Around the third week of August, the Senior Selection Committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be naming their two senior nominees for the Class of 2016.
It’s my contention, as well as many others, that Jerry Kramer should definitely be one of those two nominees. In fact, I believe Kramer should have been inducted into Canton many, many years ago.
Why? First, when Kramer played right guard and also kicked at times for the Packers, the team won five NFL titles in seven years (including the first two Super Bowls) under head coach Vince Lombardi.
Kramer played a large role in that success, as he was a five-time AP first-team All-Pro at right guard, plus was also named to three Pro Bowls. No. 64 would have had more honors, except that he missed part of the 1961 season due to a broken ankle and missed most of the 1964 season because of an intestinal illness.
In addition to that, Kramer was named to the first team for the All-Decade team in the 1960s.
The icing on the cake for Kramer was when he was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team. He is the only member of that squad who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When the lights were the brightest, as in NFL championship games, Kramer really stood out.
In the 1962 NFL Championship Game versus the New York Giants at cold and windy Yankee Stadium, Jerry doubled as a right guard and as placekicker. Jerry booted three field goals on a very difficult day to kick, as some wind gusts were over 40 mph during the contest.
Kramer scored 10 points in the 16-7 victory for the Packers, plus helped lead the way for fullback Jimmy Taylor to gain 85 yards rushing and also score the lone Green Bay touchdown. As a team, the Packers gained 148 yards rushing that day.
In the 1965 NFL Championship Game versus the Cleveland Browns at snowy and muddy Lambeau Field, Kramer and his teammates on the offensive line had a sensational day.
The Packers rushed for 204 yards behind Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung, as the Pack won 23-12. The power sweep was especially effective, as Kramer and fellow guard Fuzzy Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs, mowing down defenders so the Packers gained big chunks of yardage on the ground.
Hornung scored the last touchdown of the game on one of those power sweeps. Kramer pulled left and first blocked the middle linebacker and then a cornerback as the “Golden Boy” found the end zone.
In the 1967 NFL Championship Game (better known as the “Ice Bowl”) versus the Dallas Cowboys at frigid Lambeau Field, Kramer made the most famous block in the history of the NFL.
The playing surface that day was truly a frozen tundra, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero.
In the closing moments of the game, down by a score of 17-14, the Packers had to drive 68 yards down the frozen field to either tie or win the game.
It all came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. The Packers could have kicked a field goal at that point to tie the game at 17-17.
But coach Lombardi decided to go for the win. If the Packers run the ball and are stopped short of the end zone, the game is over.
Starr called a 31-wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, Starr decided to keep the ball after conferring with Lombardi on the sideline about the play.
Starr thought it would be better to try to get into the end zone himself due to the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line. He followed Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh and found a hole behind No. 64 to score the winning touchdown.
Kramer talked about why that play was even called.
“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’
The result? The Packers had won their third straight NFL title, a feat that has never been duplicated in modern NFL history.
The signature play for the Packers under Lombardi was the power sweep. The signature moment for the Packers under Lombardi was Starr’s quarterback sneak in the “Ice Bowl.” Kramer was a huge component in both of those legendary instances.
Plus there are all the testimonials Kramer has received from several peers of his who are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Randy Simon put together a great slideshow to illustrate that.
The list includes several players who played with and against Kramer in the era in which he played. The list includes Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Merlin Olsen, Bob Lilly, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Bob St. Clair, Joe Schmidt, Gino Marchetti, John Mackey, Mike Ditka, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Chris Hanburger, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Lem Barney and Tommy McDonald.
The biggest endorsement Kramer ever received had to come from Olsen. No. 74 is considered by many to be the best defensive tackle in NFL history.
Olsen went to 14 Pro Bowls, which is the all-time NFL record shared by Bruce Matthews, the uncle of Clay Matthews of the Packers. Olsen was named AP All-Pro nine times in his career as well.
Olsen and Kramer battled each other in the trenches on many occasions, when the Rams took on the Packers.
In his endorsement of Kramer to the Hall, Olsen says:
“There is no question in my mind that Jerry Kramer has Hall of Fame credentials. Respect is given grudgingly in the trenches of the NFL and Jerry has earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons.
Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame and I hope you will put this process in motion by including his name on the ballot for this coming year.”
To me, there is absolutely no doubt that Kramer not only belongs in Canton, but he should have been able to enjoy that honor decades ago, like when teammates such as Taylor (1976), Starr (1977), Gregg (1977) and Nitschke (1978) were inducted.
Up until the time the senior nominees are announced in August, I am going to write a series of articles in which Kramer will talk about his teammates who have already been given busts in Canton, as well as the man who was responsible for all of that success. That man would be the coach who has the Super Bowl trophy named after him.
Vincent Thomas Lombardi.