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Sports Then and Now



Will This Finally Be the Year for Jerry Kramer? 5

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. Read the rest of this entry →

June 11th – A Hall of Fame Birth Date 10

Posted on June 11, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Ernie Nevers

Ernie Nevers

There aren’t many days that mark the birth date for multiple members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but June 11th happens to be one of them. In fact, three all-time legends were all born on the date: Ernie Nevers (1903), Vince Lombardi (1913) and Joe Montana (1956).

Ernie Nevers (1903-1976) – A member of first class of Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrines, Ernie Nevers was a five-time All-Pro in five seasons for the Duluth Eskimos and Chicago Cardinals. A college star at Stanford University, Nevers was part of the NFL in the early, less structured era. In 1926 he played both ways and was on the field for 1,714 of a possible 1,740 minutes during a 29 game schedule. Playing for the Chicago Cardinals in 1929, Nevers scored all 40 points (six touchdowns and four extra points) in a 40-6 victory over the Chicago Bears. In 52 official NFL games during his five seasons, Nevers scored 38 touchdowns, while also kicking 51 extra points and seven field goals for 301 career points. During his career, Nevers served as player-coach of both the Eskimos and Cardinals.

Vince Lombardi (1913-1970) – Known as one of the greatest coaches of all-time, Vince Lombardi actually had an interesting and storied journey in football even before leading the Green Bay Packers to five NFL titles in the 1960s. As a college player at Fordham University, Lombardi was one of the famous “Seven Blocks of Granite” on the front line. After coaching at the high school level, Lombardi spent time as an assistant coach at Fordham and Army before getting his first job in the NFL. He was a 41-year-old first-time NFL assistant with the New York Giants in 1954. He served as the offensive coordinator with future Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry leading the defense. The Giants won the NFL title in 1956 and lost to the Colts in the famous 1958 championship game. After being rebuffed for several college and pro coaching gigs, Lombardi took over the Green Bay Packers in 1959. In his first season, he led the Packers to their first winning record since 1947. The next year they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL Championship Game. He went on to lead the Packers to five NFL Championships as well as victories in the first two Super Bowls. Lombardi retired as head coach of the Packers after the 1967 season, but returned to the sidelines in 1969 leading the Washington Redskins to their first winning season since 1955. He passed away from stomach cancer in 1970. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and the Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor. Read the rest of this entry →

Interesting Choices for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selectors 0

Posted on February 04, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Terrell Davis averaged more than 1,600 yards rushing per season during his four prime NFL campaigns.

Terrell Davis averaged more than 1,600 yards rushing per season during his four prime NFL campaigns.

With LaDainian Tomlinson as the only sure-fire pick for the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class, the selection committee could be in for a long day trying to differentiate the other choices.

In addition to Tomlinson, former defensive stars Jason Taylor and Brian Dawkins are on the ballot for the first time. Though both players have a Hall of Fame caliber portfolio, it seems unlikely that they will get the call in their first year of eligibility.

Among the other modern era candidates, former Washington Redskins offensive lineman Joe Jacoby is the closest to falling off the modern era ballot, which would significantly reduce the likelihood that he will be inducted in the near future. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if the two-time first team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler will generate enough support to earn a gold jacket.

More likely to earn induction than Jacoby is a group of former stars who have been on the ballot for a handful of years while waiting for other deserving players to clear a HOF path.

Former “Greatest Show on Turf” teammates Isaac Bruce and Kurt Warner are both on the ballot for the third time. While there have been some to question whether Warner is deserving of the Hall of Fame, it seems likely that he will ultimately get the nod. It would be fitting for Warner and Bruce, who caught 1,024 passes for more than 15,000 yards during his career, to be selected in the same class.

Another receiver who will certainly eventually earn a gold jacket is the flamboyant Terrell Owens. With 1,078 career catches, 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns, Owens unquestionably has the numbers to earn a spot, however, given his toxic reputation, the voters may choose to leave him sitting for at least another year before putting him in the Hall.

For some reason, Hall of Fame voters historically tend to gravitate towards selecting offensive linemen while being tougher on skilled position players.

Joining Jacoby as offensive linemen on the ballot are three players who will all likely eventually earn a HOF spot. Perhaps the most controversial of these picks is Tony Boselli. The three-time first team All-Pro and five time Pro Bowler was unquestionably among the best players in the league during his career, but because injuries limited him to only six full seasons he could be waiting a while before heading to Canton. Read the rest of this entry →

Pro Football Hall of Fame Still Missing Many Deserving Players 0

Posted on August 06, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Jerry Kramer has shockingly been bypassed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for more than 40 years.

Jerry Kramer has shockingly been bypassed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for more than 40 years.

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 →

Pro Football Hall of Fame Continues to Play Catch-up With Class of 2016 2

Posted on February 06, 2016 by Dean Hybl
There was no surprise in the selection of Brett Favre for the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.

There was no surprise in the selection of Brett Favre for the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.

Between 2000 and 2009, the selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame chose for induction a grand total of 54 former player, coaches and league officials. You might think that number reflects exclusivity and ensuring only the “best of the best” are recognized with the highest honor for the sport. However, in a sport with 32 teams and more than 1,600 players every year, the reality was that the committee left a lot of deserving players waiting in the wings.

Because of that, over the last seven years the committee has been playing catch-up. Where a class of six or seven was once an exception (only nine times between 1970 and 2009), every class since 2010 has included at least six inductees and with the addition of eight new members for 2016, there have now been consecutive classes of eight for the first time since 1967 and 1968. Since 2010, 50 former players, coaches and contributors have been selected for the Hall of Fame.

I applaud the current committee for recognizing the mistakes of the past and continuing to grow the HOF, but even with their larger classes there continues to be questions and confusing decisions.

When Brett Favre finally retired (for the last time) following the 2010 season, there was little doubt that he would be a member of the 2016 Hall of Fame class. The other seven people who will join Favre in Canton this August include a few more surprises.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing about the Class of 2016 is that both of the senior selections, Dick Stanfel and Ken Stabler, are not alive to enjoy their day in the sun. Both died within a month of each other during the summer of 2015.

What is especially frustrating is that both players have been eligible for the HOF for decades and in fact had both previously been finalists.

One of my biggest disappointments with the HOF has always been the high number of former players or coaches who wait sometimes for as many as 50 years after they have retired before they get selected.

You would think that if someone is “Hall of Fame worthy” they would be inducted within a reasonable time after retirement, but unfortunately that hasn’t always been the case.
Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering the NFL Minister of Defense Reggie White 1

Posted on October 12, 2015 by Mike Raffone

Minister of DefenseToday’s Sports Then and Now blog remembers the late Reggie White.

An ordained pastor and Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman, this NFL defender brilliantly embodied his fitting Minister of Defense nickname.

During a storied 15-year NFL career, the Minister of Defense delivered his football version of a fire and brimstone sermon by dominating opposing offenses.

Whenever Reggie White set foot on the football field, he constantly administered defensive pressure. And, when away from the gridiron, he tirelessly catered to the needs of inner-city youth and those less fortunate through his work as a Christian minister.

NFL.com rated White as the #7 NFL player of all-time, and ESPN Sports Nation named him the greatest player in Philadelphia Eagles history. His storied career validates their lofty choices.

White graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1984 after being named SEC Player of the Year during his senior season. The Minister of Defense then played two years in the now defunct USFL with the Memphis Showboats, earning the 1985 USFL Man of the Year Award.

After the USFL folded, White proceeded to the NFL and starred for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1985 – 1992. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Bulldog Turner: Two-Way Star
      November 12, 2017 | 8:52 am
      Bulldog Turner

      Bulldog Turner

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a two-way star for the dominant Chicago Bears teams of the 1940s.

      Though Hardin-Simmons College in Abilene, Texas was not known as a football power, legendary head coach George Halas could find great players anywhere and chose Clyde “Bulldog” Turner with the seventh pick in the 1940 NFL Draft.

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