In less than a week, the Senior Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce the two senior nominees that they have selected for the Class of 2015.
One of those nominees needs to be Jerry Kramer.
Before I get to the reasons why the former Green Bay Packer great needs to be nominated and then inducted into the Hall of Fame, I want to share some comments from a couple of members of the Senior Selection Committee regarding whether or not No. 64 belongs in Canton.
Those two members are Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News and Ron Borges of the Boston Herald. I had an opportunity to talk with both Rick and Ron over the past couple of years, and I know both believe Kramer certainly belongs among the greats at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Besides the fact that Gosselin and Borges have told me that Jerry deserves to be in Canton, each have gone on record to state those views.
Last year, Gosselin had a conversation with Vic Ketchman of Packers.com in this video. In the video, Gosselin tells it like it is:
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.
The oversight should be fixed this year. Gosselin can help. So can Borges. He recently wrote a story about the absurdity of Kramer not being in the Hall of Fame for the new website called the Talk of Fame Network.
Borges is joined by Gosselin and Clark Judge of CBSSports.com as they also host a weekly radio talk show.
In the story Borges wrote about Kramer, he started out the story by writing this:
When it comes to the Green Bay Packers wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame it’s a crowded place but at least one seat remains mysteriously empty. It’s the one Jerry Kramer earned decades ago.
Why it has never been filled is anyone’s guess but when you are the only guard selected on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team locking you out seems like more than an oversight. It seems ridiculous.
How can a man selected as the best guard of the game’s first 50 years be told he wasn’t good enough to be canonized in Canton?
Truer words have never been spoken. I have written many stories regarding Kramer in the past, but I would like to add to what both Gosselin and Borges have said.
Kramer was a six-time AP All-Pro at right guard for the Packers and also went to three Pro Bowls. No. 64 was also on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s. Kramer would have had more All-Pro honors and Pro Bowl invites if not for injuries and illness during his career.
In addition to all that, Kramer was also a member of the NFL's 50th anniversary team in 1969. As both Gosselin and Borges have noted, Kramer is the only member of that team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Kramer was also a member of teams coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi, which won five NFL championships in seven years. That would include the first two Super Bowls.
In addition to that, the Packers also won three NFL titles in a row from 1965-1967. The Packers are the only team in the modern NFL to accomplish such a feat.
Kramer played a big role in many of those championship moments.
In the 1962 NFL title game played at blustery and frigid Yankee Stadium, Kramer doubled as a right guard and a kicker as the Packers defeated the New York Giants 16-7.
The difference in the game were the three field goals Kramer kicked on a very windy day. Some gusts were over 40 mph during the contest.
In the 1965 NFL title game played at snowy and muddy Lambeau Field versus the Cleveland Browns, Kramer and the rest of the offensive line of the Packers totally dominated the Browns in the running game.
The power sweep was particularly effective. The Packers ending up gaining 204 rushing yards behind fullback Jimmy Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung as the Packers won 23-12. This was while the great Jimmy Brown was held to 50 yards rushing by the defense of the Packers.
The final touchdown of the game was scored by Hornung on a power sweep, and Kramer played a big role in getting No. 5 to the end zone.
Kramer pulled on a left power sweep and first blocked the middle linebacker, then a defensive back, as the “Golden Boy” scored a touchdown.
In the 1966 NFL title game against the Dallas Cowboys at the Cotton Bowl, the Packers held on to beat the Boys 34-27.
Quarterback Bart Starr was magnificent in that game, as Kramer and the rest of the offensive line gave No. 15 sufficient time to pass. When it was all said and done, Starr had thrown for 304 yards and four touchdowns in the Green Bay victory.
Then there was the 1967 NFL title game played on New Year's Eve at Lambeau Field. The game is better known as the "Ice Bowl."
The playing surface that day was truly a frozen tundra, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero.
In the waning moments of the game, the Packers had to drive 68 yards down the field to either tie or win the game.
It 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 Lombardi decided to go for the win. 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 after conferring with Lombardi on the sideline due to the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line.
The Packers had decided to run the wedge at defensive tackle Jethro Pugh after looking at film earlier in the week. Kramer explained how that went down to me:
"Jethro 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 block on Pugh, and he found a hole behind No. 64 to get into the end zone with the winning touchdown.
Kramer explained how that occurred:
"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 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."
Yet, besides the fact that Kramer was part of a team that won five NFL titles and also won so many individual honors, he's still not in the Hall.
It's very perplexing. Not just to people like myself, but to Kramer's peers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Randy Simon has put together a great book that shows how many players now enshrined in Canton believe Jerry should be there too.
All of the endorsements are great, which includes players like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Bob Lilly, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.
All of these Hall of Famers were Kramer's contemporaries.
But the biggest endorsement Kramer ever received was by a player Kramer fought with in the trenches on a number of occasions. I'm speaking of Merlin Olsen of the Los Angeles Rams.
Olsen is considered by many to be the best defensive tackle of all time. Olsen went to 14 Pro Bowls, which is the all-time NFL record shared by Bruce Matthews, the uncle of Clay Matthews of the Packers.
Olsen was named AP All-Pro nine times in his career as well.
In his endorsement of Kramer to the Hall, Olsen says:
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.
Hopefully that will be what happens next week when the Senior Selection Committee announces its two nominees. Both Gosselin and Borges will have to convince the other members of that committee to make No. 64 one of its nominees.
The other members are Dan Pompei of SportsOnEarth.com/Bleacher Report, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, John Czarnecki of FoxSports.com and Ira Miller of The Sports Xchange.
If all the other members of that committee truly look at the body of work Kramer has put together throughout his NFL career, then the decision will be a no-brainer.
Kramer needs to be one of the senior nominees.
Likewise, Kramer needs to be rightfully inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next February during Super Bowl weekend.
That induction should have taken place decades ago.
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