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.
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.
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.”