Jerry Kramer Has to Wait Another Year to Get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
When I heard the news earlier this week that Jerry Kramer wasn't going to be nominated by the Senior Select Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I was disappointed. But I wasn't surprised. I'm not discouraged either. Not by a long shot.
The two senior nominees for 2014 are Claude Humphrey and Ray Guy. Guy has been a finalist for the Hall of Fame seven times now. Kramer knows how Guy feels, even more so.
You see, Kramer has been a finalist 10 times. No. 64 was a finalist in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1987 and 1997. Why Kramer has not been inducted into the Hall is quite perplexing.
Kramer was a five-time All-Pro and named to three Pro Bowls. He was also on the NFL All-Decade for the 1960s.
Jerry was also a member of the NFL's 50th anniversary team in 1969. Kramer is the only member of that team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Kramer was also on five Green Bay Packer teams which won NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowls, under head coach Vince Lombardi. The Packers won it all in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967.
Kramer was a big contributor to those title teams.
The 1962 NFL Championship Game was played at frigid Yankee Stadium, which also had 40 mph winds gusting around the storied stadium that day. The Packers won that hard-fought battle 16-7. The difference in the game was three field goals. The three field goals were kicked by Kramer, who doubled as a right guard and a kicker that blustery day.
The 1965 NFL Championship Game at Lambeau Field featured the Packer one-two punch of Jimmy Taylor and Paul Hornung versus the great Jimmy Brown of the Cleveland Browns. Brown gained just 50 yards in his last ever game in the NFL, while Hornung ran for 105 yards and Taylor 96 in muddy conditions.
The Packer power sweep dominated the Browns' defense, as Kramer and left guard Fuzzy Thurston kept blowing up linebackers and defensive backs leading the way for the Packer backs.
One play in particular stands out: Hornung’s last NFL championship touchdown. Kramer pulled on a left power sweep and first blocked a linebacker, then a defensive back, as the “Golden Boy” found the end zone.
Then there was the 1967 NFL Championship Game at Lambeau Field, better known as the "Ice Bowl". The Packers had to drive 68 yards with only 4:50 remaining under arctic conditions, trailing the Dallas Cowboys 17-14. The playing surface that day truly was a frozen tundra, as the game time temperature was 13 below zero.
It came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. If the Packers run the ball and are stopped short, 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 because of the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line. Starr followed Kramer's block on Jethro Pugh and he found a hole to get into the end zone with the winning touchdown. I recently talked to Jerry about the play, and here was his memory.
Jethro was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we 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." On the play, Pugh is up high like I expected, and I got off the ball really well. I got a great start and Jethro was up where I expected him to be. I kept my head up and my eyes open, and I put my face in his chest and at that point it's over. I had control of Jethro and and he's up in the air, and he's just dead. As soon as he comes up, and I get into him, I had the power of position on him. There was no way in hell he was going to do anything but slide. Now Kenny (Bowman) was there and he was part of it (the block), there is no question about that, but I have always felt that the thing was over as soon as I got into Jethro.
Bottom line, the signature play of those great Lombardi teams was the power sweep. Kramer obviously played a large part in the success of that play.
The block that Kramer executed in the waning seconds of the "Ice Bowl" was the signature moment of the Lombardi-era.
I mentioned that Jerry was on the NFL All-Decade team of the 1960s. The three defensive tackles who were also on that team have all endorsed him for the Hall of Fame. Two of them, Merlin Olsen and Bob Lilly, are already in Canton, while the third, Alex Karras, certainly deserves to be there based on his career in the NFL.
In a letter that he penned on Kramer's behalf, along with several other Hall of Fame players, Olsen said that Jerry belonged in Canton.
"Jerry earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons," he said. "Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame."
Olsen is considered by many to be the best defensive tackle in NFL history.
Lilly also had some kind words to say about Kramer: "Jerry is a fine man and a great football player. He is the type of player and person I feel strongly should also be numbered among the NFL’s Pro Football Hall of Fame."
I opened this story by mentioning the news about Humphrey and Guy's nomination by the Senior Select Committee to be part of the class of nominees for the 2014 class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That news was tweeted by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, who is on the seniors committee. Please see this video from Packers.com, where Gosselin talks with Vic Ketchman about Kramer's omission from Canton.
Gosselin tells it like it is, as Howard Cosell would say.
Kramer has a shot (to get into the Hall of Fame). I think it's the biggest injustice in the Hall right now. This guy was picked as the best guard of the first 50 years of the NFL, and he's the only guy on that team that's not in the Hall of Fame. This is an oversight that needs to be fixed.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with Gosselin. He is not the only member of the senior committee who backs Kramer's admission into the Hall, either. There are others.
However, there's a problem. There are a backlog of well deserving senior candidates that the committee has to look at each year. The list starts at 90 players, then is whittled down to 15. After that, the committee has to finally choose just two nominees.
Also, remember that former Packer Dave Robinson was part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2013. That worked against Kramer this summer, according to Gosselin.
But here is the bottom line: Jerry Kramer deserves to be in Canton. Kramer should have been inducted decades ago. Gosselin said it best, when he called it "the biggest injustice in the Hall now."
We need very knowledgeable NFL writers like Gosselin and other members of his committee to right that injustice next year. They can help to remove the dark cloud that hovers over Canton because of Kramer's omission from the Hall.
Jerry at least needs to be nominated and become a finalist for the 11th time, the last time being 16 years ago. Then the rest of the voters can do the right thing and do what should have happened many, many years ago.
Vote Jerry Kramer into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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