Open Letter to NFL Hall of Fame Seniors Committee: Vote in Packers Guard Jerry Kramer

Jerry Kramer was a key member of Vince Lombardi's dominant teams of the 1960s. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
Jerry Kramer was a key member of Vince Lombardi's dominant teams of the 1960s. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
Jerry Kramer was a key member of Vince Lombardi’s dominant teams of the 1960s. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

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.

Career Honors:

  • 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.

Notable Criticisms: 

  • 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.

Sincerely,

Jay Hodgson

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Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WIsports.com.

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.

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  • Slim11

    The only thing I’d work into this letter is Kramer’s ability as a kicker…just like another HOF-er and OL, Lou Groza.

    • Jay Hodgson

      Thanks for reading and your feedback. I considered discussing his kicking, but I opted not to. Back then, position players were often the kickers, so it may have been a little value to his HOF resume. Plus, kickers aren’t too highly valued in the HOF process, so I didn’t want to draw attention to that.

  • Since ’61

    Jay – you have written a very eloquent letter on Kramer’s behalf. I am sure that he would appreciate it. The only item that could have possibly been included was to mention that Kramer made one the most famous, if not the most famous block in NFL history on the deciding play in the Ice Bowl. The Packers 3 NFL titles in a row were achieved thanks to that play. The Ice Bowl is one the three most important games in NFL history along with the 1958 Colts-Giants Championship and the Colts-Jets Super Bowl III. Those 3 games led the way for the NFL that we have come to know today. And Jerry Kramer made a famous block in one of those three games. Now, his entire career does not come down to that one play, but as you have pointed out in your letter, Kramer had a stellar career and played through many injuries and was always seen leading the way on the Packers vaunted Power Sweep. He is the last of the great Lombardi Packers that belongs in the HOF. I hope that he finally gets in. He deserves it. Thanks, Since ’61

    • Jay Hodgson

      Thanks for reading and your kind words. You bring up a very valid suggestion for improvement.

      I considered that for a lengthy time while writing the letter. It’s true that it was perhaps the most famous, and one of the most important, blocks in NFL history.

      But, unfortunately, that’s all some people know Kramer for. One of the criticisms I read about Kramer was all he was known for was wedging Pugh, and that falsely elevated his HOF credentials. That is ludicrous, of course, but I didn’t want to feed into that mentality. I chose to summarize his great career rather than highlighting a single play that some people falsely attribute as a single moment of greatness. It was a great player making a play; it wasn’t a single great play of a career.

  • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

    Well done Jay. I never got to see the Lombardi Packers play (born in ’81) but I wish I could have. The old footage is incredible.

    Regarding Kramer – he has an abrasive personality, and I’ve heard that several members of the Pro Football HOF Selection Committee absolutely hate him. Not that a personal vendetta is a valid excuse to harm someone else… but it’s a pretty common occurance across pretty much every field.

    I hope you are wrong, but I think Kramer’s exclusion is set in stone until most of the older guys on the selection committee go the way of the dodo.

    • Jay Hodgson

      Thank you!

  • WKUPackFan

    How about voting Ken Bowman in at the same time?

  • Big T

    He better get in soon or Vince is gonna come back and whoop some azz…

  • John

    I would correct Alex Karras’ name, if it was me.

    • Jay Hodgson

      Right. Thanks, it’s fixed now. Stupid error on my part.

  • Carl J

    Excellent and passionate writing, Jay. It simply puzzles me that Mr. Kramer is not in the HoF, when other players, less deservedly so in my opinion, have a bust in the HoF. I became a Packers fan courtesy of my BiL, who, in marrying my sister, created another Packer family. From Lambeau South, our downstairs bar, we cheer loudly and lovingly for our Packers, and look forward to celebrating Jerry’s induction. 64 in HoF!

    • Jay Hodgson

      Thank you!

  • BRinMilwaukee

    Great letter! You should send it to the Seniors Committee.

    • Jay Hodgson

      Thank you!

  • Bret Honeycutt

    Lombardi called him the best!! That should be good enough for the Senior Commitee!!

    • marpag

      Bret, you might be thinking of Forrest Gregg, whom Lombardi called “the finest player I ever coached.”

      • Bret Honeycutt

        No, He told Jeryy that he was going to be the best guard in the National football league! His own personal health and a broken ankle in 1961 are all that kept him aff a couple more All Pro teams.
        Personally, I feel the book is keeping him out. The sports writers hate him because very few of them will ever come close to such a literary achievement!!

  • marpag

    Great stuff, Jay. Thanks.

    I hate to say it, but the HOF is becoming more and more of a sham all the time, and it seems to be getting worse, not better. I am one of those who feel that we need to revamp the entire procedure of how selections are made. Let’s start by replacing the current selection committee with people who actually know what they’re talking about.

    Go here to see a list of the HOF selection committee members: http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/selectionprocess.aspx

    The selectors are bunch of journalists. Some of them I have a great deal of respect for. Some of them I just don’t know. But there are a great number of them that I think are clueless. They don’t understand the game in the first place – how could they? – and they’re basing their opinions on arbitrary stats and awards.

    Let me ask you this: Suppose it is your job to choose the HOF selection committee. You need to find those 46 people who are the best qualified to evaluate the greatness of NFL players.

    If you needed to choose that committee, do you think you would choose…. Peter King??? Yeah, THAT Peter King, from SI, who writes weekly (weakly?) about his favorite beers, and the hassles he has while traveling through airports.

    Hey, I got an idea… how about we have a committee of guys like Ron Wolf make the selections? Just asking…

    Peter King vs. Ron Wolf…… hmmm, tough one….

    • Jay Hodgson

      Thank you!

  • Big T

    Love that picture… looks like poor Vince is getting punched in the ballsack. Great smiles.

  • Ted

    Great article Jay. Jerry Kramer is a class act, a successful businessman, and a great ambassador for the Packers and the NFL.

  • Stroh

    Its a little ridiculous comparing the 80′s Niners to the Packers ’60′s. Packers have about a dozen HOF’ers and the 9ers have 3?! Kramer and Jerry Rice don’t belong in the same sentence! THAT is ridiculous…

    Not a bad article otherwise. Too bad we can’t get this level of writing regularly and about more recent Packer related content!

  • Shavager

    Adding MY two cents worth–the NFL HoF is supposed to recognize the accomplishments of individual players and what they did for NFL football. Jerry Kramer WAS an outstanding football player in his time, it shouldn’t make any difference IF double that number of Lombardi players had been elected, Jerry deserves election for what Jerry Kramer accomplished as a player and teammate on the most famous football club ever, the only team in NFL history to win 3 Consecutive championships in the division playoff era. I wouldn’t deny another Steelers player from the Chuck Noll era from election just because Mean Joe, Bradshaw, Ham, F.Harris,Webster, Swann,Stallworth and others got in. This is an injustice to Jerry Kramer that should NOT go uncorrected while ole’ 64 can enjoy it with his teammates.

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