Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers: A Historical Perspective

Bart vs. 49ers

The Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers first started playing each other in 1950, when the two teams met at old City Stadium. The Packers beat the Niners 25-21 on that late November day, with 13,196 in attendance.

1950 was the year that Curly Lambeau left Green Bay to coach the Chicago Cardinals and Gene Ronzani was the new head coach of the Pack. It was also the first year that the 49ers started play in the NFL, after four years in All-American Football Conference.

The head coach of the 49ers then was Buck Shaw. When the two teams played for the very first time, neither team was very good, as both teams finished 3-9 that season.

Throughout the years leading into the encounter on Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium when the 8-2 Packers face the 9-1 49ers, Green Bay leads the regular season series by a 32-27-1 margin.

The two teams have also met seven times in the postseason in some very memorable games. The Packers lead that series four games to three.

Back to the 1950s now. The Niners pretty much dominated the Packers that decade, at least until Vince Lombardi arrived in 1959. San Francisco won 13-of-16 games between 1950 through 1958.

The 49ers were one of the better teams in the NFL in the 1950s, while the Packers were among the worst. In fact, the Packers were just 39-79-2 in the 1950s, which is the worst decade that the team has ever had in it’s history.

But things started to change with the arrival of Lombardi in 1959. The Packers beat the 49ers twice in 1959 and during the Lombardi tenure through 1967, Green Bay was 13-3-1 versus San Francisco.

It was during that time when the Packers won five NFL titles in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls.

One of the more memorable games during that period occurred in 1960 at Kezar Stadium on a rainy and muddy day, as the Packers won 13-0. All the points scored in that game were put on the board by Paul Hornung, as he scored on a 28-yard touchdown run, kicked an extra point, plus kicked two field goals.

The Green Bay ground game was almost unstoppable behind the pulling guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston, as Hornung rushed for 86 yards, while fullback Jimmy Taylor gashed the 49ers for 161 more yards.

Fuzzy and Jerry in the Mud Bowl at Kexar in 1960

Kramer listed two San Francisco defensive tackles among the top five he ever faced in his NFL career. They were Leo Nomellini and Charlie Krueger.

In 1968, the year in which Lombardi was just general manager only and Phil Bengtson was the head coach, the Packers suffered their most painful defeat of the season against the 49ers at Kezar Stadium and the loss basically ended any postseason aspirations for the team.

The Packers had a 20-7 lead going into the fourth quarter of that game, but because of injuries to both Bart Starr and Zeke Bratkowski, the Packers were forced to turn to rookie quarterback Billy Stevens, who had to be the next man up, as Don Horn was still going through his military duties with the Army then at that point of that season.

The 49ers, behind quarterback John Brodie, roared back to score 20 unanswered points and beat the Packers 27-20, as Stevens did not even complete a pass against the 49er defense, nor the gusty winds of Kezar.

After that game and over the next decade, the series between the two teams was pretty much a push more or less, with the 49ers holding a four to three edge through the 1977 season.

However, a monumental decision that affected both franchises occurred during the 1979 NFL draft. Starr was now the head coach of the Packers, while Bill Walsh was the new head coach for the Niners.

Before the draft, both Bratkowski, who was then the quarterbacks/offensive backs coach under Starr and scout Red Cochran strongly advocated the the Packers select quarterback Joe Montana of Notre Dame in the draft if they had the opportunity.

That opportunity came in the third round of that draft, when the Packers had the 15th pick of that round and the 71st overall pick of the draft. Again, both Bratkowski and Cochran pushed for the Packers to take Montana with the pick then, but Starr (who was also GM) decided to take nose tackle Charles Johnson of Maryland with the pick.

The 49ers, who had the last pick in the third round, quickly snatched up Montana and the rest they say, is history.

In the 1980s, the Packers were 19 games under .500 and had just one postseason appearance, while it was 180 degrees different for the 49ers once they selected Montana, as they won four Super Bowls in that same decade.

The 49ers continued to be Super Bowl contenders into the 1990s, as Steve Young took the reins over from Montana starting in the 1992 season.

The man who had coached both Montana and Young as a quarterbacks coach and as an offensive coordinator in San Francisco, Mike Holmgren became the new head coach of the Packers when he was hired by general manager Ron Wolf.

Wolf made two other key acquisitions for the Packers in that period. First, Wolf traded a first round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for quarterback Brett Favre. Plus, Wolf also added defensive end Reggie White in free agency prior to the 1993 season.

That led to a great rivalry with Niners that decade, especially in the postseason. In the regular season, the teams only played four times in the decade, with the Packers winning three of those games.

That would be an apropos number, as Green Bay and San Francisco also met four times in the postseason in the 1990s, with the Packers once again winning three of those games.

In the 1995 postseason, in the NFC Divisional playoff round, the Packers upset the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers 27-17 at Candlestick Park, as Favre was phenomenal.

No. 4 threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, plus had a 132.9 passer rating in the game.

That led to another postseason game after the 1996 season, but this time the Packers had the home field advantage at muddy Lambeau Field. Favre was solid once again with a 107.4 passer rating in the game, but it was the type of day for a good ground game and the Packers rushed for 139 yards in the game.

But the real difference maker in the game was the punt returning ability of Desmond Howard, who returned two punts for 117 yards, which included a 71-yard return for  a score, as the Packers won 35-14.

Desmond Howard vs. 49ers

The Packers would go on to win Super Bowl XXXI.

In the 1997 season, the top two seeds in the NFC were the 49ers and the Packers, with the No. 1 seed being San Francisco. That meant that the Niners would host the Packers for the NFC title game at Candlestick Park.

Favre continued his solid play against the 49ers and he threw for 222 yards and a score and had a 98.1 passer rating in the game. But the ground game became a big weapon in the game for the Packers just like the previous postseason game, and halfback Dorsey Levens would rush for 114 yards and a score, as the Packers won 23-10.

However, the Packers would end up losing 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII to the Denver Broncos two weeks later.

The Packers and 49ers would play for the fourth consecutive time in the 1998 postseason, which turned out to be the last game Holmgren would coach for the Packers. Coaching the 49ers was Holmgren’s former quarterbacks coach with the Packers, Steve Mariucci.

Unlike the three previous postseason games against the 49ers, Favre did not have his “A” game, as he threw two interceptions to go with his two touchdown passes. No. 4 threw for 292 yards and had a 79.7 passer rating.

Still, that should have been enough to win, as Favre threw a late touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman to give the Packers a 27-23 lead with just 1:56 left on the clock.

In the ensuing drive, Jerry Rice fumbled the ball after a catch that by today’s replay rules would have been ruled a fumble, but back then the officials ruled that Rice was down before he fumbled.

That led to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Young to Terrell Owens with just seconds remaining in the game. Owens caught the ball in a crowd after have many other drops during the course of the game, as the 49ers won 30-27.

That game was also the last game White, the “Minister of Defense”, would ever play for the Packers.

After that game, the Packers went on to dominate the series between the two teams for over a decade.

Through 2010, the Packers won eight straight games against the Niners, including another postseason game at Lambeau Field in the 2001 postseason. Favre once again had a better than average day against San Francisco, as he threw for 269 yards and had two touchown passes versus one pick. No. 4’s passer rating for the game was 112.6, as the Packers won 25-15.

Mariucci was still the head coach of the 49ers at the time, while Mike Sherman was now the head coach of the Packers.

In his career, Favre was 8-1 against the 49ers in the regular season, while throwing 14 touchdown passes versus 10 picks for 2,246 yards.

Sherman was fired after the 2005 season and general manager Ted Thompson made the offensive coordinator of the 49ers, Mike McCarthy, his new head coach in 2006.

That set up an interesting situation for McCarthy in Green Bay. First, he had to get Favre back to the way he used to play under Holmgren, plus he had to develop Aaron Rodgers to become a starting quarterback after the Favre era ended.

What made the second part of that dynamic very interesting was that McCarthy (then offensive coordinator for the 49ers) had told Rodgers prior to the 2005 NFL draft that the 49ers were going to pick the former Cal Bear with the first pick of the draft.

That didn’t happen and Rodgers never forgot that he was shunned by the team he grew up rooting for in Chico, California. Thompson and the Packers then happily selected Rodgers with the 24th pick of the first round of that draft.

After Favre left after the 2007 season, Rodgers became the starting quarterback and faced the 49ers once in the 2009 regular season and once in the 2010 regular season. The Packers won both of those games played at Lambeau Field.

Like Favre, Rodgers has played well against the 49ers in the regular season, as he is 4-2 lifetime going into Sunday night’s game. In those six games, No. 12 has thrown 13 touchdown passes to just two picks for 1,927 yards. His passer rating sits at 105.1.

Aaron vs. the 49ers

However, in the postseason, Rodgers is 0-2 against the 49ers. That being said, Rodgers has played well enough to win for sure, but in both losses, the defense was the main cause for the defeat.

In those two games, when Green Bay was outscored by a combined 68-51 margin, Rodgers threw three touchdown passes versus one interception for 434 yards. No. 12’s passer rating was a cumulative 94.7.

But the Packers could not stop Colin Kaepernick in those two playoff games,  as he had a combined 444 yards (263 yards passing with two touchdown passes and 181 yards rushing with two scores) in the 45-31 win in the 2012 postseason game, while he also dominated the 2013 postseason game with 227 yards passing (one touchdown) and 98 yards rushing.

Since those postseason losses, the Packers and 49ers have faced each other  twice. Once in 2015 at Levi’s Stadium when the Packers won 17-3 and also last season, when Rodgers brought the Packers back in a thrilling 33-30 win at Lambeau Field.

Since 2017, the 49ers have had Kyle Shanahan as their head coach. The Niners won six out of their last seven games in 2017 to finish 6-10.

Part of the reason for the 49ers late success in the 2017 season was the acquisition of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots midway through the season.

In 2018, Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL in the third game of the year and the 49ers only won four games.

Things have definitely turned around for San Francisco in 2019, with the Niners now 9-1. Garoppolo is a big reason why, as he has thrown 18 touchdown passes versus 10 interceptions for 2,478 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 97.7.

Like the 49ers, the Packers did not play up to expectations in 2017 and 2018 and had a combined 13-18-1 record. That led to the dismissal of McCarthy. General manager Brian Gutekunst, who replaced Thompson in 2018, along with President and CEO Mark Murphy, hired Matt LaFleur to become the new head coach of the Packers in January of 2019.

The hiring of LaFleur looks to be an excellent one, as the Packers are currently 8-2 heading into Sunday night’s game and lead the NFC North.

Shanahan and LaFleur have worked together in three locations in the NFL, Houston, Washington and Atlanta, so they are very familiar with each other and they run basically the same offense.

In terms of Sunday night’s game, the 49ers have the big edge in team stats. The Niners are fifth in the NFL in total offense, while the Packers are 17th. San Francisco is second in the NFL in rushing, as they average 149 yards a game on the ground. Meanwhile, the Packers are 25th in the NFL in rushing defense.

The 49ers are also second in the NFL in total defense, while the Packers are ranked near the bottom of the league at No. 28.

Based on team stats, Sunday night’s game looks to be a blowout by the Niners over the Packers.

That being said, I believe Mr. Rodgers will have a great game in his old neighborhood (even against the second-ranked passing defense in the NFL), plus I also believe the running game with both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams will be effective as well.

The Packers have to protect Rodgers well, as the Niners are tied for first in the NFL with 39 sacks. Arik Armstead has eight of those sacks, while Nick Bosa has seven.

The Packers have 25 sacks, which is tied for 15th in the NFL. The Smith “brothers”, Preston and Za’Darius, have combined for 18.5 of those sacks.

I also see the Green Bay “bend but don’t break” defense making some big plays in this game.

This game could come down to kicking and the Packers appear to have the edge there. Mason Crosby is 13-of-14 in field goals this year, while Robbie Gould of the 49ers has missed the last couple of game due to a quad injury and may not play in Sunday night’s game. If not, rookie Chase McLaughlin would be the kicker. McLaughlin is 4-of-5 in field goals, but did have a huge miss in overtime against Seattle a couple weeks back.

Both the Niners and Packers have two of the better punters in the NFC, as Mitch Wishnowsky has a net average of 42.1 per punt, while J.K. Scott has a 41. 9 net average.

The game on Sunday night has “classic” written all over it, as two of the better franchises in NFL history meet. The Packers have won 13 NFL titles and four Super Bowls, while the 49ers have won five Super Bowls.

Bottom line, even though the team stats say the 49ers should win handily, I like the Packers to go out to Santa Clara and win a close game against the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

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. There 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 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.”

Jerry Kramer Talks About the NFL Blocking Rules in his Era

jerry-on-a-knee

Offensive linemen in the NFL will always have a difficult job, especially in protecting the quarterback in the passing game. But starting in 1978, the job became a tad easier, after the NFL implemented a rule change which allowed offensive linemen to extend their arms and use their open hands while pass-blocking.

That change also coincided with another rule change which permitted a defensive back to maintain contact with a receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage, but restricted contact beyond that point.

Those rules changes made the NFL more of a passing-happy league, which has continued to this day.

Anyone who was an offensive lineman before 1978, was very restricted with their ability to block, whether in the passing game or the running game.

One of those players was the legendary right guard of the Green Bay Packers, Jerry Kramer, who played with the Pack from 1958 through 1968. I had another opportunity to talk with Kramer about that situation earlier this week.

“It was a totally different deal as opposed to today, Bob,” Kramer said. “Not only were you not allowed to use your hands, you had to have them up on your chest. If you let your hands get away from your body, even if your fists were clinched, and you didn’t reach for anything, they could call illegal use of hands.”

Just imagine having to stay that restricted while having to take on the likes of Alex Karras or Merlin Olsen at defensive tackle. Pass-blocking had to be extremely difficult.

“You really had to move in front of the guy,” Kramer said. “That’s why Fuzzy [Thurston] was so good at it. Fuzz had great feet. He had really quick feet. Plus, he had a wonderful sense of balance too. He was like a spinning top. The defender would hit him and Fuzzy would spin and counter the move.

“That’s kind of what you had to do. You had to get in front of the guy and stop him with force. You couldn’t grab him and you couldn’t hold him. And if he was on the edge, he was going to get by your ass. The only thing you could do was move your feet really well.

“You could also change things up once in awhile. You could mess with the defensive tackle. But not too much. You didn’t want to overdo it and you had to be pretty careful. I would often times, when we would be passing several times in a row, I would fire off the line of scrimmage like I’m blocking someone on a running play, and I would pop the guy really quick and then pop back into my stance.

“It would take the guy a little bit to re-start himself and orient himself to figure out what the hell we were doing. You could also put a lot of weight on your hand in the stance, and look like you were about to drive-block, and lean way forward, and have the defensive tackles submarine, thinking it was a running play.”

Kramer talked about one of the things he used to do against Charlie Krueger of the San Francisco 49ers, who was one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL at the time.

“Charlie was a great pursuit guy,” Kramer said. “You could take a step with your right foot, like you were pulling, which I did a few times with him, not a lot, he would be outside the defensive end in a heartbeat.

“Charlie would instinctively and instantly react that way to the move, thinking I was pulling, and he would be outside about six yards before he figured out that I was jerking him around and that it was really a pass play.”

There was also another defensive tackle for the 49ers that Kramer also faced at times. That would be Leo Nomellini, who was a first-team All-Pro six times and went to 10 Pro Bowls.

Nomellini would give away which way he would be going on his pass rush after careful study by Kramer.

“Leo indicated which way he would be rushing,” Kramer said. “The 49ers only used an inside or an outside charge in their 4-3 defense at the time. When Leo was going inside, he would put his right foot back.

“When he was going outside, he would put his feet parallel, because it was difficult to go to his left without getting that right foot out. So he told me through his feet, which way he was going.”

This process worked both ways. Sometimes an offensive lineman like Kramer would give out keys to what type of play would be upcoming to their opponent.

For example, Kramer’s teammate on the Packers, defensive tackle Ron Kostelnik, figured out what type of play the offense would be running by studying Kramer during a practice one day.

“I was leaning towards the inside on a cutoff block,”Kramer said. “I was subconsciously leaning. And the “Culligan Man” (Kostelnik) would tell me, ‘You are leaning, Jerry. Cutoff block.’

“I wasn’t aware of it or conscience of it. But I guess I was because Kos called me on it. That helped me to be much more aware of my stance before that play was called again in the future.”

The most famous block that was ever thrown by Kramer or anyone else in NFL history came in the closing seconds of the 1967 NFL Championship Game, better known as the “Ice Bowl” at Lambeau Field.

jerrys-block-on-jethro

That block came to be because of film study by Kramer, as he explained.

“We were watching three films of the Cowboys from their previous three games,” Kramer said. “I watched Jethro Pugh in the first game and I noticed he was high on every goal line play. I saw him high in every instance of that game in that situation. I didn’t say anything though.

“I watched the second game and then the third game and then I said that we would could block Pugh on a wedge play. Coach Lombardi goes, ‘Run that back!’ So they ran it back three or four times and Coach finally goes, ‘That’s right, put in a wedge on Pugh.’

“I mean I didn’t realize when that situation would come up when we played the Cowboys. Late in the first half or in the middle of the field on a third and short play. I had no idea that it would occur with just 13 seconds remaining at the Dallas 1-yard line.

“I had no idea that would be the situation when I volunteered that information. But I saw something that in the scheme of things was a very small piece of information. But as it turned out, it was a big piece of information.”

Indeed it was.

On the legendary play, quarterback Bart Starr called a “31 Wedge” play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. But after conferring with Coach Lombardi, Starr decided that it would be better if he kept the ball due to the slippery conditions near the goal line.

When Starr started on his quarterback sneak, Pugh was high just as Kramer had expected, and No. 64 put his head into the chest of Pugh and moved him aside with late help from center Ken Bowman.

The result? Starr happily followed Kramer’s block into the end zone and into NFL immortality. The Packers had a 21-17 win and that play turned out to be the signature moment of the Lombardi legacy in Green Bay, which included five NFL titles in seven years, plus the first two Super Bowls.

On that famous block, Kramer used his head and his shoulders to block Pugh. Not his hands, like offensive linemen can do in the current NFL, as long as they are kept inside.

It was like that on all running plays. And the Packers were a run-first team under Lombardi. The power sweep was the staple play of the Packers. When Kramer and Thurston pulled on that play, they were not allowed to use their hands in any way.

So, how did one block his opponent in the open field on the power sweep?

“You just had to run over the defender,” Kramer said. “You would run them the hell over. Sometimes you could get a forearm in there a bit. But generally, you just ran through them.”

The blocking rules and limitations for offensive linemen back in the era when Kramer played, is yet another reason why it’s so ridiculous that No. 64 still doesn’t have a bust in Canton.

There is no doubt that the Pro Football Hall of Fame has a credibility problem regarding the omission of Kramer from that hallowed place.

I wrote about that situation three months ago. This is the beginning of that piece:

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.

Why Kramer is still not in Canton has created a credibility problem for the Hall of Fame. One of the voters for admission into that hallowed place has told me that a number of times while we conversed. That would be Rick Gosselin.

Gosselin writes for the Dallas Morning News and sits on two committees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They are the seniors committee, as well as the contributors committee.

Gosselin said this about the Kramer omission issue 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?”

Indeed, Rick. Indeed. The fact that Kramer is still not in Canton is not only a slap in the face to No. 64, but also to the panel who named that 50th anniversary team. A panel that named that prestigious team just six years after the Pro Football Hall of Fame was created in 1963.

When you add to that Kramer was also on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s, plus was first-team All-Pro five times and went to the Pro Bowl three times, the fact that Kramer has not been inducted up to this point is just bewildering and ludicrous.

As is the fact that Kramer performed fantastically at crunch time or in championship games. I already mentioned Kramer’s block in the 1967 title game, but he also was key figure in the 1962 and 1965 NFL championship games.

In the 1962 NFL title 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 title game versus the Cleveland Browns at snowy and muddy Lambeau Field, Kramer and his teammates on the offensive line had a sensational day.

jerry-in-the-65-title-game

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 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.

And all of this was done without Kramer being allowed to extend his arms or use his open hands.

In an ironic twist, the seniors committee members for the Pro Football Hall of Fame need to extend it’s arms and open it’s hands in August of 2017 by naming Kramer as one of the two senior nominees for the Class of 2018.

And then on the Saturday before Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Kramer can finally get his rightful induction into Canton by all the voters for the Hall of Fame.

When that happens, we can all extend our arms and use our hands to clap and cheer for one of the best offensive linemen to have ever played in the NFL…Gerald Louis Kramer.