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Sports Then and Now



Terrell Who? Today is Jerry Kramer’s Day 0

Posted on August 04, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Jerry Kramer was a key part of the famous Packer power sweep.

Jerry Kramer was a key part of the famous Packer power sweep.

When we started Sports Then and Now nine years ago, one of the first things we did was create a list of former NFL players who we felt were deserving of being included in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but up until that time had been snubbed for induction.

Number one on that list was former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer. Today, Kramer’s name can finally be removed from that list.

While one member of the Hall of Fame class of 2018 is trying to steal the attention by focusing on what he believes was a personal snub not to be a first-year inductee, in reality, his perceived snub and hardship is nothing compared to what Jerry Kramer has endured over the last half century.

When the NFL announced the 50th Anniversary All-NFL Team in 1969, Jerry Kramer was one of the two offensive guards named to the team. Yet, it took until just one year before the 100th Anniversary All-NFL Team will be announced before Kramer was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Green Bay Packers of the 1960s were one of the great dynasty teams in NFL history. Kramer will join 12 other members of the 1960s Packers (plus Coach Vince Lombardi) in the Hall of Fame.

Kramer retired after the 1968 season and was first listed as a Hall of Fame finalist in 1974. Initially, it seemed likely that Kramer would be inducted pretty quickly. He was a finalist seven times in an eight year stretch between 1974 and 1981 while seven of his teammates were inducted.

At that time, Kramer wasn’t the only 1960s Packer having to wait his turn for induction. In 1981, two of his former teammates, Willie Davis and Jim Ringo, were inducted in their sixth and seventh years as a finalist, respectively. Later in the decade, Paul Hornung was selected in his 12th year as a finalist in 1986 and Willie Wood in 1989 in his 10th time as a finalist.

Kramer was again a finalist in 1984 and 1987, but still had not yet received the call. Read the rest of this entry →

Pro Football Hall of Fame Gets a Bit Closer to Legitimacy 0

Posted on February 03, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Nearly 50 years after retiring from the NFL, Jerry Kramer (#64) has finally been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Nearly 50 years after retiring from the NFL, Jerry Kramer (#64) has finally been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For me and likely many other long-time lovers of the history of pro football, the relationship with the Pro Football Hall of Fame has always been a messy one.

I have enjoyed the great fortune of visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame multiple times over the years, including taking my kids to Canton in 2015. The museum is a wonderful place to see, recall and learn about the many great moments, players and teams that have been part of the nearly 100 year history of the NFL.

However, while the Hall of Fame was created to be a historical archive to tell the story of professional football, over the years it has become more associated with the players specifically enshrined as Hall of Famers.

That is where for me the relationship starts to get a bit challenging.

While most of the 310 men who have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame through 2017 are unquestionably deserving, the process in which players are chosen has often been an uneven process in which some former players, coaches and administrators are quickly recognized while others with similar credentials either wait for many years or are totally omitted.

Made up of sports media professionals, the Hall of Fame selection committee has a long history of personal vendettas and bias.

Longtime committee member Paul Zimmerman reportedly said that Ken Stabler would never get inducted in his lifetime and sure enough Stabler was not inducted until the year after he died in 2015.

My greatest frustration with the Hall of Fame selection committee stems from their regular practice of making players and coaches who clearly have Hall of Fame credentials wait extended periods of time before being inducted.

Among the clearly deserving Hall of Famers who have been forced to wait beyond their initial year of eligibility were Fran Tarkenton, Shannon Sharpe, Derrick Thomas, Hank Stram, Willie Lanier, Tom Mack and Willie Wood.

The one position that has historically been treated with limited respect by the selection committee is position of wide receiver. Entering 2018, 25 modern era wide receivers have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, but only four of them (Jerry Rice, Raymond Berry, Paul Warfield and Steve Largent) were selected in their first year of eligibility. Read the rest of this entry →

Will This Finally Be the Year for Jerry Kramer? 6

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 →

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    • Billy Kilmer: Hard-Nosed Quarterback
      September 2, 2018 | 7:32 pm
      Kilmer

      Billy Kilmer

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month began his NFL career as an athletic running quarterback, but he endured a near fatal car accident to completely change his game during a career that spanned nearly two decades.

      Anyone who is familiar with former NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer probably remembers him as the portly, un-athletic, but very tough quarterback for the Washington Redskins in the 1970s. However, during his first two NFL seasons, Kilmer was primarily used as a running quarterback and running back for the San Francisco 49ers.

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