Dear NFL Hall of Fame Seniors Committee:
As custodians of the NFL of yesteryear, you are charged with recognizing the remarkable players of a different era. I commend the job you have done as the Pro Football Hall of Fame is well represented with many deserving players from decades long ago. It is a highly subjective and difficult task that you have gotten right so many times.
However, there is one glaring omission in the hallowed hall. Guard Jerry Kramer, a cornerstone of the Packers dynasty of the 1960s, has not been selected.
His resume speaks for itself and is definitely worthy of enshrinement. Over the years, I have read possible reasons and excuses for why he has not yet been selected.
I will address these criticisms in hopes of garnering your attention and consideration. Jerry Kramer is deserving of enshrinement, and his last chances rest in your hands.
Hall of Fame Credentials
Jerry Kramer played right guard for the Packers from 1958-1968. He was highly skilled in run blocking for Hall of Fame running backs Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor, as well as pass blocking for Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr. Kramer was integral to the legendary “Packers Sweep” that won an unprecedented five NFL championships in seven years.
His famous coach, Vince Lombardi, repeatedly said the sweep was the play they must make work, and must make work again and again. Kramer was a large reason this play swept the Packers into history. You can hardly find a diagram or picture of the sweep without seeing Kramer lead the way. Kramer has been described as the best pulling guard in the NFL during his time, and perhaps in the history of the league.
All those sentiments were validated when Kramer was named as the only guard to the NFL 50th Anniversary Team in 1969. However, he’s the only member of that honorary team not inducted into the Hall of Fame. That alone speaks volumes of an injustice.
Football is ultimately a team game. Without stellar blocking up front, there’s no way a team wins a single championship, let alone five in seven years, including a never-duplicated three in a row.
- Three-time Pro Bowl selection
- Five-time First-Team All-Pro selection
- One-time Second-Team All-Pro selection
- NFL 50th Anniversary Team
- NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
- Packers Hall of Fame Member
- Two-time Super Bowl Champion
- Five-time NFL Champion
- Hall of Fame Finalist: 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1987, and 1997
That is an impressive vitae. It remains an enigma why someone with that record remains on the outside. So, what are possible reasons for this glaring omission? Are they valid criticisms?
Discrediting the Criticisms
Over the years of reading about Jerry Kramer, I’ve come across some repeated reasons for his absence in the Hall. In my opinion, they are either invalid or severely outdated and no longer relevant. It’s time to reconsider his chances.
- His 1968 book, Instant Replay: A Green Bay Diary, exposed the inner sanctum of the NFL locker room, which violated an unwritten rule of the league. While this may have been a semi-valid complaint of the time, the NFL has changed. Due to the widespread use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and personal blogs, NFL players everywhere are bringing fans into the locker room. The NFL is a huge business and is very fan-centric and the future of the game depends on fan interaction. If bringing fans into the locker room is taboo, then no player in the internet era would be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Furthermore, the NFL Network should stop producing the shows A Football Life and America’s Game because they intimately bring the fans into the locker room. Fans want to be brought into the locker room, and Kramer should be commended for his professional and respectful journal, not permanently punished.
- He wasn’t dominant for a long enough time period, as evidenced by “only” three Pro Bowls and five All-Pro awards. That seems pretty dominant to me. And, then explain how Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers is in the Hall of Fame. Sayers was a brilliant player whose career was cut short by injury, and he is deserving of being enshrined. He played from 1965-1971, which was considerably shorter than Kramer’s career. Yet, Sayers shares the same honors as Kramer in being named to the NFL 50th Anniversary Team and the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team. Kramer did play 11 seasons, which was a lengthy career even for that time. He probably could have played longer if he chose to, despite having 22 surgeries in 11 years, but he shouldn’t be penalized for hanging it up after his beloved coach resigned and the dynasty was over.
- He struggled at times against defensive linemen Merlin Olsen and Alex Karras. Well, everyone struggled against Olsen because he was perhaps the most dominant interior defensive lineman of his time and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1982. Olsen was also named to the NFL 50th Anniversary Team and the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team along with Kramer. Using the Olsen excuse is like saying any blocker assigned to Lawrence Taylor or Howie Long doesn’t belong in the Hall, either. While Karras currently isn’t in the Hall of Fame, perhaps he should be, too. Stop using the excuse that Karras, who’s also not in the Hall, occasionally got his way with Kramer as a reason to deny his entry.
- He wasn’t the best guard of the era. Then please explain his selection to the NFL 50th Anniversary Team and the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team. Also, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman wasn’t the best of his era. When asked why Aikman was voted in, the responses usually mention his three championships in four years. Well, Kramer won three in a row.
- There are already too many Lombardi-era Packers in the Hall of Fame. That’s like saying Jerry Rice doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame because Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott are already there. The 1960s Packers were arguably the greatest collection of talent assembled. Many belong in the Hall of Fame. I hate to go there, but Kramer was on the NFL 50th Anniversary Team and the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, whereas some other Packers in the Hall are not. Football is a team game, but Kramer was a key part of that great collection.
No player is perfect, and if you look deep enough, you’ll find every flaw. But, focus on the successes and how the players overcame adversity to achieve great success. Lately, many Hall of Fame voters overlook questionable off-field behaviors recent enshrinees have been accused of. Voters claim that what happens on the field is all that matters. If it did, then why is Kramer’s book still coming up in conversation?
The Hall of Fame is a collection of ambassadors of the game. Maybe we should hold players accountable for their off-field behaviors as well. Perhaps we should consider their legacy long after they retired from the game. In that regard, Jerry Kramer has an impressive legacy.
Kramer is boisterously cheered at alumni events and public outings. He’s a beloved Packer who left his mark on team history. He never got into trouble and has served as a role model for many generations of Packers fans.
It’s time to recognize his accomplishments, which can be measured many different ways. You can count his championship rings, his individual accomplishments, or the opinions of his peers. His teammates and opponents largely agree that he was an outstanding player who deserves the highest recognition. Merlin Olsen and Alex Karras have both publicly praised Kramer as a respected competitor and rival. Moreover, Olsen endorsed Kramer for the Hall of Fame.
The only one who fail in this recognition is you. It’s time to correct that error.
I ask for your consideration and change of heart. I know you have it in you.
Editors Note” This post was written by Jay Hodgson and first appeared on ALLGBP.com , exactly two years ago.