With the enshrinement of Jerry Kramer in the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer, the most glaring omission in Canton has been addressed. Kramer became the 12th member of the Lombardi Packers enshrined in the Hall.
But that doesn’t mean Canton can now close the door on the Packers. Green Bay has members of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team plus all-decade performers still on the outside looking in. So that’s the subject of this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll – who is the best Packer not enshrined in the Hall of Fame? There are plenty of quality options. Here’s your slate:
Bobby Dillon, S. The star of the pre-Lombardi – thus, pre-champion -- Packers of the 1950s. Dillon played eight seasons and intercepted 52 passes. He was a four-time first-team all-pro selection and a four-time Pro Bowler despite the fact the Packers did not have a winning season until the final year of his career in 1959 after Lombardi took over as coach. Dillon was going to retire after the 1958 season but Lombardi talked him into returning. He played that 1959 season and then retired at the age of 29. Dillon had three nine-interception seasons. He played with only one eye, having lost the other in a childhood accident. Dillon has never been a Hall finalist.
Lavvie Dilweg, E. A first-team NFL all-decade selection for the 1920s. Dilweg was Don Hutson before Don Hutson. He was a first-team all-pro in six of his nine NFL seasons and set all the NFL pass receiving records that Hutson would later break. Dilweg was selected to that 1920s all-decade team along with the legends of the game -- Jim Thorpe, Red Grange and Ernie Nevers – but he remains the only one of that 11-member team not enshrined in Canton. He was a key player in three consecutive NFL titles won by the Packers from 1929-31. He has never been a Hall finalist.
Boyd Dowler, WR. A member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team and one of only two players not enshrined in Canton. He was Green Bay’s leading receiver seven times in the 1960s, during which the Packers won five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. Dowler scored 40 touchdowns in his 474 career catches, averaging 15.4 yards per reception. He handled the punting for the Packers in 1962 and 1963, averaging 42.9 yards per career kick. Dowler also was selected to the 1960s NFL all-decade team. He has never been a Hall finalist.
Gale Gillingham, G. Like Dillon who has been punished by Hall voters for playing before the championship-era Packers, Gillingham has been punished for playing the bulk of his career post-dynasty. He made the team as a first-round pick out of Minnesota in 1966 and became a starter in his second season, replacing Fuzzy Thurston at guard. That 1967 season marked the end of the Lombardi dynasty – the final NFL championship, the final Super Bowl. Gillingham went to the first of his five Pro Bowls in 1969 and was a two-time first-team all-pro. He has never been a Hall finalist.
Cecil Isbell, QB. From 1920 through 2000, there have been 21 quarterbacks selected to NFL all-decade teams. Isbell is the only one not enshrined in Canton. He played only five seasons (1938-42) but was still voted to the 1930s all-decade team. He was the quarterback throwing the passes that produced the two best seasons by Green Bay's Hall of Fame end Don Hutson. In 1941, Hutson caught 58 Isbell passes for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 1942, Hutson caught 74 passes for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns. That made Hutson the NFL's first-ever 1,000-yard receiver.
Ron Kramer, TE. Dowler and Kramer are the only two members of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team not enshrined in Canton. The fourth overall pick of the 1957 draft, Kramer became a walk-in starter for the Packers during an era when tight ends were blockers first – only to miss the 1958 season with a military commitment. He returned in 1959 for Vince Lombardi’s first season and contributed with both his blocking and receiving on two NFL championship teams. Kramer caught 229 passes in his 10 seasons, averaging 14.3 yards per catch and scoring 16 touchdowns. He has never been a Hall finalist.
Verne Lewellen, RB. A college quarterback at Nebraska, Lewellen became a do-it-all running back with the Packers who earned first-team all-pro honors four times and helped Green Bay win three NFL championships (1929-31). He rushed for 37 scores in his nine-year career, caught 12 TDs on receptions and threw for nine more scores. Lewellen rushed for 2,410 career yards, passed for 2,076 yards and gained another 1,240 yards receiving. He also handled Green Bay’s punting, averaging 39.5 yards in his 681 career kicks. He has never been a Hall finalist.
Bob Skoronski, OT. Skoronski was a pre- and post-Lombardi Packer, starting as a rookie in 1956 and retiring himself in 1968 a year after Lombardi’s retirement. But after his rookie season, Skoronski served a two-year hitch in the military before returning in 1959 for Lombardi’s first season. Skoronski moved back into the starting lineup at left tackle in 1960 and his blocking helped the Packers reach six NFL title games and win five championships. He even spent a season at center in 1964 after Lombardi traded away Hall of Famer Jim Ringo. He also served as a team captain on all five championship teams. Skoronski is in the Packers Hall of Fame but has never been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.