A Scout’s Take on the Addition of OLB Ahmad Brooks by the Green Bay Packers

Ahmad Brooks sacking Aaron Rodgers

The Green Bay Packers addressed a depth problem at outside linebacker on Wednesday, as they signed Ahmad Brooks, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners cut Brooks last week, which gave the Packers a chance to add some sorely needed help at the outside linebacker position.

Injuries have been piling up at the OLB position, as Clay Matthews suffered a groin injury against the Denver Broncos last weekend in Green Bay’s third preseason game, plus Nick Perry suffered an ankle injury the week before playing against the Washington Redskins.

Head coach Mike McCarthy indicated to the media that both Matthews and Perry should be ready to go in the season opener versus the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field on September 10.

Still, there is cause for concern, as the team expects the brunt of the pass pressure on opposing quarterbacks to come from Matthews and Perry, who both have had been somewhat injury prone in the respective careers.

In the past five seasons, Matthews has missed 13 games due to a variety of injuries, while Perry has never played in all 16 games in any given season in his career and has missed 20 games in his five years in Green Bay.

Matthews has 72.5 sacks in his eight-year career in Green Bay, but only has 11.5 sacks the past two seasons combined. It’s important to note however, that No. 52 was used mostly as an inside linebacker in 2015, plus also started three games there again last season.

Perry had a career year in 2016, as he had 11 sacks, which is almost as many sacks (12.5) as No. 53 had in the four previous seasons.

In 2016, Matthews and Perry were joined in the outside linebacker rotation by Julius Peppers and Datone Jones. Both Peppers and Jones left the Packers via free agency this past offseason, so the Packers were hoping that both Kyler Fackrell and Jayrone Elliott would step up their play in 2017.

In addition, the Packers also drafted Vince Biegel of Wisconsin in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft.

Fackrell has been sort of a non-factor so far in his development, while Elliott has been hampered by a back injury.

Biegel has not been cleared to practice yet due to having foot surgery back in May and will most likely start the season on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list.

That made the signing of someone with the background of Brooks somewhat imperative. The 6’3″, 255-pound Brooks was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2006, but was waived in his second year and picked up by the 49ers. It was in San Fransisco where the career of Brooks blossomed.

In eight years with the 49ers, playing OLB in a 3-4 front like the Packers use, Brooks had 370 total tackles, 53.5 sacks, three interceptions (one for a touchdown), 12 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Brooks was also named to the Pro Bowl squad in 2013, plus was named second-team All-Pro in 2012 and 2013.

Ahmad Brooks sacking Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau

I wanted to get the take on the addition of Brooks by the Packers from one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry.

I had another opportunity to talk with Landry shortly after the Packers signed Brooks on Wednesday, on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

“Ahmad Brooks has not played real well for the Niners,” Landry said. “He is someone who I expected to get another chance, as they [49ers] are getting a little younger there.

“We’ll see if Green Bay can get something out of him. Situationally on a better team, it makes more sense. They [49ers] were rebuilding and he really wasn’t all that thrilled with being a kind of guy who was going to lead a bunch of young guys in San Francisco.

“So we’ll see if it will work out. I would temper my enthusiasm. Other than getting him spot play, which he can be very effective in doing, his play has regressed quite a bit.”

The Packers plan to utilize Brooks in just the way Landry believes he will be effective. That is getting him on the field on a situational basis.

Before the Packers signed Brooks and he was just in for a visit, associate head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss said this about the possibility of Brooks playing for the Packers.

“He can do everything that we would ask him to do in our scheme,” Moss said. “He can play to the tight end side, he can play to the open-end side. He can play the outside linebacker, he can play the elephant. If he were to be placed on our roster – however that decision goes down – he could come right in and fit right in.”

Time will tell how things will work out with the 33 year-old Brooks playing for the Pack. Green Bay signed Peppers when he was 34 years-old and got three productive seasons (25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions for touchdowns) out of him.

No matter what happens with Brooks, the Packers still need to get some production from Fackrell, Elliott and Biegel at some point during the 2017 season.

But at least the team now has a solid veteran who has only had less than six sacks in a season once in his career in San Francisco. That was when Brooks had five in 2010. Other than that, Brooks has always had at least six sacks per season in eight years with the Niners.

Brooks also plays the run well, which is also an important asset to have at OLB.

Bottom line, expect Brooks to be part of a four-man rotation at OLB in 2017 for the Packers, along with Matthews, Perry and Fackrell. Matthews and Perry will get the bulk of the snaps. If Fackrell doesn’t step up his play, Elliott will get his shot in the rotation, plus Biegel will get his opportunity as well once he is cleared to play.

Jerry Kramer’s Nomination for the Pro Football Hall of Fame: ‘A Wonderful Honor’

Vince and Jerry after Super Bowl II

The moment that so many people had been waiting for actually happened on Thursday afternoon, August 24. Yes, right guard Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was nominated by the Seniors Selection Committee for possible induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Besides Kramer, linebacker Robert Brazile of the Houston Oilers was also nominated as a senior candidate. On Friday, former Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard was named as a contributor nominee.

Kramer, Brazile and Beathard immediately became finalists for enshrinement in Canton. The modern group of finalists is yet to be determined. The entire group will be voted on by the 48 members of the entire Selection Committee of the Hall of Fame on February 3, the day before Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.

This process has been a long road for Kramer, who is now a finalist for the 11th time, but only the second time as a senior candidate.

I tried to lay out the reasons why Kramer deserved to be a senior nominee this year in a recent story, as I wrote a presentation piece as to why No. 64 should be one of the two senior candidates.

Here is part of what I wrote:

In 1969, Jerry was named the best player ever at the guard position in the first 50 years of the NFL, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame named their NFL 50th anniversary team.

The first team consisted of Jim Thorpe, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, John Mackey, Chuck Bednarik, Gino Marchetti, Leo Nomellini, Ray Nitschke, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Emlen Tunnell, Lou Groza and Kramer.

Every one of the members on that legendary team are now enshrined as players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All except one. That would be Mr. Kramer.

Plus, let’s not forget that Kramer was also named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

Looking back on the players who were named First-Team All-Decade through the year 2000, there were 145 players who were given that designation.

And up until now, 134 of those players have been inducted into the hallowed halls in Canton.

Kramer is one of those 11 First-Team All-Decade players who have yet to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Now looking back on Kramer’s career with the Packers, No. 64 was a six-time AP All-Pro and was also named to three Pro Bowls for the Packers. Kramer would have had even more honors if not for injuries and illness. Kramer missed half of the 1961 season due to a broken ankle and almost all of the 1964 season due to an intestinal ailment which took nine operations to resolve.

Kramer also played a large role in the success that the Packers had under head coach Vince Lombardi in the postseason. The Packers were 9-1 under Lombardi in the postseason, which included five NFL championships in seven years. That included victories in the first two Super Bowls.

Kramer was a huge component in the NFL title victories in 1962, 1965 and 1967.

In the 1962 NFL Championship Game versus the New York Giants at very cold and windy Yankee Stadium, Kramer doubled as a right guard and as placekicker. Kramer 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.

jerry-in-the-65-title-game

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.

Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung led a rushing attack that gained 204 yards, 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 as the Packers gained big chunks of yardage past the line of scrimmage.

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” made his way into the end zone.

Then came the 1967 NFL Championship Game (better known as the “Ice Bowl”) versus the Cowboys at frigid Lambeau Field. In that legendary contest, 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.

It all came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys.

Quarterback Bart 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 consistent success of those great Green Bay teams under Lombardi, there are two points which certainly have to be made.

The power sweep was obviously 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.

Kramer played a prominent role in both of those instances.

Finally, besides being named to the NFL 50th anniversary team and being named All-Decade in the 1960s, Kramer also has the respect and admiration of many of his peers who he played with and against during his era.

Peers who now have busts in Canton.

Kramer has been endorsed by legendary defensive tackles such as Merlin Olsen and Bob Lilly, who were not only All-Decade in the 1960s, but also in the 1970s. Kramer was also endorsed by Alan Page, who was named All-Decade in the 1970s.

Kramer was really honored with the endorsement he received from Olsen, as Merlin was the finest defensive tackle he ever faced. In fact, there are many who believe Olsen was the best defensive tackle in NFL history.

Olsen went to 14 Pro Bowls, plus 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.”

Kramer has also been endorsed by other contemporaries who are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Kramer has been recommended for the Hall of Fame by teammates like Starr, Hornung and Willie Davis, along with opponents like Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Doug Atkins, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.

he absolute proudest endorsement Kramer ever received came from his head coach.

This is what Vince Lombardi said about Kramer in a 1969 article in the Chicago Tribune:

“Jerry Kramer is the best guard in the league,” Lombardi said. “Some say the best in the history of the game.”

Jerry pulling in Super Bowl I

I do know from talking with Rick Gosselin, who was at the Seniors Selection Committee meeting on Thursday, that he along with Bernie Miklasz, were the two people responsible for convincing the other three members of the committee gathered in Canton that day that Kramer deserved to be one of the two nominees.

I also talked with Kramer himself and he shared his thoughts about how this all went down. My first question was where Kramer was when he heard the news.

“I was having lunch,” Kramer said. “Chad Ovitt from Kenosha called me. I had done an autograph session for Chad on Sunday. Chad said, ‘Congratulations!’ And I said, ‘For what?’ He said, ‘The nomination.’

“I was caught a bit off-guard, as I was somewhat aware of this situation, but I made it a point to not focus on it. Not to pay a lot of attention to it. Not to participate. And to not get all worked up emotionally about it.

“When I put my phone down after I hung up with Chad, I saw I missed a couple of calls from David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame). And I couldn’t believe it. It really did happen!”

Kramer related his thoughts to me about the conversation he had with Baker about his nomination.

“I had a nice chat with David and others in the room,” Kramer said. “There were congratulations all around. My stomach was doing flip-flops. My heart was pounding a bit. It was sort of surreal setting. Like is this real? Is this my imagination again or am I really on the phone with David Baker, thanking him for selecting me as a nominee?

“I had played that scenario in my head a number of times. Sometimes, I got real nasty and would tell them to stick it in their ear. And sometimes I’m very polite, thoughtful and considerate and all that. I go back and forth depending on my mood I guess.

“But when the moment came, I became all wishy-washy, all gooey and all emotional with them on the phone. I allowed my emotions to come out. I gushed a little bit. It was really a wonderful moment for me. I thanked them and thanked them and thanked them.

“All the bad and the negative stuff I might have said didn’t appear. It was all thank you and I appreciate it. And what a wonderful honor this is. I was just very happy about it all and the negative guy didn’t show up and didn’t even get in the room.”

The people who Kramer talked with included Baker, Gosselin and the other committee members, consultants Art Shell and Carl Eller, plus Executive Director for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Joe Horrigan.

During the conversation, Horrigan told Kramer, “Jerry, this will reduce my mail by 90 percent!”

As we talked, Kramer made it a point to thank all of his fans, especially those in America’s Dairyland.

“Wisconsin fans are absolutely sensational,” Kramer said. “You can’t define them well enough for people to understand how wonderful they are and how wonderful they have been to me. Specifically over the years. We are still having that love affair.”

Kramer also mentioned how his phone has been blowing up with calls of congratulations from so many people.

“There are so many people who have come forward with congratulations, best wishes and all kind of things,” Kramer said. “It’s heartwarming. Especially at this particular point in time in my life.

“To have so many people weigh-in and say, ‘Hell of a job’ or ‘Congratulations’ mean a lot to me. You can feel their happiness. They are pleased just like they were nominated. In a sense, they were. They were part of the process, writing letters and they helped. It is really a state-wide, nation-wide and even world-wide effort on behalf of these people.”

Still, the job has not been completed just yet. Kramer needs to get at least 39 members of the 48-person Selection Committee to vote for him on February 3 so he can get his rightful place in Canton.

That is the second step of this process. But the first step was taken care of on Thursday, when Kramer was nominated.

Jerry's block on Jethro

In terms of where Kramer is, regarding his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, using an analogy, the ball is now inside the one yard line with just seconds remaining in the game. It’s definitely time to call the 31-wedge play.

It will be very apropos that 50 years and basically a little over a month after that famous play was called on December 31, 1967, that Kramer finds himself in the end zone once again.

But this time the end zone will be an entrance to be among the best of the best in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My Presentation for Jerry Kramer to the Seniors Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017

Jerry on a knee

On August 24th, five members of the Seniors Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame will meet in Canton, Ohio to discuss and then name two senior candidates for possible induction.

The entire class of 2018 (including two senior nominees and one contributor nominee)  will be voted on the day before Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.

One of the five members who will be present for the meeting is Rick Gosselin. I’ve have gotten to know Gosselin over the past few years and he has really educated me on how difficult the process is for naming senior candidates.

All that being said, although I will not be in actual attendance, my story below is written like I was doing a presentation for Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers for the committee. Having a background in sales, I have done dozens of presentations to numerous businesses.

I normally would hand out an agenda to the members of the company or corporation I would be presenting to and then do a PowerPoint presentation.

I would do the same with this committee if possible, but for this piece, I will just give you my verbal presentation with some photos.

Good morning. I appreciate you allotting me some time for my presentation today.

I know you folks have to go through a very difficult process before you can name a senior nominee or nominees.

I have been able to become acquainted with one of your committee members, Rick Gosselin, over the past few years and he has explained to me how extremely arduous your course of action is in determining a senior nominee, due to all the many worthy candidates who somehow have fallen through the cracks over the years.

Rick has told me about the proposal he has made to David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) about nominating several senior candidates in the centennial season of the NFL.

I had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Baker earlier this year and we discussed Rick’s proposal. Mr. Baker told me that he was definitely considering Rick’s recommendation. That would be fabulous if that comes to fruition and that a number of deserving seniors get their rightful inclusion into the Hall of Fame.

This morning, I want to talk to you about a very worthy senior candidate…Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers.

In 1969, Jerry was named the best player ever at the guard position in the first 50 years of the NFL, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame named their NFL 50th anniversary team.

The first team consisted of Jim Thorpe, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, John Mackey, Chuck Bednarik, Gino Marchetti, Leo Nomellini, Ray Nitschke, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Emlen Tunnell, Lou Groza and Kramer.

Every one of the members on that legendary team are now enshrined as players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All except one. That would be Mr. Kramer.

As I am a regular reader of Mr. Gosselins’s fine work, I recall a statement by him regarding Kramer’s omission in one of his chats with his readers.

Jerry pulling in Super Bowl I

Rick told 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?”

In addition to that, Rick recently wrote a story, as he conducted a poll on his fine site, Talk of Fame Network. The poll was about who was the most deserving senior candidate in 2018.

Rick’s candidates in the poll included quarterback Ken Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals, linebacker Robert Brazile of the Houston Oilers, defensive tackle Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions, defensive lineman Joe Klecko of the New York Jets, defensive end Jim Marshall of the Minnesota Vikings, safety Johnny Robinson of the Kansas City Chiefs, linebacker Andy Russell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kramer of the Packers.

The poll story ran about a week and Kramer won in a landslide, as he received 86 percent of the vote. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you, as I’m sure everyone of you have received  hundreds of letters or notes from fans endorsing Kramer’s induction to Canton.

Plus, let’s not forget that Kramer was also named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

Looking back on the players who were named First-Team All-Decade through the year 2000, there were 145 players who were given that designation.

And up until now, 134 of those players have been inducted into the hallowed halls in Canton.

Kramer is one of those 11 First-Team All-Decade players who have yet to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Now looking back on Kramer’s career with the Packers, No. 64 was a six-time AP All-Pro and was also named to three Pro Bowls for the Packers. Kramer would have had even more honors if not for injuries and illness. Kramer missed half of the 1961 season due to a broken ankle and almost all of the 1964 season due to an intestinal ailment which took nine operations to resolve.

Kramer also played a large role in the success that the Packers had under head coach Vince Lombardi in the postseason. The Packers were 9-1 under Lombardi in the postseason, which included five NFL championships in seven years. That included victories in the first two Super Bowls.

Kramer was a huge component in the NFL title victories in 1962, 1965 and 1967.

In the 1962 NFL Championship Game versus the New York Giants at very cold and windy Yankee Stadium, Kramer doubled as a right guard and as placekicker. Kramer 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.

Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung led a rushing attack that gained 204 yards, 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 as the Packers gained big chunks of yardage past the line of scrimmage.

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” made his way into the end zone.

Then came the 1967 NFL Championship Game (better known as the “Ice Bowl”) versus the Cowboys at frigid Lambeau Field. In that legendary contest, 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.

It all came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys.

Quarterback Bart 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.

Jerry's block on Jethro

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 consistent success of those great Green Bay teams under Lombardi, there are two points which certainly have to be made.

The power sweep was obviously 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.

Kramer played a prominent role in both of those instances.

Finally, besides being named to the NFL 50th anniversary team and being named All-Decade in the 1960s, Kramer also has the respect and admiration of many of his peers who he played with and against during his era.

Peers who now have busts in Canton.

Kramer has been endorsed by legendary defensive tackles such as Merlin Olsen and Bob Lilly, who were not only All-Decade in the 1960s, but also in the 1970s. Kramer was also endorsed by Alan Page, who was named All-Decade in the 1970s.

Kramer was really honored with the endorsement he received from Olsen, as Merlin was the finest defensive tackle he ever faced. In fact, there are many who believe Olsen was the best defensive tackle in NFL history.

Olsen went to 14 Pro Bowls, plus 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.”

Kramer has also been endorsed by other contemporaries who are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Kramer has been recommended for the Hall of Fame by teammates like Starr, Hornung and Willie Davis, along with opponents like Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Doug Atkins, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.

Vince and Jerry after Super Bowl II

The absolute proudest endorsement Kramer ever received came from his head coach.

This is what Vince Lombardi said about Kramer in a 1969 article in the Chicago Tribune:

“Jerry Kramer is the best guard in the league,” Lombardi said. “Some say the best in the history of the game.”

In summation, I know that you are going through a very challenging situation here in recommending senior candidates because they are so many worthy ones.

Again, I hope Rick’s proposal about having a number of senior candidates nominated in the NFL centennial year becomes a reality.

But for the Class of 2018, in my humble opinion, there is no senior candidate who can match the achievements, the awards and the success that Jerry Kramer had in his NFL career.

That is why Kramer was named to the NFL 50th anniversary team in 1969 and that is why his head coach called him the best guard in the NFL that same year and perhaps the best of all time.

The bottom line is Jerry Kramer deserves to be one of the two senior candidates who you will nominate this year.

I certainly appreciate your time and your consideration.

Thank you.

Jerry Kramer Ranks the Top 5 Defensive Tackles He Played Against in His Career

Jerry in the '65 title game

Jerry Kramer played right guard and at times as a kicker for 11 seasons for the Green Bay Packers from 1958 through 1968. In those 11 seasons, Kramer was part of five teams under head coach Vince Lombardi which won five NFL titles in seven years, which also included the first two Super Bowls.

In addition to that, the Packers won three straight NFL championships from 1965 through 1967, which makes them the only NFL team to ever accomplish that feat since the playoff era started in the league in 1933.

Kramer was honored for his stellar play at right guard during that era, as he was named AP first-team All-Pro fives times and AP second-team All-Pro once. No. 64 was also named to three Pro Bowl squads.

The former Idaho Vandal star also came up big in championship games, as he played a key role in the victories in the 1962, 1965 and 1967 title games for the Packers.

After his career was over, Kramer received more honors, as he was named as a guard on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

Plus, there was the NFL 50th anniversary team named in 1969. The first team, which consisted of the best players ever at their particular positions, included Jim Thorpe, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, John Mackey, Chuck Bednarik, Gino Marchetti, Leo Nomellini, Ray Nitschke, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Emlen Tunnell, Lou Groza and Kramer.

For some unfathomable reason, Kramer is the only member of that 50th anniversary team who has not been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I had an opportunity to talk with Kramer again recently, and I wanted to get Jerry’s take on who were the five-best defensive tackles that No. 64 faced in his career. Here is the rundown of that group according to Kramer:

  1. Merlin Olsen
  2. Alex Karras
  3. Leo Nomellini
  4. Art Donovan
  5. Charlie Krueger

Of that group of five, three (Olsen, Nomellini and Donovan) are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Karras deserves to be in Canton, as does Kramer. Like Kramer, Nomellini was also on the 50th anniversary team.

Nomellini and Donovan were both on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1950s. Olsen and Karras were both on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

Kramer added some commentary on each one of these stalwart opponents who he faced on so many occasions.

Merlin Olsen vs. the Pack

Merlin Olsen

The 6’5″, 270-pound Olsen was named AP first-team All-Pro five times and AP second-team All-Pro four times. In addition, Olsen was named to a whopping 14 Pro Bowls.

“At a Pro Bowl once, Merlin weighed in at 300 pounds,” Kramer said. “Just think about the measurables you were up against versus Merlin. He was 6’5” and close to 300 pounds near the end of the season.

“Add to that, Merlin was a Phi Beta Kappa who had a bright mind and an incredibly competitive spirit. He was smart enough to be a great movie star and smart enough to be a great football player.

“He also had a vibe and an energy about him that just drove him. He never let up. If a game was 65 plays, Merlin was going to come at you 65 times. So with the brains, the physical abilities and the heart, Merlin was just a complete player.

“Merlin and I were great pals. We hung out together. I actually did a sales film with Merlin and Don Shula in the recession of the mid-70s called, Defense, Defense to help companies to better take care of their customers and their business.

“But in terms of being a player, Merlin brought it all day. The was no rest when you were going up against him.”

Alex Karras vs. Pack

Alex Karras

The 6’2″, 248-pound Karras was named AP first-team All-Pro three times and AP second-team All-Pro four times. Plus, Karras was named to four Pro Bowl squads.

“I knew Alex and Merlin very well,” Kramer said. “I studied them. I dreamed about them. I spent hours and hours studying their tendencies. And there was not a hell of a lot of difference between the two of them. Alex was maybe not as consistent as Merlin.

“Alex and I first played against each other in the East-West Shrine Game and we were both on the College All-Star team.

“Alex was very strong in the upper-body. He also had a wrestling background and also had good feet. Alex also brought a lot of emotion when he played. He just hated Green Bay, just like my old buddy Wayne Walker did, who recently passed away. All of the Lions just hated the Packers.

“Alex and I had some great battles that got a bit testy at times, but later we became good friends. Both us of were doing color commentary for CFL games in the ’70s. In our first game together, it didn’t go well, as Alex would say the players were doing this and I’m saying no, that the players were doing this instead. We were basically sniping at each other.

“The next week, as I was trying to get better as a commentator, I was watching the practice of one of the CFL teams. As I’m doing this, Alex walks up and sits down besides me and says somewhat uneasily, ‘We sure had a lot of great games against one another didn’t we?’ And I responded that we sure did.

“I also reminded him of the last game that we played against each other. I was trying a 52-tard field goal and Alex broke through the line and hit me with a forearm right in the chest. As he did that, Alex said, ‘Stick that in your book you ******cker!’

“After Alex heard me tell that story, he sort of blushed, but we both giggled and it broke the ice. From that point on, we became really good pals.”

Leo Nomellini vs. the Pack

Leo Nomellini

The 6’3″, 259-pound Nomellini was named AP first-team All-Pro six times and AP second-team All-Pro once. In addition, Nomellini was named to 10 Pro Bowl teams.

“Leo was also a professional wrestler,” Kramer said. “He was always in great shape. One time he cussed out the officials in a game against us once and he called them every name in the book. I was shocked, as this happened in my first or second year and I was always respectful to the officials.

“Leo had great upper-body strength that made him tough to play against. But he did one thing that made it easier for me to play against him. The San Francisco 49ers ran a 4-3 defense almost exclusively. The only variation from my standpoint, was whether Leo went inside or outside.

“If Leo went inside, the middle linebacker would cover the guard-tackle hole on either side. If Leo went outside, the middle linebacker would cover the center. So as I’m watching film of Leo and the 49er defense, I noticed that Leo normally lines up with his right foot back. But then I also saw a play where Leo put his right foot parallel to his left foot.

“I soon realized that Leo would line up with his feet parallel if he was going outside. But when he went inside, his right foot would be back. That film study by me catching that key made it a bit easier for me to handle Leo. I was a lot more confident in going up against Leo after that.”

Art Donovan vs. the Pack

Art Donovan

The 6’2″, 263-pound Donovan was named AP first-team All-Pro four times and AP second-team All-Pro two times. Plus, Donovan was named to play in four Pro Bowls.

“Most of your NFL defensive tackles are big, strong bull-rushers,” Kramer said. “They don’t dance. Henry Jordan was a dancer. Henry beat you with quickness, not so much with strength. Artie was the same way. He also had quick feet.

“Artie would stand up and wiggle and shake. He was like a matador. He would move back and forth and wait for you to hit him. Then he would dodge you and push you aside with his arms and head towards the quarterback.

“I had never played against a defensive tackle like that was a shaker like that. I always went up against big bulls. Now Artie was a big guy, but he could really move. The first time I played against him, I wanted to touch him after the game to see if he was real. Because during the game I lunged at him many times and never touched him.

“I was sat down in the second half of that game against Artie. I studied that film for quite awhile and got better playing against Artie after that. But it was still hard to play against him. You had to wait on him to make his move and eventually he would because he was running out of time.”

Charlie Krueger

Charlie Krueger

The 6’4″, 256-pound Krueger was named AP second-team All-Pro twice and was also named to two Pro Bowl squads.

“Charlie was a Texas A&M boy,” Kramer said. “Charlie was lean and mean. Like Merlin, Charlie would come after you play after play. He just never let up. He never took a play off.

“I remember that when I would pull to the right, Charlie would go down the line instantly. He pulled almost with me. He had great quickness and great reflexes. So I got the idea that on pass blocks sometimes against Charlie, I would throw my right leg and shoulder out like I was pulling and Charlie would be outside the defensive end just like that.

“After that, I went back into normal pass protection mode, but by then Charlie was out of position and couldn’t recover in time to rush the passer. You couldn’t do that with very many guys.

“In Instant Replay, I wrote about Charlie when he and I played together in the College All-Star game. His wife kept calling to find out if Charlie was there. She would ask, ‘Is Charles Krueger thayuh?’ When he finally showed up, we called him, “Charles Krueger thayuh” after that.

“In the book, I talked about my mental preparation going into a game against an opponent. I didn’t want to look at my opponent and I didn’t want to see him. I wanted to build up an anger and emotion. So before we are going to play the 49ers in ’67, I was standing in the tunnel ready to take the field when I felt a presence behind me. Then I heard, ‘Is Gerald Kramer thayuh?’ It was Charlie.

“That completely threw off my mental preparation for the game.”

Kramer went to battle in the trenches many times with Olsen, Karras, Nomellini, Donovan and Krueger. As you have read, Kramer has the highest level of respect for each one of those players.

But the opposite is also true. In fact, the top two defensive tackles who Kramer faced in his career, Olsen and Karras, both endorsed Kramer for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In his endorsement of Kramer to the Hall, Olsen said:

“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.”

Karras said this about Kramer and why he belongs in Canton:

“As you well know, Vince Lombardi was in fact a great coach and won so many games. The reason Lombardi had such an outstanding record was due to the players: Jimmy Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo and Paul Hornung.

“With all the players listed above, someone has been left out. But, why? Jerry Kramer is one player that should never be forgotten. The “best” pulling guard in his time.

“Let’s don’t pass him up for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, just because he played with so many greats. Jerry made all of them better.”

Kramer appreciates all of the kudos and endorsements that he has received from all of the great defensive tackles of his era, which also includes Bob Lilly and Alan Page, who also have busts in Canton.

“That’s such a great thing,” Kramer said.  “To know that those guys, guys that I respect, also respected me. It is wonderful to know that. That’s as good as it gets.”