The saga about Jerry Kramer not being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is starting to sound like a broken record.
The former great Green Bay Packers star was once again shunned by the Senior Selection Committee of the Hall of Fame yesterday, as the committee instead nominated Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel as their two senior nominees for possible induction into Canton.
Let me be clear, both Stabler and Stanfel are deserving of being nominated, but neither deserves the honor more than Gerald Louis Kramer.
Yes, I also know that both Stabler and Stanfel passed away recently and I’m sure that played a sentimental role in the voting process.
It should also be noted that Stanfel was named as a senior nominee as recently as 2012, but he did not get the final votes necessary for induction.
All you have to do is just look at the pro football resumé that Kramer has put out and compare it to Stabler and Stanfel, as well as the other recent senior nominees for the past few years.
There is absolutely no doubt that Kramer deserves to be in Canton more than any other senior candidate.
Listen, I know the seniors committee has a tough job. There are a number of well deserving senior candidates that the committee has to look at each year. The list starts at 90 players, then is whittled down to 15. After that, the committee has to finally choose just two nominees (and only one senior nominee in 2016).
Some NFL teams have never had a player from their franchise ever get nominated by the seniors committee.
One of the things I keep hearing is that Kramer has already been a finalist 10 times. That being said, nine of those 10 times occurred between a period of 1974 and 1987.
Among the current voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, how many were voters during that time frame? Few, if any, in my estimation.
So, why didn’t Kramer get in the Hall of Fame in the 1970s or 80s? That’s hard to figure out. Just the fact that he was a Hall of Fame finalist nine times tells you that he was a tremendous player.
There may have been some voters at the time who had a vendetta or grudge against Kramer for some reason. Why? I have no idea. I certainly hope that wasn’t the case.
Just look at Kramer’s career with the Packers. No. 64 was a five-time All-Pro and named to three Pro Bowls. He was also on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.
Jerry was also a member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team in 1969. Kramer is the only member of the first team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Kramer was also on five Green Bay Packer teams which won NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowls, under head coach Vince Lombardi. The Packers won it all in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967.
Kramer was a big contributor to those title teams, especially at crunch time in the postseason.
As I noted in a recent story about why Kramer is deserving of getting a bust in Canton, No. 64 had some of his best moments on the championship stage;
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.
When one looks back on the great success of the Lombardi Packers of the 1960s, there are two things about that era which are pretty obvious.
The power sweep was the signature play for the Packers under Lombardi. Plus, Starr’s quarterback sneak with just seconds remaining in the “Ice Bowl”, had to be the signature moment of the Lombardi legacy.
Jerry Kramer played a huge role in both of those instances.
Kramer was also a senior nominee back in 1997, but he didn’t get the votes necessary to be inducted by all the voters. But that was 18 years ago.
At any rate, it’s very perplexing as to why Kramer is not in Canton. Not just to people like myself, but to Kramer’s peers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Randy Simon has put together a great book that shows how many players now enshrined in Canton believe Jerry should be there too.
All of the endorsements are great, which includes players like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Bob Lilly, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.
All of these Hall of Famers were Kramer’s contemporaries.
But the biggest endorsement Kramer ever received was by a player Kramer fought with in the trenches on a number of occasions. I’m speaking of Merlin Olsen of the Los Angeles Rams.
Olsen is considered by many to be the best defensive tackle of all time. 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.
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.”
Still, Kramer continues to wait for his rightful enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Why? Again, it’s hard to determine. I know for a fact that both Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News and Ron Borges of the Boston Herald are big advocates of Kramer getting into the Hall, and both are on the Senior Select Committee.
But what about the other members of that committee? That is a question which I hope to get answered over the next few months.
I plan to reach out to Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, John Czarnecki of FoxSports.com, Ira Miller of The Sports Xchange, Jeff Legwold of ESPN/ESPN.com and Frank Cooney of The Sports Xchange. I want to find out where they stand regarding Kramer’s Hall of Fame status.
Jerry Kramer will turn 80 years-old in January of 2016. Kramer has waited far too long for an honor which he should have received decades ago.
The seniors committee has had a chance to right a wrong for a number of years now. They still haven’t.
Gosselin himself recently wrote this in one of his chats with his readers, “I think Jerry Kramer is the biggest oversight in Canton — if only for the fact that the Hall of Fame selection committee voted him the best guard in the first 50 years of the NFL. Yet he’s gone before that committee something like 10 times and can’t get the votes for induction. It becomes a credibility issue. If you’re going to tell us a player is the best at his position in the first 50 years of the game then not stand behind that selection when it comes time to hand out busts…why even pick an all-half century team?”
I couldn’t have said it better, Rick.