Dusting off the soapbox
The NFL has been naming players to an all-time team in conjunction with its 100th season.
First, this should have been saved until 2020, when it would be the 100th ANNIVERSARY of the NFL. I get sick and tired of seeing athletic teams, college and professional, celebrating seasons instead of years. Every October 13, I celebrate my birthday, and it is how many years I have LIVED, not the year of my life I’m entering. It was my 43rd birthday the most recent October 13, because I had LIVED 43 years to that point. I am now in my 44th year; I will celebrate my 44th birthday this year.
The Chiefs are an egregious violator of the rule. This season, the Chiefs claim this is their 60th season, which is stupid in and of itself, since the franchise played its first three seasons in Dallas before moving to Kansas City. The Chiefs should not celebrate a 60th ANNIVERSARY until 2023, 60 years after their first season in Kansas City.
The Saints have violated the rule time and time again. New Orleans wore a patch for its 25th SEASON in 1991, instead of waiting until 1992 to celebrate its 25th ANNIVERSARY. Same in 1996 (30 seasons) and 2016 (50 seasons). YEESH.
I can happily say the football Cardinals wore a 100th anniversary patch in 1998, not a 100 seasons patch in 1997. The baseball Cardinals got it right as well, wearing a 100 years patch in 1992. The Brewers will wear a 50th anniversary patch this season to celebrate 50 years in Wisconsin (the Brewers began life as the Seattle Pilots for the 1969 season, then went bankrupt and were awarded by a federal court to Bud Selig, who moved them to Milwaukee ONE WEEK before the 1970 season began).
Enough semantics. I’m sure you’re fast asleep by now.
Many selections to the NFL’s all-time team have angered me.
First, what the HELL is Rob Gronkowski doing on the team as one of the five tight ends, yet Ozzie Newsome is nowhere to be found?
I was very unhappy Newsome chose to accompany Art Modell’s Cleveland Browns to Baltimore and staying with the Ravens after the Browns were re-established. It would have only been right had Newsome come back to the city which made him a household name to professional football fans.
On the other hand, Newsome was without peer during his 13 seasons (1978-90) in Cleveland. The man was simply sensational. He was a big reason the Browns won the AFC Central over the Steelers and Oilers in 1980 and a bigger reason Brian Sipe won that season’s Most Valuable Player award.
Gronkowski was stellar in New England, but come on. A lot of it is recency bias AND Belichick being on the selection panel.
I have no problem with the other tight ends on the list: John Mackey, Mike Ditka, Kellen Winslow and Tony Gonzalez. But to omit Newsome? Please.
The rest of the offensive line had me scratching my head a little.
Where was Jerry Kramer? For those who don’t know, he was one of the men who made the Green Bay sweep the most feared play in the NFL during Vince Lombardi’s coaching tenure with the Packers. The sight of #64 and teammates Fuzzy Thurston (#63) and later Gale Gillingham (#68) scared the bejesus out of many a linebacker and safety in the 1960s. Was it a coincidence Paul Hornung scored 176 points in 12 games in 1960? Not with that offensive line. Same with Jimmy Taylor winning the 1962 rushing championship, the only season Jim Brown did not win it during his nine-season NFL career.
Larry Allen, who played on Dallas’ most recent Super Bowl team in 1995, is a poor choice. Allen is worthy of his bust in Canton. However, I cannot imagine voting for him over Kramer.
John Hannah? Great choice. Gene Upshaw? Ditto. Bruce Matthews? He was a Pro Bowl selection at every spot along the offensive line, although I may have had him at tackle and not guard. But Allen over Kramer sticks out like a sore thumb.
Two of the offensive tackles, Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden, demonstrate recency bias. They are Hall of Fame worthy, sure. But all-time worthy? Not buying it. However, I have less problem with either of those two than Gronk over Newsome.
At center, Jim Ringo should be there and not Dwight Stephenson. Stephenson was a Hall of Famer with the Dolphins in the 1980s, but he didn’t win any championships. Ringo did.
The NFL’s all-time team has some of my least favorite athletes: Gronk, Ray Lewis, Tom Brady, and the double murderer who used to play for the Bills. YEESH.
Former NBA Commissioner David Stern passed away yesterday after suffering a brain hemorrhage two weeks ago.
It’s sad to see anyone pass away, but I hated Stern as NBA Commissioner. HATED HIM. Let me count some of the ways:
–He screwed Kansas City by openly helping the Kings’ ownership move to Sacramento in 1985, even though the Kings were flagrantly invading the Warriors’ territory in northern California and were moving into a converted warehouse for three seasons before the taxpayers of California were fleeced to build a new arena.
–I believe Stern fixed the first NBA draft lottery in 1985 in order for the Knicks to draft Patrick Ewing. He made sure the envelope containing the Knicks’ logo was bent so could easily find it.
—Stern flagrantly favored the big markets in most cases. If it were up to him, New York would have five teams, Los Angeles four, Chicago three and places like Milwaukee, San Antonio and Utah would not have a team.
–He made sure the Pelicans (then the Hornets) couldn’t leave New Orleans, one of the smallest markets in pro sports. The team had terrible attendance prior to Hurricane Katrina, and when the Hornets played in Oklahoma City temporarily for two seasons, the attendance far surpassed that in the Big Easy.
–Stern also worshipped small-market Sacramento. He prevented the Kings from moving to Seattle despite the team losing money, and he forced the taxpayers of California to foot the bill for yet another arena. I wouldn’t be surprised if California Governor Gavin Newsom would order a bronze statue of Stern be placed outside the Kings’ arena. David Stern is THE reason the NBA is still in the crap hole known as Sacramento.
Goodbye David Stern. You’re a big reason I can’t stand the NBA 99% of the time.
I realized this morning how bad 2020 is going to be. The presidential election is November 3.
Trump is a slimy SOB who has done thousands of unethical things in the White House, but he’s just like every other man who has occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. EVERY president has a few (hundred) skeletons in his closet, except William Henry Harrison, who didn’t serve long enough to accumulate skeletons.
That said, the Democrats are using impeachment as a vehicle to vent their frustration over losing the 2016 election. Look in the mirror, Democrats. You nominated the only person on earth short of Lucifer himself Donald Trump could beat in an election, and maybe even Lucifer would have been more successful than Hillary Rodham Clinton.
This is going to occur every time the party not in power is angry. I’m certain the Democrats will launch a new impeachment inquiry if Trump is re-elected, or the Republicans will do so to the Democratic president if they win control of the House. It will never end.
And you thought partisanship was nasty during the presidencies of LBJ and Nixon. Those two are probably screaming from the grave.
I’m in Kansas City for the first time in over two months. My dad is undergoing a heart procedure at KU Medical Center in KCK tomorrow. I agreed to drive my parents, and they in turn are paying for most of my expenses. Can’t beat that.
The Chiefs are off this weekend, so it will be quiet. That’s good. I wouldn’t want to be here for the playoff game January 12. Probably going to be ear-splitting in every sports bar in the area.
The missing legend—and great guard play
When I last posted Tuesday evening, I mentioned about my first meeting with three LSU athletics legends, none of whom took the field for the Bayou Bengals. All three–Kent Lowe, Bill Franques and Dan Borne–are still alive and well in Baton Rouge, still proudly representing the purple and gold.
The man I knew prior to the 1994 football media day, Herb Vincent, has gone on to bigger and better things as an associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. I was sadly disappointed he didn’t become LSU’s athletic director when Skip Bertman retired in 2008, but Herb, Jamey and Kennedy are very happy in Birmingham.
There was someone else I should have met at the 1994 football media day.
Instead, Michael Bonnette was at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, recuperating after knee surgery.
Michael suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a recreational softball game earlier in August. He had just been hired full-time by Herb after five years as a student assistant and graduate assistant in the sports information (now sports communications) office. Michael had the unenviable task of promoting the LSU women’s basketball team during its darkest period, one which saw the Lady Tigers suffer three consecutive losing season, bottoming out at 7-20 in 1994-95 and nearly causing coach Sue Gunter to lose her job. Fortunately, LSU turned it around beginning in 1995-96 and Gunter eventually was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Sadly, she died in August 2005 of cancer as LSU was in the midst of five consecutive trips to the Final Four.
Michael’s bloodlines destined him for a job in the sports media business. His father, Louis, became McNeese State’s sports information director in 1966, and it was assumed Michael would replace him. Michael made his way 125 miles east and stayed there, but the Cowboys’ post is still in the family, since younger brother Matthew assumed it upon Louis’ retirement in 2011. Louis’ legacy at McNeese is secure, as the playing surface at Cowboy Stadium is named for him.
I met Michael the week before classes started. There were plenty of times I wanted to be far away from him, but the times he bailed me out of trouble and supported me far, far, far outnumbered the bad ones.
In 2000, Michael succeeded Herb as leader of the LSU sports information office and enters his 20th football season at the helm. Michael has lived through the full tenures of three football coaches, worked under four athletic directors, and has witnessed the women’s basketball coaching position pass from Gunter to Pokey Chatman to (temporarily) Bob Starkey to Van Chancellor and now to Nikki Caldwell-Fargas.
Just like the late, great Paul Manasseh groomed Herb for the job, just as Herb groomed Michael for the job, Michael has groomed his students for other jobs, most notably Bill Martin, who’s now in charge at Mississippi State. Michael and Bill are both from Lake Charles, although they went to rival high schools (Michael to LaGrange, Bill to Barbe).
Herb, Kent, Bill, Dan and Michael all deserve sainthood for putting up with me all those year. Unlike the others, Michael isn’t Catholic, so I’d have to see if the Vatican will give him an exemption.
Herb’s adroit handling of Curley Hallman’s four years of misery also deserves him sainthood. I would have gone nuts trying to deal with both sides.
With this being the National Football League’s 100th season, I’m trying to compile a list of the greatest player at each uniform number.
I can already tell you two of the winners on my list. I never saw either play live, but thanks to NFL Films, I could tell they were legends by time I was 11.
Number 64 is Jerry Kramer, the author and Packers guard who was the brawn behind Vince Lombardi’s famed “power sweep”. Teaming with Fuzzy Thurston and later Gale Gillingham, Jimmy Taylor, Paul Hornung, Elijah Pitts and Donny Anderson all found plenty of green grass in front of them after defenders had been wiped out by the green and gold marauders.
It was a damn shame Kramer had to wait 44 years to get into the Hall of Fame. He should have been a first ballot inductee in 1974, or at worst, inducted by 1988, his last year of eligibility on the writer’s ballot. Thank God this was rectified in 2018, and even better, Kramer was able to give his induction speech on stage in Canton despite being 82 years old. Several men his age were unable to give a live induction speech (Hank Stram, Mick Tinglehoff, Johnny Robinson), or worse, passed away before their enshrinement. With the passing of Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr earlier this year, and Jimmy Taylor’s passing last October, Kramer, Willie Davis, Dave Robinson, Herb Adderley and Willie Wood are the last of the living greats who played for Lombardi.
Old Jerry was also a fine placekicker. In the 1962 NFL championship game, Kramer sliced three field goals and a extra point through vicious winds at Yankee Stadium, providing the margin of victory in Green Bay’s 16-7 triumph over the Giants.
Kramer, drafted in 1958 in the third round out of Idaho, missed the entire 1964 season when he needed to have slivers of wood removed from his abdomen, an operation which nearly killed him. He recovered to play four more seasons, helping the Packers win three consecutive NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. He retired following the 1968 season.
Runners-up: Dave Wilcox (49ers LB, 1964-74); Randall McDaniel (Vikings G, 1989-2001)
Number 73 was slightly more challenging. Very slightly.
Like Kramer, this man also was a great offensive guard.
John Hannah toiled for 13 seasons for the Patriots and is, in my opinion, still the greatest to play for the franchise. Sorry (not sorry), Tom Brady.
Hannah was a two-time consensus All-American for Bear Bryant at Alabama, where he led the Crimson Tide to unprecedented offensive success in the Wishbone, which Bryant adopted in 1971 after seasons of 6-5 and 6-5-1 in 1969 and ’70. He is still regarded by many as the greatest offensive lineman to ever play college football.
Chuck Fairbanks, who took the Patriots job in January 1973 after six seasons at Oklahoma, wasted no time in selecting Hannah in the first round. By 1976, the Patriots reached the playoffs for the first time since 1963, and Hannah was a big reason, opening huge holes for Sam “Bam” Cunningham while giving Steve Grogan more than enough time to spot Russ Francis, and later, Stanley Morgan.
Hannah reached the Super Bowl with the Patriots in 1985, his final season. The Bears’ 46 defense, led by Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent, proved to be too much for New England, which lost 46-10.
The Patriots won the AFC East in 1986, but starting in 1987, they went into a steep decline, bottoming out in 1990 when they went 1-15 and were outscored 446-181.
That wasn’t the worst thing which happened to New England in 1990.
Four players were charged with sexually harassing Boston Globe sportswriter Lisa Olson, and owner Victor Kiam doubled down by calling Olson a “classic b***h”. Two years later, the Patriots very nearly moved to St. Louis, but the hiring of Bill Parcells in 1993 and Robert Kraft’s purchase of the franchise in 1994 kept the team in Massachusetts.
Sadly, the good feelings about Kraft would evaporate a few years later.
Runners-up: Ron Yary (Vikings OT, 1968-82); Joe Klecko (Jets DL, 1977-87); Leo Nomellini (49ers DT/OT, 1950-63)
Better (44 years) late than never
The Professional Football Hall of Fame has righted a wrong which has existed for more than 40 years.
Jerry Kramer, the legendary right guard on the Green Bay Packer teams coached by Vince Lombardi, is finally earning his bronze bust in Canton.
WHAT TOOK THE HALL OF FAME SO LONG?
Kramer was one of the best guards who has ever played the game, past or present. He and Fuzzy Thurston led the Green Bay sweep, the single most feared offensive play of the 1960s. There are few playbook diagrams in football lore which are more recognizable than the sweep. When you say sweep in a football contest, Lombardi’s Packers should always come up first.
Anyone who grew up watching football in that era, who has caught up by watching NFL Films like I have, can picture Kramer (#64) and Thurston (#63) leading Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor around the flanks of some of the NFL’s best defensive units assembled, including Minnesota’s Purple People Eaters, the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome, the Cowboys’ Doomsday, and some defenses without names but led by Hall of Famers, like those of the Colts (Gino Marchetti and Art Donovan), Lions (Joe Schmidt), Bears (Dick Butkus) and Giants (Sam Huff).
How powerful was the Green Bay sweep? Tom Landry, the genius who led the Cowboys for 29 seasons (1960-88), developed the Flex defense to combat it. In that alignment, the left end and the right tackle–in the Cowboys’ case, Bob Lilly–off the line of scrimmage in order to better ready the play instead of getting caught in the mess that is the line of scrimmage. Lilly ran the Flex to perfection and was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1980. Lilly, in my opinion, is the greatest defensive tackle to ever play the game. He is the sine qua non for the position, now and until the end of time–or at least the end of my time on earh.
Kramer was drafted by Lombardi’s predecessor, Scooter McLean, in the fourth round of the 1958 draft out of Idaho. Kramer grew up in Sandpoint in the Idaho panhandle, and with the University of Idaho right there in Moscow, it made sense.
When Lombardi arrived from the Giants in 1959, he installed Kramer at right guard, where he stood between two men who have already earned their busts in Canton, center Jim Ringo and right tackle Forrest Gregg. The Packers went 7-5 in 1959, their first winning season since 1946, and in 1960, Green Bay won the Western Division at 8-4, spurred by Hornung’s then-NFL record 176 points–in 12 games–a record which stood until LaDanian Tomlinson broke it during a 16-game schedule in 2006.
The 1960 Packers lost a thrilling 17-13 decision to the Eagles in the NFL championship game in Philadelphia, with Jim Taylor tackled inside the Eagles’ 10 on the game’s final play by Chuck Bednarik, who played every snap of the game at center and linebacker. Bednarik was a no doubt first ballot Hall of Famer in 1968.
In 1961, the Packers won their first NFL championship since 1944, destroying the Giants of Huff and Y.A. Tittle 37-0 in the title game at what was then known as City Stadium (renamed Lambeau Field in 1965). As good as the 1961 Packers were, going 11-3, the 1962 Packers were even better.
How good was Lombardi’s fourth squad? So good to be considered one of the greatest teams ever to take the field in the NFL>
Green Bay outscored its opponents 415-148 in 1962. It destroyed the Eagles 49-0 in Philadelphia, holding ridiculous advantages in total yardage (628 to 54) and first downs (37 to 3). Jim Taylor won the NFL rushing championship and was named the Associated Press’ most valuable player. It marked the only time during the nine-year career of Jim Brown (1957-65) that he did not lead the league in rushing.
The Packers’ lone defeat was a 26-14 setback in Detroit on Thanksgiving, a loss which may have steeled Green Bay’s resolve for the stretch drive.
In the championship game, the Packers and Giants met again, this time in Yankee Stadium. The temperature at kickoff was 18 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-8 Celsius), and the winds were gusting as high as 45 miles per hour (70 kilometers per hour), dropping the wind chill to minus-18 (minus-28 Celsius). Some Packers insisted the conditions in the Bronx that day were more brutal than a certain game in Green Bay five years later, one which will come up later in this post.
The star of the NFL championship game? Jerry Kramer. Not only did Kramer and his line mates help Taylor gain 85 yards against the rugged Giants defense, but #64 kicked three field goals, which were the difference in the 16-7 Packer victory. Kramer was pressed into emergency duty at kicker after Hornung was unable to kick due to leg injuries.
Hornung was suspended for the 1963 season after it was discovered he and two Lions, Alex Karras and John Gordy, were betting on NFL games. The Packers went 11-2-1, but the two losses were to the Bears, who went on to defeat the Giants for the NFL championship.
Kramer was a first team All-Pro in 1963, the third time in four years he earned the honor. He only missed out in 1961 due to missing six games with an ankle injury which required surgery. Gregg moved over from right tackle to right guard and earned All-Pro honors in Kramer’s stead.
It got worse for the Packers, and specifically Kramer, in 1964. While Hornung returned to the fold, Green Bay slumped to 8-5-1, and Kramer missed all but two games with severe internal injuries which required a colostomy. The injuries were, in fact, life-threatening, and some believed Kramer had passed away due to erroneous radio reports which had him confused with an ex-Packer.
Kramer and the Pack were back in 1965, defeating the Colts in an epic overtime playoff to determine the Western Division champion. Green Bay defeated Cleveland 23-12 at a muddy Lambeau Field for the NFL championship, with the iconic play of the game coming when Kramer and Thurson escorted Hornung on the sweep to the game’s final touchdown. It turned out to be Jim Brown’s last football game; he retired in July 1966 to pursue a movie career in a contract dispute with Browns owner Art Modell.
(Brown knew Modell was a snake oil salesman from the start. Too bad most in Cleveland didn’t learn that until 1995 when Modell took the Browns to Baltimore.)
Kramer was a first team All-Pro again in 1966, helping Green Bay go 12-2 and win its fourth NFL championship, a stirring 34-27 win over the Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl. The Packers clinched the victory on the game’s final play, when future Hall of Fame linebacker Dave Robinson pressured Don Meredith into throwing a wounded duck which was intercepted in the back of the end zone by Tom Brown.
The victory gave the Packers the privilege of playing in the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, where they would meet the Kansas City Chiefs. The buildup to the game was so intense that Lombardi reportedly drove his team harder than he ever had prior to a game. The other NFL owners, led by Modell, Wellington Mara and Carroll Rosenbloom, kept wiring Lombardi messages how important it was that the established league dominate their upstart counterparts, even though the AFL-NFL merger had been hammered out by Tex Schramm, Lamar Hunt and Rozelle in June 1966.
The Packers’ second touchdown was on a sweep, with Taylor following Kramer and Thurston to paydirt. The Chiefs were within 14-10 at halftime, but the Packers dominated the final 30 minutes and went on to win 35-10.
The 1967 Packers struggled during the regular season, but their 9-4-1 record was enough to win the weak Central Division over the Lions, Bears and Vikings. In the Western Conference championship game, Green Bay yielded an early touchdown to the Rams, but rolled from there, winning 28-7 at Milwaukee against a team which it lost to two weeks earlier in Los Angeles.
The Cowboys destroyed the Browns to win the Eastern Conference, setting up a rematch for the NFL championship, this time in Green Bay.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve, the Packers, Cowboys and more than 62,000 other residents of Green Bay awoke to a Wisconsin version of Siberia.
In a span of 18 hours, the mercury had plunged from 25 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-4 Celsius) to minus-16 Fahrenheit (minus-27 Celsius). The wind was howling out of the northwest at 25-30 miles per hour (40-48 kilometers per hour), creating a wind chill of minus-36 Fahrenheit (minus-38 Celsius).
Unlike baseball, football is played in all kinds of weather, so the game kicked off as scheduled at 1:05 p.m. Central. By then, the mercury had risen all the way to minus-13 (minus-27).
The Cowboys looked like they would be blown out of Green Bay in the first 17 minutes, falling behind 14-0. However, the Packers got sloppy, allowing Dallas to narrow the deficit to 14-10 by halftime.
Through the first 25 minutes of the second half, the 1967 Packers bore a striking resemblance to the teams which would represent Green Bay for the next 24 seasons: bumbling and ineffective. The Cowboys had only one big play in that time, but it went for a touchdown on a 50-yard halfback option pass from Dan Reeves to Lance Rentzel.
With just under five minutes left, Green Bay took over at its own 32-yard line following a punt.
What followed was one of the most memorable drives in NFL history.
The Packers found they could move the ball with short passes in front of the Dallas secondary, which was playing especially deep, fearing a big pass from Starr to clutch receiver Boyd Dowler, who caught a long touchdown pass in the second quarter. Starr took full advantage, using two running backs to devastating effect.
The running backs were not Hornung, who retired after being selected in the 1967 expansion draft by the Saints, and Taylor, a Louisiana native who was traded to the Saints that summer. Instead, it was Donny Anderson, the Packers’ first round draft choice in 1966, and Chuck Mercein, whom Lombardi claimed off the scrap heap after he was waived by Giants coach Allie Sherman.
A 19-yard pass from Starr to Mercein brought the ball into the red zone, and on the next play, Mercein almost scored when he took a trap to the Cowboy 1. The play, called 65 Give, saw left guard Gale Gillingham, who replaced Thurston in the starting lineup in 1967, pull right, and Lilly followed him instead of staying home. With left tackle Bob Skoronski sealing off Cowboy end George Andrie, who scored Dallas’ first touchdown when he returned a Starr fumble 9 yards, Mercein had daylight. Only a tackle by Cowboy cornerback Mike Johnson saved the touchdown.
Johnson’s tackle almost saved the championship for Dallas.
On first and second down, Starr handed off to Anderson, but he slipped on the icy field and never reached the goal line.
The field was rock solid frozen due to a miscalculation by Lombardi and stadium grounds crew. The night before the game, a tarpaulin was placed on the field, and a heating grid installed underneath Lambeau Field for $80,000 ($591,000 in 2017 dollars) would be able to melt any ice and keep the field soft.
Instead, the heating element instead created condensation on the tarp, which froze immediately when removed due to the bitter cold. The heating element was never designed to work in temperatures below 20 degrees (minus-7), and instead of keeping the field in playable condition, it made things worse.
Lambeau Field’s gridiron was now as hard and slick as a supermarket parking lot following an ice storm. Traction was next to nothing. The Cowboys, who didn’t think it would be that cold, did not have sneakers, and not surprisingly, they had a devil of a time staying upright all game. The Packers didn’t fare much better, but at least they had footwear for the occasion.
With 16 seconds to play, the Packers called their last timeout prior to third down. Green Bay could have opted to send in kicker Don Chandler for an 8-yard field goal (the goalposts were on the goal line from 1933 through 1973) and play overtime, or try to win the game right there, knowing that if the Cowboys held, the Packers would not have time to line up and run another play, or get the field goal team on the field, unless they wanted to play with 10 men and let Kramer kick the field goal.
Starr suggested to Lombardi that they run a wedge play, which normally would call for the ball to be handed off to the fullback, in this case, Mercein. However, Starr decided on the sideline with Lombardi to keep the ball himself, thinking he could get good enough footing at the south goal line of the stadium to follow Kramer and center Ken Bowman into the end zone.
Kramer felt he could wedge the Cowboys’ other defensive tackle, Jethro Pugh, whom had a higher center of gravity than Lilly, who had his way with Gillingham most of the day, save for the run by Mercein which got the ball to the 1.
Lombardi may have been portrayed as an autocrat, but in reality, he was very open to suggestions by his players and gave Starr the freedom to call audibles and make the blocking calls at the line for Kramer, Gregg and the rest.
The ex-Block of Granite from Fordham told Starr to “run the play and get the hell out of there”. Lombardi did not want to take his chances in overtime, remembering well what happened in the 1958 NFL championship game, when he was an assistant for the Giants and Johnny Unitas led the Colts to the winning touchdown on a run by Alan Ameche.
Starr brought in the play, 31 Wedge, to the huddle. Mercein thought he would get the ball, but when Bowman snapped it to Kramer, Bart began to move forward.
Indeed, Kramer found enough of an opening to push back Pugh, and Starr followed him and Bowman into the end zone.
Green Bay 21, Dallas 17. The Packers had another NFL championship, and two weeks later, they routed the Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II at Miami’s Orange Bowl to cement Lombardi’s fifth championship in seven seasons. Green Bay’s 1965, ’66 and ’67 teams are the last to win three consecutive NFL championships.
What nobody knew was one more lasting legacy was in the works.
Throughout the season, Kramer chronicled the season in a diary. Following Super Bowl II, he and sportswriter Dick Schaap turned the diary into a book, Instant Replay, which is one of the greatest tomes ever written by an athlete. The title Instant Replay was directly related to the replays of the final play of the Ice Bowl which Lombardi watched with CBS broadcaster Tom Brookshier in the Packers’ locker room following the game.
Kramer was a second team All-Pro in 1968, even though the Packers slumped to 6-7-1 under Phil Bengston. He retired after the 1968, joining a list of Lombardi-era Packers to hang it up. Gillingham would be the last of that group to call it a career, playing until 1976, by which time Starr was in his second season as Packers coach.
In 1974, Kramer first became eligible for the Hall of Fame. He was a finalist 11 times with the selection committee, but never got the requisite 80 percent approval to receive his gold jacket and bronze bust.
Lombardi was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971, less than a year after his death due to colon cancer. Taylor was the first player from the great Packer teams to earn enshrinement in 1976. Since then, Starr, Hornung, Gregg, Ringo, Robinson, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Willie Wood and Herb Adderley all earned induction, as did later Packer legends James Lofton, Reggie White and Brett Favre. I’m not saying Kramer should have come before all of them, but certainly it should have occurred long before 1988, his last year of eligibility on the main ballot.
Kramer must be rated one of the five best guards to ever play the game. If I had to select a 22-man all-time team, Kramer would be my starting right guard, with Patriots legend John Hannah at left guard. The rest of the line would be Anthony Munoz (Bengals, 1980-92) at left tackle, Gregg (Packers, 1957-69) at right tackle and Bednarik (Eagles, 1949-62) at center.
Hannah, who played for New England for 13 seasons (1973-85) but did not win a championship (the Pats made Super Bowl XX in Hannah’s final season and were crushed 46-10 by the Bears) and the Raiders’ Gene Upshaw are the only two I can think of who would be on Kramer’s plane. Hannah, in fact, would have my vote as the greatest Patriot of all time, even ahead of Thomas Edward Brady.
And no, Brady is not my starting quarterback. Not even on my roster. Give me Unitas, Montana, Peyton, Sammy Baugh, Bradshaw, Tarkenton, Jurgensen, Staubach and Graham. Heck, I’ll take Stabler, Dawson, Griese and Tittle before TB12.
Other guards in the Hall of Fame–Billy Shaw, Joe DeLamielleure, Randall McDaniel, Larry Little, Mike Munchak, Will Shields and Russ Grimm among them–were fine players, no doubt, and are worthy of their spots in Canton. But Kramer, Hannah and Upshaw were on another level, at least in my opinion.
Kramer is the oldest player being inducted this August, having turned 82 last month. Thankfully, he is alive to receive this honor, unlike Lombardi and Henry Jordan, who were honored posthumously.
Three of this year’s inductees are players I really didn’t like: Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. But I knew they would be getting in eventually, so there’s no use to complain. Brian Dawkins and Brian Urlacher were a little surprising to me getting in on such a loaded ballot, but they are deserving.
Robert Brazile, a standout linebacker for Bum Phillips’ Oilers, joins Kramer as a seniors inductee. Phillips’ defense was one of the greatest of the 1970s, if not all time, as evidenced by three Hall of Famers: Brazile, end Elvin Bethea and nose tackle Curley Culp. The problem was, the Oilers were in the same division as the Steelers, whose Steel Curtain had Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount.
Bobby Beathard, the architect of the Redskins’ Super Bowl XVII and XXII championship teams, was inducted as a contributor. Fitting, since coach Joe Gibbs is already in the Hall, and standouts Grimm, Art Monk, John Riggins and Darrell Green were inducted previously. Dexter Manley might have made it if not for drug issues, and Dave Butz and Joe Jacoby should be in.
Many years ago, NFL Network did a show on the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Kramer was #1, Stabler was #2. That needs to be updated, thankfully.
Super Bowl LII starts in just over six hours. I am soooooo excited….so excited I would rather get a root canal. Without anesthesia. This looks like a blowout, but the Patriots could pull it out late and piss everyone off like they did against the Seahawks and Falcons. Either way, if New England wins, the Brady and Belichick butt sniffers will once again be telling us how they are the greatest who ever lived and you’re stupid if you don’t believe that.
ENOUGH. Actually, it was enough the LAST TIME the Patriots played the Eagles in the Super Bowl, and that was in February 2005.
I’m a Jerry’s Kid
I first learned about the Green Bay Packers dynasty of Vince Lombardi in the mid-1980s. I learned the names of the stars of the team which won five NFL championships and two Super Bowls between 1961 and 1967: Starr, Hornung, Taylor (the most important for those growing up in Louisiana), Nitschke, Davis, Adderley, et. al.
And of course, the right guard leading Hornung and Taylor on the power sweep, #64, Jerry Kramer.
Kramer is by far the most famous athletic graduate from the University of Idaho. If you think it’s anywhere near Boise State (or Idaho State for that matter), think again. It’s way, up in Moscow, in the northern panhandle. It’s only 8 miles from Washington State (the university in Pullman). It’s in the Pacific Time Zone for crying out loud.
Kramer played 11 seasons for the Packers. In 1964, he nearly died due to actinomyosis, a bacterial disease which produces large abscesses in the mouth, lungs and intestines, and those abscesses can break open and spill pus filled with bacteria all over the body. He recovered and played four seasons after that, helping Green Bay win the NFL championship in 1965, then Super Bowls I and II the next two seasons.
In 1969, Kramer was voted as one of the guards on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team. He finished his career as a five-time first team All-Pro, and he was a second team All-Pro in 1968, his final season, despite playing on a 6-7-1 Packers team under Phil Bengston, who succeeded Lombardi as coach (Lombardi remained as general manager in Green Bay in 1968 before taking over as Redskins coach in 1969. He would be dead of colon cancer before the 1970 season began.).
Eleven of Kramer’s teammates–Starr, Hornung, Taylor, Nitschke, Adderley, Willie Wood, Jim Ringo, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Forrest Gregg and Dave Robinson–are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Why the hell is Gerald Louis Kramer not in the Hall of Fame?
Shame on you, PFHOF voters. You have kept this deserving man out of the hall longer than I have been alive! Kramer’s first year of eligibility was 1974. Okay, maybe he didn’t deserve to be inducted on the first or second ballot, but why was he not in by the late 1970s, by which time Taylor, Gregg and Starr were all inducted? Certainly he should have been in by 1984, the year Gregg succeeded Starr as Packers coach.
The seniors’ committee has been in charge of Kramer’s nomination since 1989. What the hell?
Let’s not forget Kramer was not only the leader of the famed and feared Green Bay Sweep, but he was also an accomplished author, writing Instant Replay, his diary of the 1967 season, and Distant Replay, which was a 1985 update on the Packers who played in Super Bowl I.
Also, Kramer could do more than block on the football field. In the 1962 NFL championship game, Kramer kicked three field goals despite 35-mile per hour winds swirling around Yankee Stadium, which dropped the wind chill to zero. Hornung, the regular kicker, had a sore leg, and Lombardi pressed Kramer into duty. As it turned out, those three field goals were the difference in the Packers’ 16-7 win over the Giants, capping a remarkable season in which Green Bay outscored its foes 431-155 and lost only once–at Detroit on Thanksgiving–in 15 games.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame website lists 44 offensive linemen (tackles, guards and centers) who played in the modern era (post-1950) in the Hall of Fame.
I look at some of the guards on the list, and wonder why the hell Kramer isn’t in, yet they are.
I can live with John Hannah in the Hall. I watched him play late in his career with the Patriots, and he was still as effective as ever. He may be the only one on the list who was better than Kramer.
Gene Upshaw? Didn’t care for him as NFLPA president, but no doubt he was a great one with the Raiders.
Larry Little? If he’s in the Hall, Kramer has to be. He was helped playing next to Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, and another guard who deserves serious consideration, Bob Kuechenberg.
But Joe DeLamielleure in ahead of Kramer? NO. NO. NO. He made his name off of blocking for O.J. Simpson in Buffalo. He blocked for Brian Sipe in Cleveland when he was the NFL’s MVP in 1980, but I can’t really think of much else which distinguishes him ahead of Kramer.
Tom Mack in ahead of Kramer? NO. He was helped playing with a tremendous unit, including Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater in the final years of his career with the Rams.
Billy Shaw in ahead of Kramer? PLEASE. Other than the Bills’ back-to-back AFL championships of 1964 and 1965, not much else I can think of which would make him more worthy than Kramer.
Russ Grimm in ahead of Kramer? It’s all because he played for The Hogs, who became notorious for blocking for two of football’s biggest hams, Joe Theismann and John Riggins. Yes, the Redskins won three Super Bowls with Grimm up front, but if Grimm is in, why isn’t left tackle Joe Jacoby?
To me, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not complete until Mr. Kramer has a bust in Canton. Voters, do it in 2017 so he can enjoy this honor while he’s still alive.