Green Bay Packers: Getting Into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Has Not Been an Easy Process for Some

hall of fame packer logo 2

With the induction of Brett Favre to the Class of 2016 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Green Bay Packers now have 24 individuals who have busts in Canton.

Those individuals are Curly Lambeau (Class of 1963), Robert “Cal” Hubbard (Class of 1963), Don Hutson (Class of 1963), Johnny “Blood” McNally (Class of 1963), Clarke Hinkle (Class of 1964), Mike Michalske (Class of 1964), Arnie Herber (Class of 1966), Vince Lombardi (Class of 1971), Tony Canadeo (Class of 1974), Jim Taylor (Class of 1976), Forrest Gregg (Class of 1977), Bart Starr (Class of 1977), Ray Nitschke (Class of 1978), Herb Adderley (Classof 1980), Willie Davis (Class of 1981), Jim Ringo (Class of 1981), Paul Hornung (Class of 1986), Willie Wood (Class of 1989), Henry Jordan (Class of 1995), James Lofton (Class of 2003), Reggie White (Class of 2006), Dave Robinson (Class of 2013), Ron Wolf (Class of 2015) and Favre.

In addition, there are five other players who ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and who briefly played for the Packers for a period of time. Those players are Walt Kiesling (Class of 1966), Emlen Tunnell (Class of 1967), Len Ford (Class of 1976), Ted Hendricks (Class of 1990) and Jan Stenerud (Class of 1991).

Only the Chicago Bears have more individuals in Canton now, as da Bears have 27 enshrinees. Following the Bears and the Packers are the Pittsburgh Steelers (21), New York Giants (20), Washington Redskins (19) and Los Angeles Rams (18).

Prior to 1970, there was not a “Finalist” designation like there is now when they vote on a particular class.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame became an entity in 1963. Lambeau, Hubbard, Hutson and McNally were all part of that inaugural class.

Hinkle and Michalske followed in 1964, while Herber joined them in 1966.

Starting in 1970, the Hall started naming “Finalists” to determine the class for that given year.

Some individuals on the Packers made it into Canton on their first try. This would include Lombardi, Gregg, Starr, Nitschke, White, Robinson (senior), Wolf (contributor) and Favre.

For others, it was a little more difficult. Adderley and Lofton were both inducted on their third try. It took four times for Canadeo, Taylor and Jordan (senior) to get enshrined. It took six times for Davis to get a bust, while Ringo had to wait until his seventh attempt to get into the Hall.

Then there are the two double-digit guys. Wood didn’t get into Canton until his 10th try, while Hornung had to wait until his 12th attempt.

Which takes us to Jerry Kramer. No. 64 has been a 10-time finalist, but has never been given his rightful place among the best of the best in pro football for some unfathomable reason. Kramer was a finalist in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1987 and 1997 (senior).

Maybe the 11th time will be the charm for Kramer, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 48-person Selection Committee votes on the Class of 2018 the day before Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis. But before that can happen, Kramer must first be nominated by the Seniors Selection Committee around the third week in August as one of the two senior nominees.

In an upcoming story, I will put out my presentation for Kramer to that committee, just like I was there in front of them.

Kramer deserves a bust in Canton, just like the 24 other individuals who were associated with the Packers. No. 64 deserves to be No. 25.

I don’t want to give away my entire presentation, but here are just a few reasons why Kramer should be a slam-dunk for enshrinement in Canton.

In 1969, 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, Jerry Kramer, Chuck Bednarik, Gino Marchetti, Leo Nomellini, Ray Nitschke, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Emlen Tunnell and Lou Groza.

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

Kramer was also named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

Looking back on the players who were named 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 All-Decade players who have not yet received their deserved honor as being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In addition to that, dozens and dozens of peers of Kramer, who all have busts in Canton, have endorsed Kramer for enshrinement.

No endorsement was bigger than that of Merlin Olsen, who many consider the best defensive tackle in NFL history, as he was named to 14 Pro Bowl teams and was also named All-Pro nine times.

This is what Olsen said about why Kramer deserves his place among the greats in Canton:

“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.”

Vince and Jerry after Super Bowl II

Kramer also shined big in championship games. The Packers won five NFL championships in seven years under Vince Lombardi in the 1960s, but without Kramer’s big contributions in the 1962, 1965 and 1967 NFL title games, that legacy of greatness may not have occurred.

Speaking of Lombardi, he once said this 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.”

Finally, looking back on the Lombardi’s tenure in Green Bay, there are two points which certainly have to be made.

The legendary 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.

Bottom line, it’s quite simple. Kramer most definitely deserves to be among the best of the best in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Postseason History Between the Packers and Redskins

On late Sunday afternoon, the 10-6 Green Bay Packers will take on the 9-7 and NFC East champion Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in a NFC Wild Card game.

The meeting between the two teams will be the third time the teams have met in the postseason.

Before I get into the two previous matchups between the Packers and Redskins, I wanted to point out some interesting connections between the two teams.

The Packers play their games at Lambeau Field. The stadium is located on Lombardi Avenue.

Why is that? Because Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi are the two most famous and successful coaches in the history of the Packers.

Between the two of them, the Packers won 11 NFL titles.

Both coaches also moved on to become the head coach of the Redskins after their tenures in Green Bay.

Lambeau initially joined the Chicago Cardinals after leaving the Packers in 1950, but after two years in Chicago, Lambeau became head coach of the Redskins in 1952.

In two seasons there, the Redskins went 10-13-1 under Lambeau.

After Lombardi relinquished his head coaching duties in Green Bay in 1968, he stayed on as general manager for one year.

But in 1969, Lombardi was hired by the Redskins to be Executive Vice President, General Manager and Head Coach. Lombardi was also given a stock interest in the team.

Lombardi led the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record in 1969, which was Washington’s first winning record in 14 years.

Tragically, Lombardi passed away in 1970 because of colon cancer at the age of 57.

Lambeau and Lombardi

Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi

In addition to those connections, there is also Green Bay’s current team President and CEO, Mark Murphy. Murphy has held that position since late 2007, when he took over the reins from Bob Harlan.

Murphy has presided over an organization which has gone 89-49-1 and gone to the postseason seven straight years. Included in that run was the Vince Lombardi Trophy the team brought back to Green Bay after winning Super Bowl XLV.

As a player in the NFL, Murphy had an eight-year career with the Redskins playing safety. During that period, Washington won Super Bowl XVII.

In 1983, Murphy led the NFL with nine interceptions and was a consensus All-Pro, as well as getting selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

In terms of their postseason meetings, the Packers and Redskins first met in the 1936 NFL title game.

That game was the very first postseason game the Packers ever played in. Green Bay had already won three NFL titles in 1929, 1930 and 1931, but that was when the NFL awarded the championship by league standing.

In 1933, the NFL went to a playoff system to determine the league champion.

The Packers were 10-1-1 in 1936, which was tops in the Western Division.

The Redskins won the Eastern Division with a 7-5 record. The team was also based in Boston that season.

Owner George Preston Marshall was not happy with the support the team was receiving in Boston. Because of that, Marshall decided to host the NFL title game in New York at the Polo Grounds, instead of Fenway Park.

In 1937, Marshall moved the Redskins to Washington.

The title game in the Big Apple drew 29,545 fans.

The Packers won the contest 21-6, mostly because of the passing of Arnie Herber. The Packers had twice as many passing yards in the game, compared to the Redskins.

The Packers had led the NFL in passing offense in 1936.

Herber hit Don Hutson with a 48-yard touchdown pass in the first three minutes of the game. Hutson finished with five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.

Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau

Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau

Johnny (Blood) McNally also caught two passes for 55 yards. One was a 52-yard reception which set up a touchdown. Herber ended up throwing two touchdown passes.

Clark Hinkle led the Packers in rushing with 58 yards on 16 carries.

The game was marred by a number of turnovers. The Packers forced five turnovers (four fumbles and an interception), while the Redskins forced five themselves (three fumbles and two interceptions).

The bottom line is the Packers had their fourth NFL title with the win and their first via the playoff format.

The next time the two teams met in the postseason was in 1972, which was five years after the Lombardi-era had ended in Green Bay.

Lombardi had added five more NFL championships (including the first two Super Bowls) to the Green Bay trophy cabinet, along with the six titles Lambeau had won.

The Packers struggled after Lombardi had turned over the coaching duties to Phil Bengtson in 1968. In the three years that Bengtson coached the Packers, the team was 20-21-1.

After Bengtson resigned, the Packers brought in Dan Devine, who had been a successful college coach at Missouri. In Devine’s first year in Green Bay, the Packers were 4-8-2.

But the Packers rebounded in 1972 under Devine and ended up winning the NFC Central division with a 10-4 record.

The Packers were led by their defense, which was ranked second in the NFL in total defense. That included being eighth in passing defense and second in rushing defense.

The only remaining defensive starter from the 1967 title team in Green Bay was linebacker Dave Robinson. In addition, Ray Nitschke was also on the ’72 team, but was a backup to middle linebacker Jim Carter.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Packers had two players from the ’67 team who were still starters in ’72. They were center Ken Bowman and wide receiver Carroll Dale.

Speaking of the offense, it was a completely different story compared to the defense. The Packers were ranked 22nd in total offense. Remember that the NFL was just a 26-member league at the time.

Green Bay was ranked seventh in rushing offense, as the team averaged over 150 yard per game on the ground. The two primary reasons were the performances of John Brockington and MacArthur Lane.

Brockington ran for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns, while Lane rushed for 821 yards and three touchdowns.

The passing game really struggled however. Bart Starr had retired after the 1971 season. Starr was brought on to be the quarterbacks coach for the 1972 season.

That being said, there wasn’t a lot that Starr could have done to help the quarterback situation that season. It’s hard to make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t if you know what I mean.

Starr was forced to work with second-year quarterback Scott Hunter, who had suffered a shoulder injury while he was playing for Alabama, the same place Starr had played college football.

That shoulder injury severely affected the way Hunter could throw the football once he got to the NFL. The Packers also drafted Green Bay native Jerry Tagge of Nebraska in the first round of the 1972 NFL draft, but Tagge was very raw in terms of his throwing skills.

That is what Starr had to work with in 1972. The Packers ended up throwing for just over 100 yards per game that season.

Hunter started all 14 games for the Packers that season and he threw just six touchdown passes versus nine interceptions for 1,252 yards. The passer rating for Hunter that season was 55.5.

Coincidentally, the Packers and Redskins met in the regular season in 1972, when they met in Week 11 at RFK Stadium in Washington. The Redskins won that game 21-16.

The Packers led in that game 14-13 in the fourth quarter, before the Redskins came back to win.

Lane rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown in the game, while Brockington gained 42 yards.

Hunter and Tagge split the duties at quarterback in the game, as between the two of them, they completed five-of-19 passes for just 66 yards and an interception.

At the end of the season, the Packers won the NFC Central, while the 11-3 Redskins had won the NFC East.

That set up another game at RFK Stadium in the playoffs.

The Redskins knew from their previous meeting with the Packers that they had nothing to fear from the Green Bay passing game, so they stacked up a five-man defensive line to stop the rushing attack of the Packers.

The head coach of the Redskins then was George Allen, who took over the team in 1971. Allen was always known for his coaching prowess on the defensive side of the ball.

That five-man front was a success in stopping the running game of the Packers, as the team had just 78 yards rushing that day, which included just nine yards by Brockington in 13 carries.

Hunter did throw for 150 yards in the game, but he also threw a key interception.

In the end, the Redskins won the game 16-3.

After beating the Packers, the Redskins defeated the the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game, before falling to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.

It’s somewhat hard to believe that the game on Sunday will be just the third postseason game that the Packers and Redskins have played.

The Packers joined the NFL in 1921, while the Redskins joined the league in 1932.

In addition to that, the two teams have only met 32 times in the regular season as well, with the Packers having the edge 18-13-1.

As I noted in my most recent story about the declining stats of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2015, the Packers have a real chance to kick-start their almost comatose offense versus the Redskins.

Washington is ranked 28th in total defense. The Redskins are also ranked just 25th in passing defense and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw 30 touchdown passes versus just 11 picks and have a passer rating of 96.1.

Washington also struggles in stopping the run. The Redskins are just 26th in rushing defense and have given up an average of over 122 yards per game on the ground.

The Redskins have also allowed opposing running backs to average 4.8 yards per carry.

We shall see if Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy and the rest of the offense of the Packers can take advantage of that situation.

If they do, then they would have most likely won the rubber match in this postseason series between the Packers and Redskins, which first started 80 years ago.