(Jerry Kramer photos courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
Talk of Fame Network
Johnny Unitas was named by the Hall-of-Fame selection committee as the greatest quarterback in the NFL’s first 50 years. He’s in the Hall of Fame. Jim Brown was named the greatest running back in the NFL’s first 50 years. He’s in the Hall of Fame.
Every player named the greatest at his position from the game’s first half century is enshrined in Canton except one. The greatest guard in the game’s first 50 years can’t get into the Hall of Fame – so Jerry Kramer waits for a turn that may never come.
Kramer remains the single greatest omission from Canton — an absence that was underscored in the Talk of Fame Network poll last week. We asked our listeners and readers to select the best offensive lineman not in the Hall of Fame and gave them six very deserving candidates.
Kramer won in a landslide with 66.8 percent of the vote. Of all the polls we posted over the last 22 months on our web site, this one charted the greatest participation with 4,100 votes. Kramer received 2,740 of the votes to outdistance former Washington Redskins tackle Joe Jacoby at 31.6 percent and 1,296 votes.
The Talk of Fame Network hosts all agreed with the vote.
“I will never understand how a guy picked as the only guard on the NFL’s 50th Year Anniversary team is not in the Hall of Fame,” Borges said. “Fifty years is a long time and a lot of guards. So it’s Jerry Kramer in a runaway.”
What puzzled Judge was that the Hall-of-Fame selection committee voted him the best guard of the first half century. Yet the same committee has passed him over 10 times for induction.
“It makes no sense to me,” Judge said.
Ed Budde of the Kansas City Chiefs, Winston Hill of the New York Jets, Kent Hull of the Buffalo Bills and Bob Kuechenberg of the Miami Dolphins all finished in single digits in the voting. And all four are worthy of Hall-of-Fame discussion, as well as Kramer and Jacoby. This may have been the most competitive slate of any poll we’ve ever posted.
Kramer has been eligible for the Hall of Fame for 42 years now and has been a finalist 10 times without ever having his ticket punched. He played 11 seasons with the Vince Lombardi-era Packers, helping Green Bay win five championships. He went to three Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL’s 1960s’ all-decade team. Kramer also served as Green Bay’s placekicker in 1962-63, scoring 156 points, and threw the key block that won the Ice Bowl in 1967.
Jacoby’s 1,296 votes would have won 98 percent of the previous polls we posted. Undrafted out of Louisville in 1981, he became a walk-in starter and a mainstay of the “Hogs” blocking front. He played on four Super Bowl teams – the first three at left tackle and the final one (1991) at right tackle.
Jacoby became the prototype for the modern-era left tackle with his basketball body (6-7, 295 pounds). He spent his career blocking the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White and Bruce Smith and was named to the 1980s’ NFL all-decade team for his efforts. Budde also was a 1960s’ AFL all-decade selection.
(Joe Jacoby photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins)