Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys: A Historical Perspective

Lombardi celebrates 1966 NFL title

The Green Bay Packers joined the NFL in 1921, while the Dallas Cowboys joined the league in 1960. Since that time, the teams have met 28 times in the regular season, with the Packers holding a 15-13 edge.

The two teams have also met eight times in the postseason, with each team winning four times.

Overall, the Packers have won 13 NFL titles, including four Super Bowls, one of which was won at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium). The Cowboys have won five Super Bowls overall.

When the two teams meet on Sunday at AT&T Field, it will be the 15th time that the Packers have played Dallas on the road in the regular season. The Packers were 2-1 at the Cotton Bowl, 2-7 at Texas Stadium and now are currently 2-0 at AT&T Stadium.

The Packers are also 2-4 in the postseason in the Big D area. With the latest game being the 2016 NFC title game, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay to a stirring 34-31 victory.

In Wisconsin, the Packers defeated the Cowboys in their inaugural year 41-7 at then City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) and are now 7-2 overall versus the Boys in Green Bay during the regular season.

The Packers and Cowboys also played five games at County Stadium in Milwaukee in the regular season, with the Cowboys holding a 3-2 edge.

The Packers have also won two postseason games against the Cowboys at Lambeau Field, including the legendary “Ice Bowl” game on December 31, 1967.

The two teams were destined to become quite a rivalry, as Vince Lombardi was head coach of the Packers when the Cowboys joined the NFL in 1960 and their head coach was Tom Landry.

Lombardi and Landry had coached together in New York with the Giants, as the team won the NFL title in 1956. In essence, Lombardi ran the offense for the G-Men, while Landry ran the defense during their tenure in the Big Apple.

Lombardi never lost to Landry while he coached the Packers, both in the regular season (3-0) and in the postseason (2-0).

Both postseason games were NFL title games, with the first being played at the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1967. The winner of that 1966 NFL championship game would be playing in Super Bowl I.

Bart Starr 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl

Quarterback Bart Starr was magnificent in that game, as he threw four touchdown passes (including a beautiful 51-yard pass to Carroll Dale) without throwing an interception for 304 yards. No. 15’s passer rating for that game was 143.5.

The game came down to the Cowboys being on the 2-yard line of the Packers with less than a minute to go, trailing 34-27. And on fourth down, quarterback Don Meredith of the Cowboys was pressured by outside linebacker Dave Robinson and with No. 89’s arms draped around him, Meredith threw an errant pass that was intercepted by safety Tom Brown of the Packers to seal the victory.

The Packers then went on to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super I two weeks later.

The two teams met again the very next year in the 1967 NFL title game, this time in Green Bay at Lambeau Field. I have written about that classic game a number of times, including a story that has fullback Chuck Mercein, halfback Donny Anderson and right guard Jerry Kramer describing their epic final drive to win the “Ice Bowl” 21-17 with just seconds remaining.

Starr was once again the hero, as he threw two touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler in the game and then scored the game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak with just 13 seconds remaining in the game and with his team having zero time outs.

Two weeks later, the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II, which turned out to be Lombardi’s last game as head coach of the Packers.

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

The next time the two teams met in the postseason was after the 1982 season, when Starr was the head coach of the Packers and Landry was still at the helm of the Cowboys.

Quarterback Lynn Dickey threw for 332 yards, while wide receiver James Lofton had five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, plus had another score on a 71-yard run. Still, that wasn’t enough as the Cowboys, led by the three interceptions of Dennis Thurman, won 37-26 in a second-round NFC playoff game at Texas Stadium.

The next three postseason games would all be played at Texas Stadium in the 1990s, as Jimmy Johnson was now the head coach of the Boys after owner Jerry Jones had fired Landry after the 1988 season.

The Packers were coached by Mike Holmgren during that time.

The Cowboys were led by their triplets, quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin. The Pack was led by quarterback Brett Favre on offense and defensive end Reggie White on defense.

In 1993 (27-17) and 1994 (35-9), the Cowboys beat the Packers in NFC divisional playoff games. In 1995, the Boys beat the Packers 38-27 in the NFC title game. Dallas would end up winning the Super Bowl twice after defeating the Packers in the postseason that decade.

In all, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the 1990s, while the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI after the 1996 season.

The Packers won Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) after the 2010 season, when Rodgers was the game’s MVP, as the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.

Green Bay and Dallas again met in the postseason in a 2014 divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field. Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in the 26-21 victory by the Packers, but the game was marked by controversy.

That occurred when quarterback Tony Romo completed a long pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant on fourth down which took the ball to the 1-yard line of Green Bay that was later ruled a non-catch. The Packers than marched down the field and ran out the clock.

The last postseason game that the two teams played was a 2016 NFC divisional game at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys came into the game as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but the Packers behind Rodgers got off to a quick 21-3 lead.

But Dallas came roaring back behind quarterback Dak Prescott and tied the game 28- 28 with four minutes left in the game.

The Packers then took a 31-28 lead on a 56-yard Mason Crosby field goal with about 1:30 to go in the game.

Prescott then led the Cowboys to a game-tying 52-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 35 seconds left.

Aaron vs. the Cowboys

Then, with just 12 seconds left in the game on a third-and-20 from their own 32-yard line, Rodgers completed a 35-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook to set up a game-winning 51-yard field goal by Crosby as time expired.

The last time the two teams met was in the 2017 regular season, when Rodgers once again led the Packers to a late victory, as he completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Davante Adams with 11 seconds remaining, as the Packers won 35-31.

Overall in his career versus the Cowboys, Rodgers is 4-2 against them in the regular season, as he has thrown 11 touchdown passes, compared to just one pick for 1,702 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 101.2.

No. 12 has also rushed for 162 yards on 30 carries and had two more scores.

In the postseason, Rodgers is 2-0 against the Cowboys and has thrown five touchdown passes versus one pick for 671 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 111.0.

So, what to expect on Sunday? The Packers are banged up a bit and Adams has been ruled out because of a turf toe injury. Still, the track record of Rodgers against the Cowboys has been fantastic.

Plus, the Packers have never lost in AT&T Stadium in four games, with one of them being Super Bowl XLV. That being said, every game against the Cowboys has been very close and in one of the wins, it was backup quarterback Matt Flynn who led the Packers to a victory.

Bottom line, I also expect the game on Sunday to be very close. It may come down to which team has the ball last. And if it’s Rodgers and the Packers, I like their chances.

Jerry Kramer Reflects on his Induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jerry with David Baker

Well, the day that so many of us waited for finally happened. Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

That epic honor came at last for Kramer, after 45 years of being eligible and on his 11th time as a finalist for enshrinement.

Kramer certainly had the résumé to become a member among the best of the best in pro football history.

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.

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

In addition to that, Kramer was a six-time AP All-Pro at right guard 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.

Plus there was his performance when the lights were the brightest, when the Packers went 9-1 under head coach Vince Lombardi in the postseason. That led to five NFL championships in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls.

Kramer was exceptional in three (1962, 1965 and 1967) of those championship games.

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.

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.

Jim 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.

In the 1967 NFL title game, better known as the “Ice Bowl”, Kramer made the most famous block in NFL history, when with help from center Ken Bowman, Kramer delivered a classic block on defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, as quarterback Bart Starr scored the game-winning touchdown on a QB sneak behind Kramer’s block with just 13 seconds left in the game, as the Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 21-17.

Bart's Sneak III

That play was the signature moment of the Lombardi legacy, while the power sweep was the signature play of the Lombardi era. Kramer played a large role in the success of both of those instances.

I tried getting a hold of Kramer after the word came out that he was indeed part of the Class of 2018, but it was near impossible to catch him with all the whirlwind activity Kramer took part in this past weekend in Minneapolis. That included going to the NFL Honors show on Saturday night, Super Bowl LII the next day and also being fitted and measured for a gold jacket and a ring for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Monday, not to mention getting his likeness studied for the bust which will be made of him.

I finally was able to speak with Kramer on Tuesday night, as he relaxed at his home in the Boise, Idaho area after flying back from Minneapolis.

The first words he uttered were meant for me. “Thank you, thank you and thank you,” Kramer said. “For all of your efforts and all of your time. And also your commitment which I believe worked.

“It was an amazing week. An incredible time. I thank you for all of your input and all your effort. It’s definitely appreciated.”

Yes, there is no question that I have been on a long crusade to get Jerry what he rightfully deserved. Which of course was enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But many others have also played a large part in the success of this journey. None so much as Alicia Kramer, Jerry’s daughter.

Alicia has spearheaded the efforts to get her dad a bust in Canton and has used the social media and other outlets to keep fighting the fight for her dad for several years now. Jerry’s son Dan has also played a prominent role in helping out that cause. It’s been a sincere pleasure of mine to get to know both Alicia and Dan.

Then there is Packer Nation and also Kramer Nation, as I like to call them. The letters from those fans just kept flowing non-stop to 2121 George Halas Drive NW in Canton over the past several years. That is the address for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Joe Horrigan, the Executive Director for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has told me that one-quarter of his mail came from supporters of Kramer.

From my standpoint, over the past 15-plus years or so, writing for Packer Report, Wisconsin Sports Online (Packer Chatters), Bleacher Report and now on my own blog page (plus LandryFootball.com), I have written over 100 articles about Kramer.

Yes, several were about his ridiculous omission from the Hall of Fame, but many others were about his exploits in big games or seasons. In other stories, Kramer commented about his iconic head coach, Vince Lombardi, or about other teammates/opponents.

Before I became a writer and was just working in sales, I was writing letters on Kramer’s behalf for his induction into the Hall of Fame to publications like Packer Report, a place where I would later become a writer.

I showed one of those letters to Kramer at a golf outing prior to Super Bowl XXV here in the Tampa area. That was back in 1991. Kramer was touched by my letter. Little did he or I know that it would take 27 more years to see No. 64 finally inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Chatting with Kramer is like talking to your favorite uncle. It’s always fun and engaging. Our call on Tuesday night was like most of our other phone conversations. It lasted over an hour.

My first question was about how it felt waiting for the knock on his hotel door by David Baker, the President and Executive Director for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Yeah, that was a pretty incredible time,” Kramer said. “I was starting to go downhill. I had pretty well gotten myself in a positive frame of mind because they told us that he [Baker] was supposed to be at the door between 3:00 and 4:00.

“I had heard that Rick Gosselin had done my presentation early to the selection committee, so I figured that they were going to do the seniors [knock on the door] first. So I’m thinking it’s good if I get a knock on the door at 3:15 or so, we would have a pretty good shot. But if it’s 3:45 or so, not so much.

“So it’s just about 3:30 and we hear that they were delayed and would be a little late. So about twenty minutes to 4:00, we hear a knock at the door. And everyone there, which was my daughter Alicia, my son Matt, my grandson Charlie, my son Tony and his wife Darlene, Chris Olsen (close friend), Chuck Greenberg (former owner of the Texas Rangers) and a couple other folks there, all started cheering. So we go to the door and it’s the maid.

“So she was like a deer in the headlights. She didn’t know what was going on.  So after she left, we settled back down. Now it’s 3:45 and I’m really sliding downhill. I’m thinking that I’m not going to make it. That they would be here by now. All of a sudden there is a thunderous knock on the door. Boom, boom, boom.

“And you knew that was him [Baker]. So I said, ‘Who is it?’, being bit of a smart ass and I open the door and David is standing there with a half a dozen photographers and camera people. He gave me a big hug and I gave him a big hug. He’s 6’9” and 400 pounds. And I said, ‘You’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.’

“I was so wanting to see him. We were all praying for Mr. Baker to knock at the door and he was a lovely sight.”

The day was just getting started for Kramer, as he was whisked off to the NFL Honors show. There he had some unforgettable moments. First, he was announced to the crowd by Brett Favre.

Kramer stood on stage with the rest of the Class of 2018, which included Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins and Ray Lewis. Two other members of the class, Terrell Owens and Bobby Beathard, were not in attendance.

Jerry at the NFL Honors

After the class was announced, the other members of the Hall of Fame who were in the audience came on stage to welcome their new brethren.

“That was a real special moment,” Kramer said. “I think you ought to call Jerry Jones and ask him about me. I suspect there may be a story there, but I’m not sure. He gave me a big hug and I congratulated him for getting into the Hall and also apologized to him for the way I acted several years before.”

I wrote a story about that situation last year just before the Class of 2017 was named for the Hall of Fame, which included Jones.

Kramer was at a function in Dallas in the early-to-mid ’90s when the Packers were playing the Cowboys in the NFC playoffs, which the Packers did for three straight years (1993-1995) in Big D.

Jones was there and he saw Kramer and went up to him to say hello and stuck out his hand, but Kramer just kept walking. Kramer always regretted that moment, which was one of the reasons I wrote the piece about Jerry rooting for Jerry last year.

But this past Saturday, Kramer got the chance to convey his true feelings.

“I told Jerry that I rooted for him last year,” Kramer said. “I told him that he has done a hell of a job as an owner and has made this game better. I said that I didn’t have enough sense to be civil to you back when I was younger back in Dallas, but I sure as hell thought you ought to be here. And that I was glad to be associated with him now.

“Jerry got sort of teared up when I said that and it seemed like it was an emotional moment for him.”

Kramer shook hands and hugged with all of the other members of the Hall of Fame as well.

“That was a special moment,” Kramer said. “That was very, very special. When they came up hugging and saying, ‘welcome to the brotherhood’ and ‘welcome to the family’, it was just wonderful.

“It cleared everything up about how they were going to respond. And how they felt. You never know, but they were really like teammates. It was just special.”

I asked Kramer if there was anyone in particular he was anxious to meet and greet.

“Mike Singletary,” Kramer said. “I saw him and there were a couple of guys in between us, and I made a special effort to shake his hand and Mike did the same for me. It was a pleasant moment. We didn’t talk a lot, but we hugged. I thought he was just a hell of a player.”

I then mentioned to Kramer that it was apropos that one of the members of his draft class included another middle linebacker of the Chicago Bears, Urlacher.

“Yeah, while we were chatting, I said to Brian that he taught me something about the Chicago Bears,” Kramer said. And Urlacher says, ‘What the hell is that, Jerry?’ I said that I finally understood that Bears are people too.”

After the NFL Honors show, Kramer went back to his hotel room to chill out and relax after his exciting afternoon and evening thus far. But his evening wasn’t over, as he received a call from Jeremy Schaap, the son of the late, great Dick Schaap. who co-authored three books with Kramer, including the classic Instant Replay.

Jeremy invited Kramer to dinner and cocktails, so Jerry and some of his entourage met Schaap. Kramer had a great time, plus saw Mark Murphy (President and CEO of the Packers) there and had a nice chat with him.

Plus on Super Bowl Sunday at the game, Kramer went to the Green Bay suite at the stadium and had another chat with Murphy for quite a while. That got Kramer to thinking about a couple of great things coming up.

“Certainly the Hall of Fame itself in Canton in August and all of that,” Kramer said. “But another moment which will be awfully powerful for me is seeing my name on the facade at Lambeau Field and being honored there in front of those great fans.”

at Lambeau Field on October 16, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

That’s what happens to other Hall of Fame players, coaches or front office people from the Packers who are enshrined in Canton. The names currently on the facade are Earl “Curly” Lambeau, Robert “Cal” Hubbard, Don Hutson, Johnny “Blood” McNally, Clark Hinkle, Mike Michalske, Arnie Herber, Vince Lombardi, Tony Canadeo, Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Paul Hornung, Willie Wood, Henry Jordan, James Lofton, Reggie White, Dave Robinson, Ron Wolf and Brett Favre.

Speaking of Wolf, he sent a nice email to Kramer congratulating him on being inducted, as he was not in attendance at the NFL Honors show.

And like Kramer did with Robinson the night before “Robby” was inducted in 2013, the two of them went out to dinner the night before Kramer was inducted.

“That was a good luck dinner,” Kramer said. “Robby felt that it had worked for him, so he said let’s do it again so it can work for me. And it sure did. We had a nice dinner and a nice time.”

Kramer also talked to another teammate for the first time in over 45 years. That would be his old roommate, Taylor. The two of them have not talked since they had a falling out with each other back in the early ’70s.

“Yes, I talked to him,” Kramer said. “His wife is such a sweet lady and she sat down at the table with us. Someone was between Jimmy and I, but we were almost elbow to elbow. It would have been awkward and asinine to continue the boycott. I wasn’t overly friendly and didn’t slap him on the back or anything, but we did chat.”

After telling me that story, Kramer said that another discussion with Taylor probably won’t happen again.

But you never know.

While we chatted, I reminded Jerry that he was the last player on the NFL’s 50th anniversary first team to be enshrined in Canton. The other players who were on that first team and are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame are 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 and Lou Groza.

Now that Kramer has rightfully been inducted, there are just two players on that 50th anniversary team, one on the second team and one on the third team, who are currently not in Canton.

Kramer was shocked to hear who they were. They are Boyd Dowler (second team) and Ron Kramer (third team).

I’ll be doing a story regarding that situation in the near future.

I then asked Kramer what is was like getting fitted for a gold jacket and all the other things associated with going into the Hall of Fame.

“It was an incredible time,” Kramer said. “It kind of was the last straw in believing if you were in or not. If they are measuring you for a bust, it’s not because you are President of the United States, it’s because you are in the Hall of Fame. And if they are measuring you for a gold jacket, than you know you are one of the guys. And when they put that Hall of Fame ring on my finger, I had to get out my sunglasses to protect my eyes. So those things solidified the whole thing for me.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket

When I heard the happiness in Kramer’s voice as he told me about the wonderful weekend that he had because of his induction into the Hall, I told him of a conversation I had with his son Dan the evening he was inducted.

Dan told me that his brother Tony, who was in the hotel room in Minneapolis with his dad, said that his father cried when he saw Baker at the door. I told Dan that I wasn’t surprised.

Jerry had always told me and many others that not being in the Hall of Fame didn’t bother him. Jerry would always say that the game of football had been very kind to him and had given him a number of gifts. If he didn’t receive the Hall of Fame gift, so be it, it still would be fine. If he got in, it would be like a cherry on a sundae.

But I never believed that. Jerry was just being stoic. He wanted this honor badly. When I mentioned that to Kramer, there was silence for a number of seconds. Then with his voice quivering slightly, Kramer replied, “No question, Bob. You are exactly right. Exactly right. All my honors came 40 years or so ago.  And I got the feeling that some people were thinking if you are so hot, how come you are not in the Hall?

“I mean the Commissioner [Roger Goodell] thought I was in the Hall. John Hannah thought I was in the Hall. I had to tell them that I wasn’t. I was thinking maybe I was overrated. So you start doubting yourself. Your emotions are up, down and around and around.

“But the ring day, the bust day and the gold jacket day put all that to rest for me”.

Yes indeed. From now on, Kramer will be forever known as a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He already was in the minds of many of us, but now it’s official.

A Conversation with David Baker, the President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

david-baker-pro-football-hall-of-fame

Before David Baker was named President and Executive Director for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in early 2014, he certainly had a very interesting background in sports.

The 6’9” Baker was a power forward and captain of the basketball team at the University of California at Irvine from 1971–75. After his college career was over, Baker also played two seasons of professional basketball in Europe.

In terms of professional sports and having a leadership role, Baker was first an owner for the Anaheim Piranhas of the Arena Football League in 1995. But Baker soon had an even bigger job in the AFL, as he was named Commissioner of the league in 1996 and remained in that position through the 2008 season.

Under Baker’s watch, the AFL experienced unprecedented growth in attendance, TV ratings, revenue, corporate sponsorships, merchandise sales, and profitability.

I was able to witness the love for the AFL in person a few times, as the Tampa Bay Storm won two of it’s five overall AFL titles during that time. The Storm’s current team president is former Tampa Bay Buccaneer great Derrick Brooks, who also was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

Excelling in the world of sports runs in the Baker family, as son Sam was a former three-time All-American left tackle at USC and played six years with the Atlanta Falcons from 2008-14.

Sam was the 21st pick in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Dirty Birds. I was writing for Packer Report at that time and I did an interview and story about Sam before the draft, as the Packers were reportedly interested in perhaps selecting Baker at pick No. 30 in the first round.

Another son Ben, who was also an offensive lineman, played his college football at Duke and is now a Senior Manager of Broadcasting at NASCAR in Charlotte.

Baker and his wife Colleen, also have two other children, daughter Leyla and another son named Michael Ray.

When he wasn’t directly involved in sports, Baker has had an extensive and successful background as a business professional.

After obtaining a Juris Doctorate degree from Pepperdine University School of Law, Baker became an attorney in California, as he specialized in corporate mergers, acquisitions and real estate law.

If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Baker also served as a City Councilman and Mayor of Irvine, California from 1984-88.

Starting in 2010, Baker also became a Partner in Union Village, LLC, the largest healthcare project in the United States. Union Village is located in Henderson, Nevada and became the first Integrated Health Village in the world.

It was in during his time at Union Village, when Baker was approached about becoming the President and Executive Director for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“The Hall did a national search,” Baker told me. “A guy named Jed Hughes called me. Jed was the head of the sports division at Korn Ferry. Jed used to be a coach for a long, long time with the Steelers, UCLA and other places. Anyway, Jed called and asked if I would be interested in applying for the job and I told Jed that I love the Hall, that I knew my predecessor (Steve Perry) well and I thought it would be great, but that I was really involved in this thing at Union Village and I told him that I just couldn’t do it.

“Jed told me that he would send me the job description via email anyway and if I changed my mind to call him. At that end of the day, I’m cleaning out my email and I was in Atlanta at the time, and I forwarded the job description note to my wife Colleen, with a another little note saying you’ll never guess what happened today.

“Colleen called me about 15 minutes later and told me that we were going to do this thing with the Hall. And I told her that I had already told them no. Colleen said that I should call them back. I countered by saying that we were involved in this big project at Union Village. Colleen then said it was time to pass the baton there.

“I also told her how cold it was in Ohio and then asked why she wanted to do this so bad. And Colleen said, ‘Have you read this thing?’ And quite honestly I hadn’t. And Colleen said that I have to read it because this job is about what you believe.

“You know, my mom and dad could not read or write. And if it wasn’t for sports, and in my case it was basketball, but I always loved football the most, but sports provided me an education and sports introduced me to people who I never would have met otherwise. And it took me to places I never would have gone to.

“But more importantly, it taught me things about lessons in life. Not only did those lessons help me succeed, but even more importantly when I was knocked on my tail in life by mistakes of my own choosing, it helped me survive and get up again.

“For me now at the Hall of Fame, I call it the church of football. It may not be any particular doctrine of a church, but the things that the game teaches, like perseverance, commitment, sacrifice,  teamwork, love, loyalty and discipline, are all things that are taught every Sunday at some church.”

While Baker was heading the AFL as Commissioner, he  got to know his counterpart in the NFL, Paul Tagliabue. During that association, Tagliabue introduced Baker to his right-hand guy, a fellow by the name of Roger Goodell.

That relationship became quite strong over the years.

“Roger and I had dinner once a month for ten years before he became Commissioner of the NFL,” Baker said.

In the three-plus years that Baker has been the head of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he has been involved in some very emotional moments when he has told a nominee for induction that they had indeed been selected to enshrinement in the Hall.

As President and Executive Director for the Hall, one of Baker’s duties is to inform a nominee whether he was inducted or not.

In Baker’s first year at the Hall, he had such a moment after first informing both Michael Strahan and Derrick Brooks that they inducted into the Hall.

“The third guy was Ray Guy,” Baker said. “Ray had been eligible 29 years and had been a finalist nine times and had not been called yet. When I got a hold of Guy, I said, ‘Ray, this is Dave Baker, President of the Hall.’ Ray said, ‘Yes Sir,’ in that southern drawl he has.

“So I tell him, ‘Ray, it is my great pleasure…’ I got that far and I could hear him drop to the ground with the phone rattling around. I could hear his wife asking him if he was okay. I thought I killed my first Hall of Famer!

ray-guy

“Ray took about two minutes to get up and when he got back on the phone he said, ‘I don’t think I understood it until now how big a thing this is for me.’

Baker also talked about what recently occurred last month when he informed Jerry Jones that he was inducted.

“I’ve known Jerry for a couple of decades,” Baker said. “He was one of the owners in the Arena Football League. Jerry is probably the P.T. Barnum of our time. Jerry had 20 of his family waiting with him to find out if he was inducted. And when I knocked on his door, they were screaming and yelling and every single one of them were crying.”

But the induction announcement which touched Baker the most was when Kurt Warner made it into the Hall last month.

“It is a special moment for each one of them who get inducted,” Baker said. “But for me, it was a little more special with Kurt Warner. I had seen him grow up. I had seen him rise (in the AFL). I saw him overcome the donut in his NFL career when he was with the Giants before he went to Arizona.

“I just have the greatest respect for him. More as a human being. Far more than a football player. We share some spiritual values together. But what was real interesting about that was two years ago when Kurt was eligible for the Hall for the first time, I wanted to make sure that I was the one who call him, as we also call the guys who don’t make it.

“I told Kurt that it didn’t happen that year and that I hoped I could call him next year with better news. And Kurt says, ‘Commish, that’s okay. Don’t worry about it. But you have to tell me, did my friend Orlando [Pace] make it?’ Well Pace didn’t make it that year and Kurt was more upset about that than about the fact that he didn’t get in.

“That speaks to the kind of man he is. The next year Kurt did not make it again, but Orlando Pace did get in. But when I knocked on the door this last time, not only Kurt was there, but Brenda and their eight kids were there as well. It was just a great moment when I was able to let him know that he was in.

“To me, Kurt Warner is not only the kind of football player, but the kind of man who belongs in the Hall of Fame. When I’m introduced at places, sometimes I’m introduced as the President of the NFL Hall of Fame. But it’s the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That includes the Arena Football League and NFL Europe. Kurt won championships in the AFL and NFL Europe, plus in the NFL. The only thing Kurt doesn’t have is a Canadian Football League title. I’m just so proud of him.”

Last year, Baker was able to knock on the door of Brett Favre after he was inducted. Some people may not recall this, but Favre and Warner were teammates for a brief period in training camp with the Packers in 1994. The undrafted rookie was released in camp, as the Packers had a pretty good stable of quarterbacks at the time, which included Favre, Ty Detmer and Mark Brunell.

After Warner was released by the Packers, he went to the AFL, NFL Europe and then the NFL again. We all know what happened after that.

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Baker had an interesting conversation with Favre, as he told him that he was inducted.

“A year ago, I knocked on the door of Brett Favre,” Baker said. “That particular day we deliberated for about 10 hours, but it took 10 seconds to select Brett Favre. So when I knock on Brett’s door and saw him, I first made a joke. I said, ‘Brett, it’s my great pleasure to tell you, provided you don’t retire, that you will be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the 303 greatest players, coaches and contributors to ever play this game.’

“Brett heard the first part, but when I got to the second part about being among the 303 greatest players ever, Brett put his hands in his pockets and hung his head humbly like a kid. Because he knew how big this was.”

Big indeed. As Baker explained to me, there are several hundred million men who have played the game of football in some fashion. Of that group, only 2.2 million played college football. And when you take it to the professional level, there are only 27,000 who been be paid to play, coach or officiate in the National Football League.

So to be among the 300-plus players, coaches and contributors in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is truly an outstanding honor.

As I heard these great stories from Baker, I kept thinking about Jerry Kramer. Why? Because he has all the attributes as a player and also as a man to be among the greats 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 First-Team All-Decade through the year 2000, there were 145 players who were given that designation.

And up until now, 133 of those players have been inducted into the hallowed halls in Canton. Kramer is among the 12 who haven’t as of yet.

The fact that Kramer was not only a First-Team All-Decade player, plus was the lone guard on the NFL 50th anniversary team, make his omission from the Pro Football Hall of Fame truly puzzling.

Kramer was a five-time AP (First-Team) All-Pro and also named as an AP (Second-Team) All-Pro once, plus was also named to three Pro Bowls for the Packers. No. 64 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 was an integral part of a great Green Bay team coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi. Those teams won five NFL championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

In addition to that, the Packers became the only team in the modern NFL to win three straight NFL titles, when Green Bay won it all in 1965, 1966 and 1967.

No. 64 played a key role in a number of those championship contests.

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.

Kramer earned a game-ball for his efforts that day in the Bronx.

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.

In the closing moments of the game, down by a score of 17-14,  the Packers had to drive 68 yards down the frozen field to either tie or win the game.

It all came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. The Packers could have kicked a field goal at that point to tie the game at 17-17.

But coach Lombardi decided to go for the win. If the Packers run the ball and are stopped short of the end zone, the game is over.

Starr called a 31-wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, Starr decided to keep the ball after conferring with Lombardi on the sideline about the play.

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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.

Even with all that, Kramer has still not yet been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Between 1974 and 1987, Kramer was a finalist for induction into Canton nine times. Nine times! That in itself tells you that Kramer was a tremendous player.

But as all this was going on, a lot of Kramer’s teammates with the Packers were getting inducted. This included players like Taylor, Starr, Hornung, Forrest Gregg, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis and Jim Ringo.

But Kramer’s name was never called for induction. In 1989, another former teammate was inducted. Safety Willie Wood finally heard his name called, after also being a finalist nine times, just like Kramer.

In all, Kramer has seen 11 of his former teammates get inducted, as well as his legendary head coach.

In 1997, Kramer was a senior finalist, but for some reason he did not get the votes necessary for induction.

Many of Kramer’s peers who either played against him or with him and who were selected to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame have endorsed Kramer to receive that same honor.

I asked Baker about Kramer’s bewildering omission from the Hall.

“There is a huge backlog with the seniors, as I’m sure Rick Gosselin has let you know that,” Baker said. “Whether a player is nominated or not can be very subjective. Sometimes it’s by a razor-thin margin.

“The thing that most defines the men who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, are the guys who aren’t in the Hall. We are talking about some really spectacular players.”

The senior backlog may get a helping hand in the centennial year of the NFL in 2019. Gosselin, who sits on the seniors and the contributors committees, proposed that a number of worthy seniors be put into the Hall of Fame that year.

Baker talked about that possibility.

“To get into the Hall, it’s really elite and exclusive company,” Baker said. “That’s why I’m considering a proposal to expand the senior section in the NFL centennial to include some more deserving guys.”

Earlier in the story, Baker talked about the various attributes that players learn playing football. Things like like perseverance, commitment, sacrifice,  teamwork, love, loyalty and discipline. These are also things Kramer learned from Lombardi when he played in Green Bay.

“Coach Lombardi had a tremendous impact on my life,” Kramer told me awhile back. “The fundamentals that he taught us were fundamentals for life. They were about football, but also about business or anything else you wanted to achieve.

“You would use the Lombardi principles. He believed in paying the price. He believed in hard work and making sacrifices for the betterment of the team. His principles were preparation, commitment, consistency, discipline, character, pride, tenacity and perseverance.

“Those things are still helping me today.”

Kramer also talked about Lombardi’s background which helped him achieve great success in the NFL.

“Coach Lombardi read ancient Greek and Latin, plus taught chemistry and algebra,” Kramer said. “He was a very bright man. In a lot of ways, he was more like a teacher, as opposed to a coach. He believed that he was a teacher, first and foremost. For him, teaching and coaching were one in the same.”

Yes, Vincent Thomas Lombardi was a great coach and a great teacher. But he was more than that. He was also a great man. A man who molded great football players to be sure, but more importantly than that, he molded great people.

Kramer is certainly a testament to that, both as a man and as a player.

This is what 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.”

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The voters who named the NFL 50th anniversary team in 1969 would definitely agree.

I sincerely hope that the day is coming very soon when Baker will knock on Kramer’s door and say, “Jerry, it is my great pleasure to tell you that you will be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the greatest players, coaches and contributors to ever play this game.”

That is a moment that is long overdue in my opinion, but I know the occasion would be very rewarding for not only Kramer, but also for his family and friends as well. Not to mention all the fans who have supported his enshrinement in Canton for all these years.

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jerry is Rooting for Jerry

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On Saturday February 4, the day before Super Bowl LI in Houston, we will find out who the Pro Football Hall of Fame will name to their Class of 2017.

One of the people who might get named to the upcoming class is the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones. Jones is one of two contributor nominees for the Class of 2017. One person who will be rooting for Jones to get a bust in Canton is former Green Bay Packers great Jerry Kramer.

Kramer himself should have been inducted decades ago into the Hall of Fame and until that situation is rectified, there will always be a credibility issue at that venue.

That being said, I talked to Kramer recently and he told me about a brief meeting he had with Jones in Dallas in the early 1990s that he still regrets.

Kramer was at a function in Dallas when the Packers were playing the Cowboys in the NFC playoffs, which the Packers did for three straight years (1993-1995) in Big D.

Anyway, apparently Jones saw Kramer and went to him to say hello and Kramer just kept walking.

Kramer explained how his mindset was working then.

“I had a couple interviews last week where I said some nice things about Jerry,” Kramer said. “I said I thought Jerry was a great owner and has done some great things for the NFL since he has owned the Cowboys.

“I was explaining my ignorance and attitude at that point in time in those interviews. Trying to explain that I was still competing and still fighting against the Cowboys instead of behaving myself like I should have.”

Kramer had reason to be in the competing mode, as he played in two of the most famous NFL title games in NFL history versus the Cowboys in 1966 and 1967.

The 1967 game was especially legendary, as it is better known as the “Ice Bowl” game. It was in this game in which Kramer executed the most famous block in NFL history.

The game was played under brutal conditions, as the game-time temperature was 13 degrees below zero. If you added the wind, it was bone-chillingly cold, as there was a minus-48-degree windchill for the game.

The situation came down to this: just 16 seconds to go with no timeouts at the Dallas 1-yard line and the Packers trailing the Cowboys 17-14.

Quarterback Bart Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with coach Vince Lombardi on the sideline, Starr decided to keep the ball due to the slippery conditions near the goal line.

That play selection was called earlier in the week when the team was studying the defensive tendencies of the Cowboys. Kramer actually suggested the play to Lombardi.

“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’

Starr followed Kramer’s classic block on Pugh (who was high just as Kramer expected) and No. 15 happily tumbled into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

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Those memories stayed strong in the mind of Kramer as he visited Dallas in the 1990s while the Packers took on the Cowboys for the right to move on in the playoffs.

Still, in retrospect, Kramer wishes that he would have been more receptive to Jones in their brief encounter.

Jones has a couple of things in common with Kramer. Besides being named Jerry, Jones also played guard at the University of Arkansas when the Razorbacks won the national title in 1964.

Not only did Jones play guard, but he was also a co-captain and was named All-Southwest Conference because of his play.

While it’s not known for sure, I would wager a bet that one of the players Jones looked up to in the NFL while he was playing guard in college was Kramer. After all, Kramer was considered the best right guard in the NFL at the time and ended up on the All-Decade team of the 1960s, not to mention the NFL 50th anniversary team.

While Arkansas and Jones won the national title in ’64, Green Bay and Kramer won five NFL titles in the 1960s, which included the first two Super Bowls.

And it was the Cowboys under head coach Tom Landry who the Packers under head coach Vince Lombardi defeated in the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games to get to those first two Super Bowls.

Landry, who had coached the Cowboys from their infancy in 1960, was fired by Jones shortly after he purchased the Cowboys in 1989 and replaced by Jimmy Johnson, who was a teammate of Jones on that national championship team at Arkansas in 1964.

Landry had taken the Cowboys to five Super Bowls and had won two of them. Landry also led the Boys to 270 wins (regular season and postseason), which is currently the third-best mark in the history of the NFL.

Although the firing of Landry was not very popular in Dallas at the time, two straight Super Bowl wins under Johnson after the 1992 (Super Bowl XXVII) and 1993 (Super Bowl XXVIII) seasons deflected the anger in Cowboy Nation.

Two years later, the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX, this time under head coach Barry Switzer.

The Cowboys have not been back to a Super Bowl in over 20 years, but Jones has become one of the most powerful owners in the NFL.

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One of his greatest endeavors was getting a new spacious and luxurious home for the Cowboys, which is now called AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The stadium, which was built in 2009, is also called “Jerry World” by some. Back in 2009, it was called Cowboys Stadium, and it was at that venue that the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31- 25.

The Wisconsin Badgers also just won the 2017 Cotton Bowl Classic at that same stadium, when they defeated the then unbeaten Western Michigan Broncos 24-16 on January 2.

“Jerry is a hustler,” Kramer said. “He’s always been a hustler. He’s got that method and that way about him. He’s always talking about his team. To me, that’s sensational. It’s nice to have a love affair like that. It’s nice to have something that is so interesting and important for you to enjoy. Jerry is blessed to have that football team. The Cowboys have been a wonderful thing for him and he’s been a wonderful thing for the Cowboys.

“Bottom line, I’m pulling for Jerry to get into the Hall. I mean, he’s named Jerry and he also played guard. But he’s also good for the NFL, whether you are a Cowboys fan or not.”