With the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducting its newest class of enshrines, it provides the annual opportunity for discussion about which former NFL stars that seem worthy of being included in the Hall of Fame still are without busts in Canton.
Since he first became eligible in the early 1970s, former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer has been high on most lists of best players not in the HOF. As other Packers, as well as other offensive linemen with lesser career resumes, have received their HOF moment, Kramer has annually been denied.
A ten time HOF finalist, it has been nearly 20 years since Kramer last received serious HOF consideration. Some speculate that Kramer’s exclusion has been due to a glut of Packers from the 1960s. However, given that linebacker Dave Robinson became the 11th member of the 1960s Packers inducted just three years ago, that doesn’t seem totally accurate.
Given that the HOF selection committee has a history of vendettas (Ken Stabler was not selected until a year after his death), the explanation that seems more plausible has to do with Kramer’s foray into the world of journalism.
Following the 1967 season, Kramer and journalist Dick Schapp chronicled what turned out to be the last of the five championship teams of the 1960s in the award winning book Instant Replay. Two decades later, Kramer and Schapp revisited those players in the book Distant Replay.
There has been some speculation that journalists at the time resented Kramer treading into their world. In addition, because the Packers were known for their team mentality, having one player step out as a self-proclaimed spokesperson may have also created resentment.
Kramer’s on-the-field accolades would seem to unquestionably be HOF worthy. A five-time first team All-Pro offensive guard, Kramer was one of the lead blockers of the famed Packer Sweep. He also threw the lead block on one of the most famous plays of all-time to help the Packers defeat Dallas in the 1967 NFL Championship Game. In 1969 he was honored as one of the members of the NFL All-Time team for the 50th Anniversary of the league.
In recent years, his contemporaries Gene Hickerson, Billy Shaw and Dick Stanfel have received HOF selection while Kramer continues to wait for the call. Given that Stanfel is being inducted this year, slightly more than a year after his death at the age of 87, I hope the HOF Committee doesn’t wait too much longer before electing the 80-year-old Kramer.
While he is the most notable, Kramer is one of many former NFL stars who seem to have a strong case for HOF selection, especially when compared to others from their own era who have been inducted. Below is a breakdown of how some of those players compare with others from their own era who are members of the HOF.
1970s Wide Receivers:
Inducted: Lynn Swann (9 yrs, 336 receptions, 5,462 yards, 51 TD, 1 time All-Pro; Career-Highs: 61 receptions, 880 yards, 11 TDs)
Not Inducted: Drew Pearson: (11 yrs, 489 rec., 7,822 yds., 48 TD, 3 time All-Pro; Career-highs: 62 rec., 1,087 yds, 8 TD)
Cliff Branch: (14 yrs, 501 rec., 8,685 yds., 67 TD, 3 time All-Pro; Career-Highs: 60 rec., 1,111 yds., 13 TD)
Harold Jackson: (16 yrs., 579 rec, 10,372 yds., 76 TD, 1 time All-Pro; Career-Highs: 65 rec., 1,116 yds., 13 TD)
Otis Taylor: (11 yrs., 410 rec., 7,306 yds., 57 TD, 2 time All-Pro; Career-Highs: 59 rec., 1,297 yds., 11 TD)
While I have included only these four, in reality there are perhaps a dozen or more receivers who like Swann played much of their careers before the new rules started to increase the numbers for receivers in the late 1970s and are more deserving of being in the HOF than the former Pittsburgh Steeler. Read the rest of this entry →