There is something about the Pro Football Hall of Fame that I’ve never understood, and, no, it has nothing to do with Terrell Owens. But it does have everything to do with Jerry Kramer.
The former Green Bay Packers’ star was one of the game’s most accomplished guards. Ever. In fact, he was so good he was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team. He was a six-time All-Pro, including five as a first-team choice, and five-time NFL champion.
Moreover, he was the key component to Vince Lombardi’s Power Sweep, the signature of those great Packers’ teams, and was named to the 1960s’ all-decade team, the NFL’s 50th anniversary team and the Packers’ Hall of Fame.
So why on earth isn’t he in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? I mean, if he was the best guard in the first 50 years of the game why hasn’t he been enshrined in Canton?
“I guarantee you one thing,” said former teammate and Hall-of-Famer Paul Hornung, “I’ve asked that question more than you have.”
Hornung was a guest on this week’s Talk of Fame Network broadcast, mostly to talk about his career at Notre Dame as we kick off our six-part college draft series. But shortly before he signed off, we asked about Kramer and his inability to reach the Hall despite being a 10-time finalist.
The most terrific injustice I’ve ever seen in the NFL is Jerry Kramer not being in the Hall of Fame.
Good thing, too. Because it was then that Hornung became animated and did what he did best as a Green Bay Packer — took the ball and ran with it.
“I can’t believe that he’s not in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “Four or five years ago, I wrote a letter to who I thought were all those people who voted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and tried to get them to acknowledge that this is a terrific injustice.
“Along with Forrest Gregg, I think they were the two best offensive linemen in pro football during those days. It might have been an inability … as far as the voters were concerned … when you saw our team, and you were voting on three Hall of Famers in the backfield — Jimmy Taylor and Bart Starr and myself — and then you had Forrest Gregg, who was another Hall of Famer playing right tackle, it kind of overshadowed Jerry’s abilities. But it didn’t overshadow him as far as were concerned.
“I thought he was the best guard in pro football all the years I played with him. And I think he was.”
Kramer’s Hall-of-Fame future is in the hands of the Hall’s senior committee, which this year has two candidates it can push for the Class of 2018. That’s the good news. The bad is that Kramer hasn’t been proposed as a finalist since 1997, meaning his candidacy is either limping to the finish line or provokes no urgency among voters.
Whatever it is, Hornung doesn’t like it — and, frankly, neither do I. How can you name someone as the best guard in the NFL’s first 50 years and then not name him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? It simply doesn’t add up. And keep this in mind: He’s the ONLY first-team member of that team not in Canton.
So explain that to me. Better yet, explain it to Jerry Kramer and Paul Hornung.
“The most terrific injustice I’ve ever seen in the NFL is Jerry Kramer not being in the Hall of Fame,” Hornung said. “I keep trying to push it every year to get him involved. And every time I come into contact with anybody in Canton, Ohio, that’s the conversation we end up with.
“Maybe next year it will be the year. We all pull for it every year that he gets the opportunity to come into the Hall of Fame.”
It took the game’s greatest punter, Ray Guy, over two decades to make it. Kramer has been waiting over four. So maybe, just maybe, Hornung is right, and voters wake up and put Jerry Kramer where he belongs … and has belonged for too many years.