Why Isn’t Jerry Kramer in the Hall of Fame?
Earlier this week, former Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer was passed over again by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s senior committee as a finalist for the class of 2015.
They put up one guy as a finalist, Minnesota Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, but this isn’t about him.
I wasn’t aware that Kramer had been passed over again until someone brought it to my attention yesterday. Frankly, I had stopped paying attention. Jerry Kramer gets passed over every year. I will be surprised if/when he does get in.
Until then, I have better things to do than feign interest in someone like Mick Tingelhoff.
But the question was posed, why does Kramer keep getting passed over? Well, there seem to be a lot of reasons.
First of all, let’s deal with the question of whether Kramer deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
We’ve argued it before, that yes he does. He’s a five-time first-team All Pro, made three Pro Bowls, is a member of the 1960s All-Decade Team and the NFL 50th Anniversary Team.
That’s right, one of the two best guards in the first 50 years of NFL history is not good enough to be enshrined in its Hall of Fame.
He’s the only guy on that team not in Canton.
Oh, and Kramer was also one of the main components of what was one of the greatest rushing attacks in history. That rushing attack has two running backs in the Hall — Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung.
So back to the question. Why isn’t Jerry Kramer in the Hall of Fame?
As William Munny said, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
There are 13 guys from the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That number includes coach Vince Lombardi and cornerback Emlen Tunnell, who played most of his career with the New York Giants.
Even if you take Tunnell and Lombardi out of the mix, you’ve got 11 Packers players from those dynasty teams.
There’s a widely-accepted belief that voters are tired of putting so many guys from one team and one era into the Hall. You could argue that’s why it took Dave Robinson so long to get in. Robinson was long an oversight for induction and had to wait until 2013 for his turn.
Go ask a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. They’ll tell you the same thing is going on with their dynasty teams from the 1970s. They’ll tell you it’s time for L.C. Greenwood to get his due and they’re probably right.
The Steelers have 10 Hall of Famers from those 1970s teams, including coach Chuck Noll.
In essence, some voters are actually punishing guys for playing for really good teams that sustain success.
It isn’t as if Jerry Kramer has never been considered for Hall of Fame induction. He’s been a finalist 10 times — nine as a modern-era candidate and once as a senior committee candidate.
Obviously, he wasn’t elected any of those times. At this point, some voters are left wondering why they should consider a guy who was passed over nine times by the guys who watched him play every week and once by a committee that’s already considered him.
Been there. Done that.
If you’re a Kramer fan, then you probably know he wrote a book called Instant Replay, which is his diary of the 1967 season.
What you probably don’t know is there was some resentment over this book among some of the guys on that team.
Kramer played his final season with the Packers in 1968, but there was a feeling among some guys that he had already checked out because he was more interested in promoting his book. We’ve also heard that there are guys who weren’t too pleased with what was written in the book — that Kramer essentially sold them out.
Back when I worked with the Packers Hall of Fame, there was an understanding that you don’t ask any of the guys about Instant Replay, unless that guy is Jerry Kramer.
A lot of guys who get senior committee consideration are guys who are recommended by guys who are already in the Hall of Fame.
Now, is this specifically keeping Kramer out of the Hall of Fame? No, but that book did a hell of a job of creating the perception that Kramer is only worried about Kramer — even among his teammates — which brings us to the last reason.
Jerry Kramer never met a camera Jerry Kramer didn’t like. Seriously, Kramer was his own biggest proponent for the Hall of Fame for a lot of years.
Pretty simply, that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Do you see any NFL players campaigning to be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Not that we recall.
Sure, maybe they express disappointment over not being elected, but no one is out there holding a pep rally for themselves.
Over the years, Kramer has been vocal about deserving to be in the Hall of Fame. In recent years, he got the hint and stopped promoting his candidacy. Instead, he turned that duty over to his daughter.
Was that a good idea? Well, for a guy who’s perceived to be self-centered — deservedly or not — it was a step in the right direction.
Our feeling is Kramer would fare better if no one were openly promoting his candidacy. There’s always tremendous support from fans. There has also been plenty of support from members of the media over the years.
NFL Network once put him atop their top 10 list of guys not in the Hall of Fame for Christ’s sake.
What Kramer needs are proponents among Hall of Famers and, ultimately, on the senior committee if he’s ever going to get elected. Having fan support is great, but that’s not going to get him anywhere.
So, sorry. Your furious tweet about Kramer being passed over again probably did nothing to alter anyone’s thinking on the matter. At least anyone whose opinion really matters.
If this is really a big issue for you, if you feel an injustice has been done, then I’d suggest you start contacting the senior committee members armed with an argument that’s backed up by facts.
Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.
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