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Why isn’t Jerry Kramer in the Hall of Fame?

Posted by Cliff Christl on April 26, 2014 – 12:24 pm

Jerry Kramer

As the Green Bay representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee for the past 13 years, there’s no question about which question is foremost on the minds of Packers fans when it comes to that subject.

Why isn’t Jerry Kramer in the Hall of Fame?

After all, in 1969, the Hall selectors voted for him as the greatest guard in the NFL’s first 50 years.

For background, Kramer’s fate now rests with the nine-member Seniors Committee, and I was never part of that process. The Seniors Committee nominates two players who have been retired for 25 years or more for the 46-member selection committee to vote on at its meeting the day before the Super Bowl.

Dave Robinson, the Packers’ most recent inductee, was a senior nominee in 2013 and received the necessary 80 percent of votes cast to get in.

Kramer was the senior nominee in 1997, five years before I joined the committee, and fell short of 80 percent. That marked the 10th time Kramer was a finalist. No other player has been a finalist that many times and been shut out of Canton.

Never having been in the room when Kramer’s candidacy was discussed, I can only speculate as to why he hasn’t made it, based on bits and pieces of conversation I’ve heard outside the room.

1. Robinson was the 11th Lombardi Era player to be inducted into the Hall. Henry Jordan, the player selected previous to him, was posthumously inducted as a senior candidate in 1995. Paul Hornung and Willie Wood, the eighth and ninth inductees among Lombardi’s players, also waited a long time. Hornung was in his 12th year as a finalist; Wood in his 10th.

When Kramer was last a finalist, unlike today, there were still a number of veteran writers on the committee that grew up with the American Football League, and word is they were adamantly opposed to another Lombardi Packer getting in. Fair or not, it’s a notion others hold as well.

Not long ago, a presumably unbiased voice in the NFL office made the crack that if another one of Lombardi’s player was selected, maybe the coach’s bust should be removed – the point being what head coach couldn’t win championships with nearly a dozen Hall of Famers on his roster?

My retort would be: Keep in mind, Lombardi’s teams won five world championships over a seven-year span. More recently, San Francisco also won five, but it took 14 years, twice the time that it took the 1960s Packers. What’s more, the Packers won those titles with a suffocating defense, one that ranked in the top three in the league in four of those five championship years, and a running game that was virtually unstoppable at times.

They dominated a decade like no other NFL franchise ever by having really good to great players at nearly every position, not because they road the coattails of a superstar, a Johnny Unitas, for example.

2. Another criticism of Kramer, from what I’ve heard, was that he struggled against Merlin Olsen and Alex Karras, two of the game’s premier defensive tackles at that time.

With Karras, there’s some truth to that. Karras probably caused Lombardi’s teams more fits than any defensive player with the possible exception of Dick Butkus. Why Karras isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is beyond my comprehension. Read “Run to Daylight” to get a sense of what Lombardi thought of him.

As for Olsen, maybe Kramer had some problems against him, too. But all I know is that if you go back and watch film clips of the 1967 playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams and their vaunted front four, the Packers won largely by running to the right behind Kramer and Forrest Gregg at Hall of Famers Olsen and Deacon Jones.

3. One longtime committee member who would have had a vote in 1997 told me several years ago that he didn’t think Kramer was any better than his running mate at guard, Fuzzy Thurston. In truth, Thurston might have been the better pass blocker. And as good as Kramer was pulling for the sweep and on short trap blocks, Thurston did that well, too. But Kramer was more physically gifted than Thurston and remained at the top of his game longer. Lombardi tried to replace Thurston as early as 1965 and did so two years later.

The bigger issue today, or so it seems, is that over the years a number of former Packers players and coaches have told people in the league and members of the media that Thurston’s successor, Gale Gillingham, was not only the best guard but maybe best offensive lineman in Packers history.

Moreover, Bart Starr publicly stated even before Robinson’s selection that he thought Bob Skoronski should be the next Lombardi Packer inducted into the Hall.

Skoronski split time at left tackle with Norm Masters early in Lombardi’s reign and never made an All-Pro team. But I’ve been told, yes, it’s possible that Skoronski might have received the best weekly grades among the offensive linemen over Lombardi’s nine seasons. Clearly, he was a player more respected in the locker room than outside it.

That’s the quandary the Hall’s selectors have faced. There’d be no way to justify selecting two or three more Packers offensive linemen from the same era. Yet, if they pick one, which one?

My personal opinion is that Gillingham and Kramer rank with Verne Lewellen and maybe Lavvie Dilweg of the 1929-’31 three-time champs as the most deserving of the Packers’ eligible candidates not in Canton.

In Kramer and Gillingham, the Packers had at guard more than 40 years ago what the Packers of the last 20-plus years have had at quarterback with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers: One great player following another. But because they were guards, not quarterbacks, and there’s a perception there are too many Lombardi players in the Hall, Kramer and Gillingham cancel out each other’s support, while Starr’s endorsement of Skoronski clouds the issue even more.


Posted in Packers.com Blog | 45 Comments »


45 Responses to “Why isn’t Jerry Kramer in the Hall of Fame?”

  1. By vic reyes on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    those alibis are such bs they dont hold water of the total blocks kicks and if anything else that mr. kramer would have to do he would do it and do it well. we need more valid excuse like the first one still to this day there are people out there are pro afl and anti packer that they know if another packer gets in they would all turn green and puke! if gale gillingham was better than jkramer why then gillingham isnt in the HOF? Frankly im tired of the excuses please put him in before he dies give him that respect please!

  2. By Chuck on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    Hi Cliff: I think a better question is: Why isn’t Paul Hornung in the Hall of Fame? He certainly has the resume for it.
    Still the gambling thing?
    c

  3. By Mike boede on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    if J. Kramer doesn’t make the block that allowed Bart Starr to score in the ICE BOWL. The Lombardi Trophy would be named after Tom Landry!

  4. By Mitch on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    Put the Man in, and be done with it.

  5. By Mitch on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    Chuck, Paul was inducted into The Hall long ago.

  6. By Bill Yeast on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    Love the man. grew up with his book “the Diary…” and he should end up in the Hall. But in all honesty, I think he took alittle bit Too much credit for the “block” for too long without even mentioning the fact that it would never have been possible without the fabulous initial contact by center Ken Bowman.Great job by both men. But, why was this never brought forward by Jerry right from the star? Again, love him respect him, but I too never knew until years later. Always a Pack and NEVER a fence jumper. Bill

  7. By OKGOPACK on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    It shouldn’t matter who the coach is/was, a great player is a great player. PUT HIM IN!

  8. By Stellyd on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    Chuck, see the 8th paragraph. LOL.

  9. By packrguy on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    what guard that has scored 170 points is in the hall of fame? Well Jerry should be for that fact alone.

  10. By imjinrat on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    I’d love to take your suggestion and look at the 67 Rams/Packer game. Where can I find it? Looked on youtube but only found a few minutes of silent, shaky pics that look like they were taken by some guy in the stands who had to many beers.

  11. By Dan on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    Cliff: The fallacy of democracy is that stupid people are allowed to vote! The arguments to keep Jerry Kramer out are made by the same people who say that Hank Aaron wasn’t a great baseball player or Wilt Chamberlain did not play against good talent. How can someone be selected as the greatest guard in the first 50 years of football??
    Lets be honest its all about politics!!

  12. By Chris on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    “Instant” and “Distant Replay” stake Kramer’s immortality already. HOF notwithstanding.

  13. By Ron Marvin on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    Jerry Kramer is one the all time great guards in NFL history.He is synonymous with the Packers Power Sweep.Tough as nails and maximum effort every game.It’s a joke that he’s not in Canton yet.NFL,please do the right thing and send him to the Hall!

  14. By John on Apr 26, 2014 | Reply

    Jerry Kramer was recognized as one of the linemen on the NFL 50th anniversary team. Thurston wasn’t. Skoronski wasn’t. Gillingham was only there for the end of the Lombardi years. Kramer was the most frequent lead blocker for the iconic play of the 60’s – no, not the Ice Bowl winning TD – the Power sweep. That should end the “which one belongs” argument. Now that Ray Guy is in (and he would have been my next choice), let’s fix this mistake and then call it good for Lombardi Packers.

  15. By Tom from Phoenix on Apr 27, 2014 | Reply

    Cliff, you didn’t even mention Kramers duties as a kicker, filling in for Paul Hornung and Don Chandler. He led all scoring in the 1962 championship game with 10 points. Why is it that his kicking gets overlooked. Can you imagine struggling in the trenches over the course of a game. Running up and down field. Having your limbs twisted, minor or major sprains, getting head slapped by defensive linemen, getting punched and kicked in the hackie sack during a scrum and then having to muster up the poise necessary (maybe while seeing two goal posts) to kick the ball through the uprights?!! Jerry also had to make two comebacks during his career. One following the removal of those wood splinters from his groin and the other from a broken leg. If Conrad Dobler and Dan Dierdorf both made it to the HOF, surely there is more than enough room for #64. Please enlighten the senior selection committee. It’s too bad Steve Sabol didn’t get to produce an NFL Film revealing and discussing the workings of the HOF selection process. Last year, for the first time, the fans were treated to a glimpse of what goes on behind the curtain. We Cheeseheads enjoy knowing how the sausage is made!

  16. By malcolm bidwell on Apr 27, 2014 | Reply

    lot of fans other than packer fans are jealous of the noteriary of the lombardi era and small town dominance with public ownership to have so much sucess in the leauges of rich and populus sites. to have so many packers in the hof from that era is a bust to the rest of the leagues fans and ownership. PUT JERRY KRAMER IN THE HOF BECAUSE HE DESRVES IT. thank you.

  17. By Allen Hanson on Apr 27, 2014 | Reply

    The article above was obviously well-researched and well-written. However, it leaves out the real reason Jerry Kramer isn’t in the Hall of Fame. That reason can be summed up in two words.

    Instant Replay

    Jerry’s diary of the 1967 Packers proved two things:

    He was smarter than the reporters who covered him.

    He was a better writer than the reporters who covered him.

    The reporters who select players for the Hall of Fame are professionally jealous of Kramer, because he is a better writer than they are. It’s just that simple. That’s why players should elect other players, not sportsweasels.

  18. By Chuck on Apr 27, 2014 | Reply

    Re. Paul Hornung. This is the dumbest I’ve felt since yesterday. Thanks for correcting me. Chuck

  19. By dunjav2013 on Apr 27, 2014 | Reply

    Reblogged this on dunjav.

  20. By Ken on Apr 27, 2014 | Reply

    Don’t forget Kramer also kicked for the Packers during a Championship season.

  21. By Chris on Apr 27, 2014 | Reply

    Allen…I agree with you: I believe that jealousy by reporters is the reason Jerry Kramer has not been elected to the Hall of Fame.

  22. By Andrew on Apr 27, 2014 | Reply

    Sooo, Bart prefers Skoronsi over Kramer. So what? Look at the film. Kramer deserves the nod.

  23. By Dan on Apr 28, 2014 | Reply

    Peter King has stated if you want Jerry Kramer in the Hall of Fame then the fans need to send messages addressed to the senior committee NFL Hall of Fame in Canton.

  24. By Ted on Apr 28, 2014 | Reply

    I have a fourth theory to throw in the mix. Offensive linemen are supposed to be demure. Kramer, rather than keeping his mouth shut wrote a book (eventually two) about it. I remember how people like Alex Karras criticized him for blowing his own horn. I think the difference between him being in and out is at most a couple of votes — and the sense that his book was breaking the code of silence may just be enough to keep him from getting in.

    If true, that would be a pity. Those old enough to live through those days know why Starr and Lombardi were confident enough in Jerry Kramer to commit what the Cowboys still mistakenly call a strateguc blunder: tactically, it was a mistake to run with the clock about to expire; strategically, it was about having a Jerry Kramer at guard so that you could punch the ball in when you really needed it.

  25. By FRANK on Apr 28, 2014 | Reply

    being all pro several years and throwing THE most famous block in NFL history should have some weight along with enduring the toughest of the Lombardi years.. COM’ON MAN!!!

  26. By Steve K on Apr 28, 2014 | Reply

    This is my biggest football pet peave of all time. It is a travesty that Jerry isn’t in the HoF.

  27. By Roy on Apr 28, 2014 | Reply

    I have heard it all, but how many HoF Guards can boast scoring 10 of the 13 points to win an NFL Championship. It is 1962 and GB is in NY for the Giants and Kramer hits 3 FGs and an XP for GB to win 16-7. He kicked all year, even though he was not scheduled to at the begining. The only player on the All-NFL 50 year list not in HoF. As for taking out Lombradi, remember 6 of those 11 HoFers were on the 58 team that went 1-11. That is why Lombardi is in the Hall.

  28. By Gary on Apr 28, 2014 | Reply

    No punter or kicker should ever be in the hall before Kramer.

  29. By Bill S. on Apr 28, 2014 | Reply

    I think there is ALOT of controversy over the “Ice Bowl” block. Watch that play on You tube, from behind the line of scrimmage, you can see the devastating block by center Ken Bowman that really opened up the hole for Kramer & Starr to go through….Kramer also did toot his own horn for many years after that. I still think he deserves to be in the HOF!

  30. By Rob on Apr 29, 2014 | Reply

    About the stupid crack about the greatest coach in NFL history having his bust removed if more of his players are inducted- Coach Lombardi took these H.O.F. players from abysmal records prior to ’59 (and in danger of losing their NFL charter) to the team with the most dominating dynasty of their decade. Jerry Kramer has been called the “lynch-pin of the Packer sweep”, “the father on NFL authors”, “the best guard of the NFL’s 1st 50 years”, etc. NFL Network calls his not being inducted into the HOF as THE biggest travesty concerning the HOF. And the ridiculous argument of “enough Lombardi Packers in the HOF”- if the whole team has earned a place in the HOF, they should be inducted! HEY Seniors’ committee! Cut out the nonsense! End the greatest HOF travesty and FINALLY INDUCT JERRY KRAMER!

  31. By Dan on Apr 29, 2014 | Reply

    Mr. Kramer is due this honor. Mail your letters here:
    Pro Football Hall of Fame.
    Attention Senior Committee.
    2121 George Halas Dr NW
    Canton, OH 44708

  32. By Shilo on Apr 29, 2014 | Reply

    Don’t be banging on Cliff, guys. He’s not saying that Jerry shouldn’t be in the HOF. He’s just giving his informed opinion as to possible reasons why Jerry isn’t in the Hall. For my part, of course I want Jerry in, but I appreciate Cliff’s article for giving perspective to the whole debate.

  33. By Bill on Apr 30, 2014 | Reply

    I actually had the occasion to contact a now-retired former HOF voter; he chimed in with the thought that many felt the number of 60s Packers was too high. While my personal opinion is that I would really like to see Kramer inducted, I just (very, very belatedly) finished Distant Replay (published in 1985). Kramer really takes some shots at a couple who are in the HOF. Though life is not fair, I am concerned he poured some A-1 on himself.

  34. By 55 year Pack Fan on Apr 30, 2014 | Reply

    I’m tired of the too many Packers from the Lombardi era excuse! If you belong in the HOF you belong in the HOF! Jerry Kramer’s merits speak for themselves and he belongs in the Hall.
    Problems with Merlin Olsen or Alex Karras! Olsen is a member of the HOF and Karras should be. Talk to players or former players of the NFL and ask if they have ever had problems with a given player on an opposing team!
    In my opinion the voting committee at the Pro Football Hall of Fame are no more than a bunch of biased hypocrites!

  35. By N!G£RiAGU3ST on Apr 30, 2014 | Reply

    Uncle Dudas survived on a diet consisting mostly of human wastes.

  36. By northerner on May 1, 2014 | Reply

    HE SHOULD BE!

  37. By Dan on May 1, 2014 | Reply

    NFL Network top 10 NOT in HOF—-Their list was:
    10. Ken Anderson
    9. Steve Tasker
    8. Alex Karras
    7. Ricky Waters
    6. Kenny Stabler
    5. Andre Reed — inducted
    4. Jim Marshall
    3. Shannon Sharpe– inducted
    2 Cris Carter– inducted
    1. Jerry Kramer

  38. By David B. on May 1, 2014 | Reply

    One of the greatest players at his position to ever play the game. I bet if he was a Cowboy or 49er he’d already be in. Put him in. He deserves it.

  39. By Rowdie on May 6, 2014 | Reply

    I believe his first book ticked off a lot of people. It was a great book but it was a bit pretentious and self serving.

  40. By Dan on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    so a book keeps Jerry Kramer out of the Hall of Fame.

  41. By Max on May 9, 2014 | Reply

    Kenny Bowman was never mentioned and deserved just as much credit for the famous block in the ice bowl.

  42. By Dan on May 9, 2014 | Reply

    Ok you need to push for Ken.

  43. By Max on May 9, 2014 | Reply

    Still a great guard

  44. By Dan on May 9, 2014 | Reply

    If you would like to see MR. Kramer inducted into the Hall of Fame please take the time to send a message to the senior committee at the NFL Hall of Fame.

  45. By jb on May 9, 2014 | Reply

    JERRY WAS THE GREATEST GUARD EVER WHO MADE THE ALLEY’S
    FOR THE GREATEST TWOSOME RUNNING BACKS THE NFL EVER HAD
    TOUGH AS NAILS JIMMY TAYLOR AND GOLDEN BOY PAUL HORNING

    hall of shame inducts dirty dan dierdorf

    but not PACKER LEGEND JERRY KRAMER THATS A DISGRACE !!!!

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