory over da Bears on basically one leg in the second half of the game.

The Vikings are the defending NFC North champs and together with the Packers, the two teams have won the division seven years in a row, with the Packers winning the title in five of those seasons.

The game on Sunday against the Vikings was also the first time Rodgers had played against Minnesota since Week 6 of last season at U.S. Bank Stadium when No. 12 fractured a collarbone. The injury occurred when he was thrown down by linebacker Anthony Barr after he had thrown the ball.

Lambeau was also the place to be for another reason. Jerry Kramer in town to receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring and to see his name unveiled on the facade at the legendary stadium.

Kramer became the 25th member of the Green Bay organization to have his name displayed on the southwest façade inside the stadium.

I had been in Canton for Kramer’s enshrinement and was invited by Jerry to sit with he and his family in his suite for the game. The Packers had arranged that Kramer and his family would be able to sit in the alumni suite, which is normally used by former Green Bay players.

Unfortunately and regrettably, I was not able to attend. But I truly appreciated the kind offer.

Joining Kramer and his family in the suite was one of No. 64’s old teammates, Donny Anderson.

You might recall a game that both Kramer and Anderson had key roles in from 50-plus years ago at frigid Lambeau Field. And unlike Sunday, when the temperature was hovering around 86 degrees, the classic game from New Year’s Eve in 1967 was about 99 degrees colder.

The organization of the Packers did a fantastic job in honoring Kramer, especially during the halftime ceremony. The website of the Packers did a very nice job in terms of filming the ceremony, taking excellent photos and also showing Kramer’s press conference with the media.

Larry McCarren was the emcee for the ceremony, plus both David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) and Mark Murphy (President & CEO of the Packers) also spoke before Kramer talked to and thanked the 78,461 people in attendance.

Jerry being honored at Lambeau

Evan Siegle, packers.com

Kramer was asked about how he felt when he saw his name displayed on the facade when he talked with the media.

“It felt like a kick in the stomach,” Kramer said. “It was a ‘oomph.’ It was a physical reaction and I wondered if I was going to faint or fall over or what I was going to do. It just lasted for an instant, but it was a noticeable shock.”

Very late in the game against the Vikings, the Packers also felt a kick in the stomach, but this one was painful. More on that later.

I had a chance to talk to Kramer today, as he was getting ready to fly out of Wisconsin and get back home to Boise, Idaho where he can relax (in his Big Chair) for a few days after a whirlwind of traveling over the past few months.

When I asked him about what he remembered most from yesterday, he said it was the response from the Green Bay faithful in the stands at Lambeau.

“It was very gratifying and also very humbling to see and hear the reaction that I received from the fans,” Kramer said. “As I was walking, section after section kept cheering for me. Old linemen like me aren’t used to that type of applause.”

Kramer talked about that dynamic at his press conference.

“It’s surreal, I think is the best way to describe it,” Kramer said. “Especially for a lineman. You know, lineman don’t do those kinds of things. Rarely do they do those kinds of things. It was a wonderful day.”

Surreal is a perfect way to describe yesterday, both in terms of honoring Kramer and also the ball game played by the Packers and Vikings.

The Packers were up 29-21 with less than two minutes to go in the game, when quarterback Kirk Cousins of the Vikings threw what looked like the game-clinching interception to Jaire Alexander.

This is when the Packers were kicked in the gut.

Clay Matthews hit on Kirk Cousins

startribune.com

You see, referee Tony Corrente decided to throw a flag. Corrente called a 15-yard penalty on outside linebacker Clay Matthews for unnecessary roughness after Matthews had tackled Cousins to the ground just as he had thrown the ball.

Matthews had used perfect form in tackling Cousins, as he didn’t hit Cousins with his helmet, leading instead with his shoulder. Plus, No. 52 didn’t hit Cousins high, as he tackled at the numbers.

But still Corrente threw the flag and gave no explanation to Matthews as to why he threw the yellow hanky.

After the game, Corrente said he penalized Matthews because he “lifted (Cousins) up and drove him into the ground.”

I don’t know what game Corrente was watching, but Matthews did not lift Cousins up and drive him into the turf at Lambeau.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Matthews said after the game. “Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within from his waist to chest, got my head across, put my hands down.”

That is exactly what Matthews did if you have looked at this play.

But still the flag was thrown and the gut was kicked.

So what should have been a 29-21 win turned into a 29-29 tie and a real nail-biter for Packer Nation in overtime.

Luckily, rookie kicker Daniel Carlson of the Vikings missed both of his field goal attempts in overtime, including a 35-yard chip shot to win the game at the end of OT.

I had a funny feeling Carlson might miss in OT, even though he was considered one of the best kickers in college football.

I saw Carlson play in the 2015 Outback Bowl when his Auburn Tigers took on the Wisconsin Badgers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The Badgers won 34-31 in overtime, as Carlson missed a game-tying field goal in OT to give Wisconsin the victory.

So although the tie against the Vikings wasn’t great and the penalty called on Matthews was a terrible call, it could have been worse. As in a loss, had Carlson made his field goal attempts.

Rodgers played courageously in the game with limited mobility, as No. 12 threw for 281 yards and threw a touchdown pass without tossing a pick. Rodgers was also sacked four times for 28 yards.

Rodgers was obviously very disappointed in the tie.

“Close to an ‘L,’ ” Rodgers said after the game. “Doesn’t feel great.”

Jerry and Aaron at Lambeau

Evan Siegle, packers.com

But was great was seeing Rodgers get with Kramer on the field after the halftime ceremony.

“Yes, Aaron came up to me and congratulated me,” Kramer told me. “He was real cordial to me and we talked for a bit. It was a real classy gesture by Aaron.”

I reminded Kramer that it was against the Vikings at County Stadium in Milwaukee in 1961, when he suffered the most serious injury of his NFL career, when he broke his leg below the knee and separated the bones in his ankle.

I also reminded Jerry that the final score 29-29, which adds up to 58. Talk about surreal or apropos.

1958 was Kramer’s first year with the Packers.  That was the year he was part of the best draft class that the Packers ever had, as three of draftees ended up getting a bust in Canton. I’m talking about Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and now Kramer.

“It’s hard to believe that was 60 years ago,” Kramer said. “But what a wonderful journey it has been over all these years.”

When I talked to Kramer shortly after he was inducted, he talked about how much he was looking forward to not only being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but also about coming back to the stadium at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay.

“Certainly the Hall of Fame itself in Canton in August and all of that,” Kramer told me back in February. “But another moment which will be awfully powerful for me is seeing my name on the facade at Lambeau Field and being honored there in front of those great fans.”

I asked Kramer to describe the events from yesterday at the field he played on from 1958 through 1968.

“It was everything I expected and more. Much, much more!”

Green Bay Packers: Why Boyd Dowler Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Boyd Dowler in Super Bowl II

When Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was finally enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last month, that meant that there are now just two players who were on the NFL 50th anniversary team who do not have a bust in Canton.

Those players just happened to be teammates of Kramer’s on the Packers as well. Those players are wide receiver Boyd Dowler and tight end Ron Kramer.

I’ll be writing a future story about Kramer, the multi-talented athlete who played at Michigan, but this piece is about No. 86, Dowler.

Dowler was on the second team of the 50th anniversary team (named in 1969) and he was joined on that squad by the likes of Sammy Baugh, Bronco Nagurski, Harold “Red” Grange, Forrest Gregg, Raymond Berry, Mike Ditka, Danny Fortman, Mel Hein, Len Ford, Ernie Stautner, Joe Schmidt, Jack Butler, Jack Christiansen and Ernie Nevers.

All but Dowler are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When Dowler retired from the NFL after the 1970 season, he was 10th in all-time receptions in the NFL and 12th in receiving yardage.

Those landmark statistical achievements for Dowler have obviously changed over the years. Especially since the rule changes after the 1977 season which has made the NFL a pass-happy league.

Rule changes like allowing defenders to make contact with receivers only to a point of five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Previously, contact was allowed anywhere on the field, unless the ball was thrown by the quarterback.

Nobody was more physical down the field with receivers than Dick “Night Train” Lane. Dowler matched up against him on several occasions while Lane was with the Detroit Lions.

The NFL also allowed offensive linemen to use extended arms and open hands after the ’77 season.

I’m sure Jerry Kramer would have appreciated having rules like that while he was blocking the likes of Merlin Olsen and Alex Karras in the 1960s.

Besides being named to the 50th anniversary team of the NFL, Dowler was named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade team.

Being named to a NFL All-Decade team usually gets a player strong consideration for getting a place in Canton.

In his 11-year career with the Packers, Dowler had 448 receptions for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns. In the postseason, Dowler also had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores.

Also, in his rookie year in 1959, Dowler was named Rookie of the Year by UPI (United Press International).

The former Colorado star was also named to two Pro Bowls in his career.

So with all the honors that Dowler received, especially being named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, as well as being named All-Decade in the 1960s, Rick Gosselin, a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and a member of the Seniors selection Committee, wonders why Dowler has not been considered for a place in Canton.

Gosselin feels the same way about Ron Kramer.

This is what Gosselin said in a Talk of Fame Sports Network podcast from back in February after Jerry Kramer was named to the Class of 2018 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Can you enshrine too many players from one franchise in the Hall of Fame? That’s the question that came up last week when those of us on the Hall of Fame selection committee enshrined the 12th member of the 1960’s Packers. That’s guard Jerry Kramer.

“That’s more than half of the starting lineup, plus the head coach from one team. A team that won five championships in a span of seven years. And went to six title games in a span of eight seasons. No team of any era, has more players in Canton than those 1960’s Packers.

“They have indeed been rewarded for their success. Should the committee now draw the line there with the Lombardi Packers? Well, ponder this. In 1969, this same Hall of Fame selection committee was commissioned to pick the greatest players in the game’s first 50 years.

“There were 45 players selected to that team. And 43 are now enshrined in Canton. Only two are not. They both played for the ’60’s Packers, split end Boyd Dowler and tight end Ron Kramer. Dowler was selected to the 1960’s All-Decade team as well and Kramer would have been had the committee selected more than one tight end.

“Yet neither of those players has ever been discussed as a finalist for the Hall of Fame. If you were chosen as one of the best players in the game’s first half-century, don’t you deserve a spin through the room as a finalist to determine if you are indeed Hall of Fame worthy.

“It took [Jerry] Kramer 45 years to get in. It took teammate Dave Robinson 34 years and Henry Jordan 21. The Hall of Fame is a process. Maybe Dowler and Ron Kramer deserve to be Hall of Famers. Maybe they don’t. But they certainly deserve a few minutes in that room to start the process and have their cases heard, regardless how many teammates have been enshrined.”

I most definitely agree with Gosselin.

Jerry and Boyd

So does No. 64, Jerry Kramer.

“Boyd was so precise and so mature his rookie year,” Kramer said. “He started taking care of business right out of the gate. He rarely dropped a pass. He would catch it over the middle, catch it on the sidelines and catch it wherever the hell you threw it. He was consistent throughout his career.”

Plus, Dowler was very confident and also very smart from Kramer’s perspective.

“I think Boyd’s confidence was one of the big reasons why he was accepted so quickly and completely,” Kramer said. “There were no excuses from Boyd. If he screwed something up, he would be the guy to tell you. But he very seldom screwed things up and made very few mistakes.”

Dowler was one of only three rookies on the Packers to ever start for Vince Lombardi. The others were center Ken Bowman in 1964 and center Bob Hyland in 1967.

Dowler’s career in the NFL matches up very well with Lynn Swann of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who played on a team which won four Super Bowls in six years.

Dowler can relate to that, as he played on a Green Bay team which won five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. Plus, Dowler was part of the only team in NFL history, at least in the playoff era, to win three straight NFL championships.

Dowler brought that comparison up to me during one of our conversations.

“Probably the most significant statistic that I can come up with in my career was the fact that I caught five touchdown passes in championship games,” Dowler said. “The guy who sticks out to me who is sort of similar as far as statistics are concerned is Lynn Swann. He probably got inducted because of his play in playoff or championship games.”

In terms of regular season numbers in his career, Dowler had 448 catches for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns, while Swann had 336 catches for 5,462 and 51 touchdowns.

In the postseason, Dowler had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores in 10 games. One of those games was Super Bowl I, when No. 86 missed almost the entire game due to a shoulder injury.

After that injury, Dowler was replaced by Max McGee, who went on to have the best game of his career, as he had seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, as quarterback Bart Starr looked for No. 85 early and often in the first Super Bowl.

Swann had 48 catches for 907 yards and nine touchdowns in 16 postseason games.

So if you compare the two, Dowler and Swann each caught three passes per game in the postseason. Plus, each caught a touchdown pass in every other playoff game they played in.

The only real difference between the two is that Swann is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Dowler is not.

The best postseason Dowler had was after the 1967 season.

“The highlight for me was the two touchdown catches in the “Ice Bowl” and I got another score in the Super Bowl, the second Super Bowl,” Dowler said.

“I always seemed to come up with something against Dallas. I always seemed to come up with big plays against the Cowboys. I can’t really explain why. We just kind of operated that way.

“We never went into a game thinking that I was going to get the ball a lot this week. We just never did that. We just went along and Bart ran plays on how the game developed. We didn’t game-plan those things or that I was going to catch two scores in the “Ice Bowl” game.”

The second touchdown pass that Dowler caught in the “Ice Bowl”, was one of the favorite calls for Starr throughout his years in Green Bay. It was third and short and on a play-action fake, Starr hit Dowler on 43-yard post pattern.

Boyd Dowler scores TD in Ice Bowl

Dowler talked about the way Starr liked to use play-action on third and short and also about that particular play.

“It almost always worked,” Dowler said, talking about the play-action calls by Starr. “On the long touchdown pass from Bart in the “Ice Bowl”, I kind of went, ‘oh oh’, because he was throwing into the wind. But I was pretty sure I could get to it and the wind held it up just a little.

“On that play, I was a little bit off the line like I was going to block and my eyes met Mel Renfro about the time we got even. He was still facing the line of scrimmage and I was pretty sure I could get by him, even though he was pretty fast, as he was a world-class sprinter. Renfro was an awful good football player and had a lot of speed, but it was the play-call that got me open.”

Bottom line, in the 1967 postseason, Dowler caught nine passes for 183 yards (20.3 yards-per-catch average) and three touchdowns.

When I mentioned to Gosselin that I would be writing a series of articles about former Green Bay players who deserve consideration in terms of having a bust in Canton, he made sure that I mentioned Dowler, Ron Kramer and Gale Gillingham.

None of those players have received their due in terms of being considered for a place among the best of the best in Canton.

That doesn’t bother Dowler though.

“I don’t really have a problem with that,” Dowler said. “I’m real happy with the fact that we won five world championships. I never thought throughout my career or since, that I’ve never been nominated. It really doesn’t surprise me. And it doesn’t upset me.

“That’s just the way it is and that’s the way our team was put together. I was happy that they kept putting out there in the huddle for 11 years.”

But something might soon change for players like Dowler. Gosselin has put out his  “amnesty proposal” which will allow several seniors to get inducted in the 100th anniversary of the NFL, as opposed to the one or two per year as it stands now. That proposal is strongly being considered by David Baker, the President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When I talked to Gosselin in Canton when Kramer was being enshrined on August 4, he told me that he believes he can get 10 seniors in on the centennial anniversary of the NFL.

Perhaps one of those players might be Dowler.

“If a guy [Rick Gosselin] is going to take the ball and run with it for a bunch of old guys for the 100th year of the NFL, that’s fine by me,” Dowler said. “If he wants to put me in that mix, I’m all for it. I’m not going to discourage him from doing that. I think that’s a great idea.”

The New Mexico Lobos vs. the Wisconsin Badgers: Kevin Cosgrove Comes Home

 

CossyThe game between the New Mexico Lobos and the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for Kevin Cosgrove.

Cosgrove is currently the defensive coordinator for the Lobos, but he also spent 14 years (1990 through 2003) on the coaching staff under Barry Alvarez, where he was initially a linebackers coach before becoming defensive coordinator in 1995.

I was at the very first game Cosgrove became the D-coordinator. It was in the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl at Tampa Stadium.

Cos and I were good buddies at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh back in the day, plus I lived in the Tampa Bay area. It was a given that I would be at the game between the Badgers and the Duke Blue Devils.

Because of my friendship with Cosgrove, I was able to see the Badgers work out at Tampa Stadium in practice a day before the game. Then for the actual game, a couple of buddies and myself sat next to the coaches wives, which included Cosgrove’s wife Shelly.

The Badgers won the game 34-20. It was after the game in which I had one of the fondest memories I have ever had. We went to the Westin Tampa Harbour Island (where the Badgers stayed) after the game.

I distinctly remember smoking a victory cigar with a number of the coaches (including Alvarez and Cosgrove) overlooking the Hillsborough River from the balcony.

Before Alvarez and his initial coaching staff came to Wisconsin, the Badgers were 1-5 in bowl games, plus the football program was on a downward slide.

When I talked to Cosgrove about the state of the program then, he heaped praise on Alvarez on what he was able to accomplish, as Barry built a program that won 118 games in his 16-year tenure.

“Just seeing where the program was when he took over. Attendance was down. Interest in the Badgers was nil,” Cosgrove said. “I think the Badgers averaged 30,000 fans a game the year before we got there. But we gradually pumped it up until it became sell out after sell out. But naturally that first Rose Bowl (in 1994) was something special. The thrill of getting there, when you consider all the things we had to do to build that program.”

The Badgers are currently 15-14 in Bowl games in their history and are one of the best football programs in the country under head coach Paul Chryst, as Alvarez is now the athletic director. But the ongoing success of the program goes back to the job Alvarez and his coaching staff did in the 1990s.

The Badgers won back to back Rose Bowls in 1999 and 2000 when Cosgrove was the defensive coordinator. The defenses that Cos coached those two years were a big reason why.

In 1998, the Badgers were ranked fourth in the nation in total defense and first in scoring defense. In 1999, they were ranked 15th in the country in total defense and fifth in scoring defense.

In 2002 and 2003, Cosgrove coached current Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard when he played for the Badgers at safety. Leonhard had a combined 18 interceptions those two seasons, plus was named All-Big Ten and All-American both years.

After Cosgrove left Wisconsin after the 2003 season (the Badgers were 6-2 in bowl games under Alvarez at that point), he has been defensive coordinator at Nebraska, Minnesota, Akron and now New Mexico.

The New Mexico football program has been resuscitated under head coach Bob Davie, much like the Wisconsin football program was under Alvarez and his initial coaching staff which included Cosgrove.

In 2015, the Lobos went to their first bowl game since 2007. The Lobos went 7-6 that season and then went 9-4 in 2006 before winning the New Mexico Bowl.

New Mexico had a tough year in 2017 (3-9), but are off to a 1-0 start in 2018 as they get ready to face the Badgers. The Lobos have added a number of top football programs to their schedule in the future, which also includes Notre Dame (2019), USC (2020), Texas A&M (2021) and LSU (2022).

I talked to NFL scout Chris Landry about the New Mexico football program and he was impressed with the job Cosgrove has done.

Cos at New Mexico

“It’s a good program,” Landry said. “They’ve done a good job. Kevin is an outstanding coach.”

Indeed, Cosgrove is an outstanding coach and that’s why Alvarez hired him in 1990 and kept him on for 14 years, which includes nine years as defensive coordinator.

Now Cos gets to coach for the opposing team at Camp Randall for just the second time since he left Wisconsin. The first time was in 2010 when he was the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Gophers lost 41-23 that day, mostly because the talent on Wisconsin far outweighed that of Minnesota.

New Mexico also can’t match the talent level of the Badgers, but you can count on one thing for sure.

Cosgrove will have his defense ready to play against an offense which put up 491 yards against Western Kentucky last week.

That might not add up to a victory, but it will be yet another step forward in building up the football program at New Mexico.

The Green Bay Packers and Jerry Kramer Have a Couple of Big Weekends Upcoming

Jerry in 2017 at Alumni Day

Both the Green Bay Packers and Jerry Kramer have a couple of big weekends coming up.

The Packers are preparing to open their 2018 NFL season (the 100th anniversary of the Packers being formed) on Sunday night at Lambeau Field versus the Chicago Bears and their newly acquired pass rusher Khalil Mack.

The following week the Pack will host the defending NFC North champions, the Minnesota Vikings.

The upcoming game against da Bears also marks the annual alumni weekend, as Kramer and many of his former teammates, as well as other former Green Bay players will be on hand.

And when the Packers play the Vikings the following week at Lambeau, Kramer will receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade, along with the other 24 Packers enshrined in Canton.

The Packers and Bears have been playing each other since 1921 when the NFL was called the American Professional Football Association. When Green Bay defeated Chicago 35-14 last September at Lambeau Field, that victory put the Packers ahead in the series against their long-time rivals for the first time in 85 years.

The series now stands with the Packers holding an edge with a 95-93-6 mark. Kramer knows all about this heated rivalry, as No. 64 talked about that story line in a piece I wrote a couple of years ago.

It was an era when Vince Lombardi coached the Packers and George Halas coached the Bears. In the nine years that the two coached against each other, the Packers held a 13-5 edge in the series.

During that period, the Packers won five NFL titles in seven years under Lombardi, which included three NFL championships in a row (which has never been duplicated in the playoff era of the NFL), as well as winning the first two Super Bowl games.

Da Bears won the 1963 NFL title under Halas.

Lombardi was always primed to play the Bears and he let his team know about as well.

“We were practicing on day before playing the Bears and Coach Lombardi brought us together,” Kramer said. “Coach said, ‘You guys go out and kick the Bears’ ass. And I’ll go out and kick old man Halas’ ass too.’

One of Kramer’s teammates who will be at the alumni weekend get-together is Zeke Bratkowski. The former Georgia Bulldog was the backup to Bart Starr for the Packers in the 1960s, but he started his NFL career with the Bears in the 1950s.

Bratkowski had the honor of playing under both Halas and Lombardi and Zeke talked about that scenario in a story I wrote last summer.

Besides Kramer and Bratkowski, there will be several other former Packers who played under Lombardi at the alumni function this weekend. The list includes Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Boyd Dowler, Dave Robinson, Marv Fleming, Doug Hart, Don Horn, Carroll Dale and Donny Anderson.

Dale and Anderson are the featured alumni this weekend and they will be signing autographs and visiting with fans on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 11 to noon in the Lambeau Field Atrium.

Other former Packers who are expected to attend are LeRoy Butler, John Brockington, Lynn Dickey, Paul Coffman, Jan Stenerud, Johnnie Gray, Ezra Johnson, Mark Lee, Al Matthews, Karl Swanke, David Whitehurst, Gerry Ellis, Gary Ellerson, Tiger Greene, Ron Hallstrom, Perry Kemp, Don Majkowski, Ron Pitts, Blaise Winter, Vince Workman, Don Beebe, Bucky Brooks, Mark Chmura, Earl Dotson, William Henderson, Ryan Longwell, Bryce Paup, Bill Schroeder, Frank Winters, Nick Barnett, Kevin Barry, Colin Cole, Brad Jones, Aaron Kampman, Buddy Aydelette, Craig Nall and Jason Spitz.

At halftime on Sunday night, the Packers will be introducing all of those players.

I talked to Kramer earlier this week and he talked about how great it is to see his former teammates. Plus, this will be the first time he has seen most of them since he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jerry with his Gold Jacket hugging his bust.

“It’s always great seeing the fellas,” Kramer said. “But I’m going to bust my ass to make sure that they know I haven’t changed. I want to show that I’m the same guy I have always been the past 40 years.”

From my perspective, having known Kramer for several years now, I can honestly say that Jerry has not changed one iota since he was inducted among the best of the best in Canton.

The game itself will be a big test for the Packers against the Bears, who are definitely a team on the rise. Chicago added a defensive force with the addition of Mack.

Mack and company will be trying to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, which will not be an easy task, based on the way Rodgers has historically played versus Chicago.

In his career against da Bears, Rodgers is 15-4 in the regular season. In those 19 games, No. 12 has thrown 42 touchdown passes, compared to just nine interceptions for 4,596 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 107.2.

Rodgers and the Packers also beat the Bears 21-14 in the 2010 NFC title game at Soldier Field.

The defense of the Packers, which is now headed by new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, will be trying to force some mistakes by second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

When the Packers go up against the Vikings, Rodgers will definitely keep his eye peeled for linebacker Anthony Barr, as it was Barr who broke the collarbone of Rodgers last season when he took No. 12 down hard to the ground after Rodgers had thrown the ball.

And as good as Rodgers is against the Bears, he is almost equally as good against the Vikings historically. In 19 regular season games, Rodgers is 12-7 against the Vikes, plus has thrown 39 touchdown passes compared to just six picks for 4,571 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 111.7.

And like he did against da Bears, Rodgers has defeated the Vikings in the postseason as well, as the Green Bay beat Minnesota 24-10 in a 2012 NFC Wild Card game at Lambeau Field.

I like Rodgers and the Packers to go 2-0 after their games against da Bears and the Vikings.

Aaron Rodgers 2018.jpg

At halftime of the Vikings game, Kramer will have his cherry on top of the sundae moment, as he receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade at Lambeau Field in front of the great fans he played in front of for 11 seasons.

Kramer will see his name unveiled along side of the coach who made this all possible, Lombardi, along with several of his Hall of Fame teammates, which include Taylor, Starr, Hornung, Robinson, Forrest Gregg,  Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Willie Wood and Henry Jordan.

“That is going to awesome,” Kramer said. “I’ll never forget the reaction of Jim Ringo when he saw his name on the facade. It was back in 1984, when I was writing Distant Replay with Dick Schaap. We had an alumni get-together at Lambeau and Ringo was there.

“A bunch of us went to Fuzzy’s [Thurston] bar, Shenanigans. Then at the game, we were introduced and had some photos taken of us. Jim was a little unsteady at the time and I helped him down the ramp heading to the field before we were introduced.

“We got about three-quarters down the ramp and then Jim saw his name on the facade. And Jim goes, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!’ He just kept repeating that over and over. Jim was just stunned and awestruck by that honor.

“I have a feeling that I’ll have similar emotions.”

Green Bay Packers: Why Gale Gillingham Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Gale Gillingham II

The Green Bay Packers were very fortunate to have two of the best guards in the NFL from 1959 through 1966 when left guard Fuzzy Thurston and right guard Jerry Kramer were a dominant blocking duo.

Especially on the signature play of the Packers and their head coach Vince Lombardi, the power sweep.

Both Kramer and Thurston were honored due to their outstanding play. Back in the day when No. 64 and No. 63 played, awards were given out by a number of media outlets. This included The Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) and The New York Daily News (NY).

Kramer was named first-team All-Pro at right guard in 1960 (AP), 1962 (AP, NEA and UPI), 1963 (AP, NEA, UPI and NY), 1966 (AP, UPI, FW and NY) and 1967 (AP, UPI and NY), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1961 (NY) and 1968 (AP).

Thurston was first-team All-Pro at left guard in both 1961 (AP, UPI, NEA and NY) and 1962 (UPI), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1963 (UPI), 1964 (NY) and 1966 (NY).

That’s a combined 12 All-Pro honors. Seven for Kramer and five for Thurston.

But even with the award-winning play, Kramer only went to three Pro Bowls, while Thurston never went to a single one. That seems quite odd and perplexing to me.

Kramer was also honored by being put on the 1960s All-Decade team, plus was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team (the only guard on the first team).

That all led to Kramer being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

The Packers were also very fortunate that they had another talented guard available to take Thurston’s place when No. 63 injured a knee in training camp in 1967.

That player was Gale Gillingham, who was a second-year player out of the University of Minnesota. Gillingham, along with fullback Jim Grabowski, were taken in the first round of the 1966 NFL draft.

Those two rookies played a big role in the 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl when the Packers faced the Dallas Cowboys. After the Packers had grabbed a 7-0 lead after scoring on the opening drive, on the ensuing kickoff, Gillingham forced a fumble by Mel Renfro, which was recovered by Grabowski and returned 18 yards for another touchdown.

After Thurston’s knee injury in training camp in 1967, Kramer soon learned that he was not going to be the fastest offensive lineman on the Packers any more.

“After we did some sprints for awhile, I told Forrest Gregg to forget about trying to beat Gilly,” Kramer said. “The kid could really move, plus he was strong as an ox.”

It was soon apparent that Gillingham was not going to relinquish the left guard spot that was held by Thurston for so many years.

Did Thurston sulk about that situation? Hell no.

“Fuzzy sat besides Gilly for the rest of the ’67 season, ” Kramer said. “He coached Gilly. They sat together in every film session. Fuzzy gave him the benefit of everything he had learned about the defensive tackle that Gilly would be facing that given week.

“Fuzzy told Gilly what he liked to do against that tackle and told Gilly that he should think about doing the same thing. Basically, Fuzzy was Gilly’s personal coach.”

Gilly had a nice season in 1967, as the Packers won their third straight NFL championship, plus won their second straight Super Bowl as well.

That team overcame a lot to become champions. The Packers did not have either fullback Jim Taylor or halfback Paul Hornung in in 1967. Add to that, their replacements, Grabowski and Elijah Pitts, were both lost for the year due to injuries midway through the season.

Even with that, the Packers still finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967. The play of No. 68 certainly helped that situation.

The 1967 season was also the last year Vince Lombardi coached the Packers.

Gilly blocks Dick Butkus

It was also the last time Gillingham would play for a head coach in Green Bay  with a winning record.

Gilly played eight more years in Green Bay, and only twice did he play on a winning team. That happened in 1969 (8-6) and 1972 (10-4). No. 68 missed most of the 1972 season because of a knee injury. More on that scenario later in the story.

While all that losing was going on, Gillingham still played at an elite level. Just like the era when Kramer and Thurston played in, there were multiple media outlets in which awards were given to positional players in the NFL.

Gilly racked in a lot of hardware from those outlets.

Gillingham was named first-team All-Pro in 1969 (AP and NEA), 1970 (AP and NEA), 1971 (NEA), 1973 (Pro Football Writers) and 1974 (NEA).

Gilly was also named second-team in 1968 (NEA and UPI), 1969 (Hall of Fame, NY and UPI), 1970 (Pro Football Writers) and 1971 (Pro Football Writers).

If you add those numbers up, that’s five first-team All-Pro designations for Gillingham, as well as four second-team All-Pro honors. That’s a total of nine.

There should have been more. You may have noticed that Gilly did not get any awards after the 1972 season, which was No. 68’s second under Dan Devine.

Gillingham was considered one of the best right guards in the NFL going into the 1972 season. He had been named All-Pro four straight years, plus had gone to three straight Pro Bowls (went to five overall).

It was at this point that Devine made one of the most mind-boggling decisions ever in the head coaching history of the Packers. He decided to move Gillingham to defensive tackle. Huh?

Now Gillingham had played some defensive tackle at the University of Minnesota, but he was also a truly elite right guard in the NFL at the time of Devine’s decision. That determination by Devine made no sense to me. Then and now.

Plus, just two games into the season, No. 68 hurt his knee and was lost for the season.

I talked to Kramer about Devine’s decision to move Gilly to defense. No 64. was pretty blunt in his assessment.

“That was stupid,” Kramer said. “That really was a stupid move. That’s the only thing I can say about that. It just boggles your mind taking a kid of that caliber and quality and then move him to a whole new position. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Plus, there is this. That season the Packers were lead by second-year quarterback Scott Hunter. Because of that, the team would have to to depend on the running game to be successful on offense.

John Brockington and MacArthur Lane combined for almost 2,000 years rushing that season, but just imagine their amount of success with Gillingham at right guard. In fact, the Packers were ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing in 1972. If Gilly was playing right guard as he should have been, I could see the Packers being in the top five in rushing, maybe even top three.

Devine came to his senses in 1973 and put Gillingham back at right guard, where he again accumulated awards.

But the losing and the coaching decisions began to wear on Gillingham.

Gillingham talked about that situation in an article written by Martin Hendricks of Packer Plus in August of 2011.

“I had no faith in the line coach and didn’t fit into the system,” Gillingham said. said. “I wanted to be traded.”

No. 68 was talking about the 1975 season in which he sat out the season due to differences with offensive line coach Leon McLaughlin.

Plus, there was the losing.

“The losing killed me,” said Gillingham. “I was burned out and beat up both mentally and physically.”

Tragically, just a few months after the article in Packer Plus was written, Gillingham died of a heart attack at his home in Minnesota while lifting weights. Gilly was just 67 years-old.

Gillingham was inducted in the Packers Hall of Fame in 1982.

IMAG0569

I believe Gillingham belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well. Had not Devine moved Gilly to defense in 1972, I’m sure Gilly would have put together another All-Pro season at right guard.

He also could have experienced winning again first hand, not to mention leading a dominant ground game.

I also believe that Gilly would have had a very good chance to be on the 1970s All-Decade team at guard had he been able to play there in 1972.

Being a member of an All-Decade team usually leads to a bust in Canton in most cases.

Rick Gosselin, who is a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and who also heads the Seniors Selection Committee, sent a note to me a couple weeks back about who to include in my series of articles about other worthy individuals on the Packers who deserve placement in Canton.

Gosselin told me to make sure that Ron Kramer, Boyd Dowler and Gillingham were included in my articles.

Gosselin has put forward an amnesty proposal to David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) to implement on the 100th anniversary of the NFL.

The proposal calls for at least 10 deserving seniors to be inducted on the centennial of the league. Based on my recent discussion with Gosselin, it sounds like he will be able to get 10 seniors in.

That would be awesome news!

As would hearing that Gale Gillingham would be among those ten great NFL players who will finally get their due in Canton.