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Will This Finally Be the Year for Jerry Kramer?

Posted on August 26, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Jerry Kramer (#64) should join his teammate Paul Hornung (#5) in the Pro Football hall of Fame in 2018.

Jerry Kramer (#64) should join his teammate Paul Hornung (#5) in the Pro Football hall of Fame in 2018.

In 1969, former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer was selected as the greatest offensive lineman of the first 50 years of the NFL. Unless the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee commits a true travesty next February, Kramer will finally be selected to the Hall of Fame as the NFL completes its 98th season.

Much has been written on this site and in many others over the years about how ridiculous it was that Kramer continued to be overlooked for the Hall of Fame. After retiring from the NFL in 1968, Kramer was first a finalist for the HOF in 1974 and was a regular selection finalist nine times between 1974 and 1987 and was also a senior finalist in 1997.

Each time, Kramer failed to the necessary support from the selection committee to earn enshrinement.

Over time, it went from Kramer being an obvious pick, to a theory that there were already a large number of 1960s Packers to in recent year’s disbelief at some of the players and contributors earning induction while Kramer continued to be on the outside.

It has gotten over the last decade to the point where almost every list that looks at potential Hall of Fame candidates listed Kramer as the most deserving player not currently enshrined.

Yet, since 2010 there have been a number of “head scratching” selections, especially among senior candidates (players retired 25 years or more). None of the senior players selected since 2010 were members of the NFL’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team or had played on more than three NFL Championship teams.

Perhaps the most interesting of those selections came in 2013 when Kramer’s former Green Bay teammate Dave Robinson earned induction, thus debunking the theory that the committee didn’t want to select any more Packers.

A linebacker for the Packers from 1963-1972 and then with the Washington Redskins for two additional seasons, Robinson was part of three NFL Championship teams and won two Super Bowls with the Packers. However, while a very good player, Robinson was a first team All-Pro only one time (Kramer earned first team All-Pro honors five times) and made the Pro Bowl only three times. He had never been a Hall of Fame finalist before being chosen in 2013 and was generally not near the top of the list for most who track Hall of Fame oversights.

The nearly 50 year oversight of Kramer for the Hall of Fame seems incredibly odd and has been very hard for most who are not in the selection room to understand.

Between 1960 and 1967 the Packers played in six NFL Championship Games and won five times. They were known for their great running game and the trademark play was the Power Sweep that called for Kramer or the other guard, usually Fuzzy Thurston, to pull out in front of the running backs and lead them downfield. Even though most defenses knew it was coming, the execution both by the linemen and runners was usually so good that it was rarely stopped.

Kramer's goal line block in the Ice Bowl helped guarantee the third straight NFL Championship for the Packers.

Kramer’s goal line block in the Ice Bowl helped guarantee the third straight NFL Championship for the Packers.

In addition to being a key part of the Power Sweep, Kramer also registered one of the most famous blocks in NFL history when he chipped away Jethro Pugh to open a path for quarterback Bart Starr to slide into the end zone in the final seconds of the famous Ice Bowl NFL Championship Game following the 1967 season.

More than just a lineman, when future Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, who had previously handled kicking duties, was out of the lineup in 1962 and 1963, Kramer stepped in. He was third on the team in scoring with 65 points (converting 9 of 11 field goals and 38 of 39 extra points) and then in 1963 led the team with 91 points (16 of 34 FG and 43 of 46 extra points).

The fact that Kramer has finally earned another chance for selection is great and long overdue, however, given the past history of the full committee to overlook Kramer you can’t count on his induction until the official announcement in February. In one respect, it is probably a good thing that most of the people currently selecting the Hall of Fame class were not part of the committee when Kramer was overlooked 10 previous times. However, there are also likely very few people left who actually remember watching Kramer as a player and understand just how great he was.

Whatever the reasons (some have speculated it could be petty jealousy from media members because Kramer co-wrote two best-selling books about the 1960s Packers and because of that has perhaps received more credit than deserved over some of his other teammates) that Kramer has been overlooked previously, if the committee does not select the now 81-year-old Kramer this time, it would seem especially obvious that there is a personal intent to keep him out of the Hall of Fame during his lifetime (as was the case with Ken Stabler).

Let’s hope any petty jealousy is either overblown or at least will be put aside to allow this great player to earn his rightful place among the greatest players of all-time.

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