Hall Talk: Five voters discuss Tony Boselli

Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli (71) carries his son on the field after the Jaguars 25 - 10 victory over the New England Patriots in the 1998 AFC Wild Card Playoff Game on Jan.  3, 1999 in Jacksonville, Fla.  (Al Messerschmidt via AP)
Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli (71) carries his son on the field after the Jaguars 25 - 10 victory over the New England Patriots in the 1998 AFC Wild Card Playoff Game on Jan. 3, 1999 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Al Messerschmidt via AP)

ATLANTA, Ga. – Tony Boselli is the near Hall of Fame again.

Boselli, a cornerstone of the Jaguars during their early years, for a third consecutive year is among 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 48 Hall voters will meet Saturday in Atlanta to determine the five modern-era members of the 2019 class.

Boselli, the No. 2 overall selection in the 1995 NFL Draft and the Jaguars’ first collegiate draft selection, made five Pro Bowls and was first-team Associated Press All-Pro three times in a Jaguars career that spanned from 1995-2001. His career was limited to 91 games because of shoulder injuries.

Boselli, in his 13thyear of Hall eligibility, has been among the final 10 candidates each of the past two years. He is among four offensive linemen among this year’s 15 finalists, with the other three being center Kevin Mawae and guards Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson.

The other 11 modern-era finalists: safety Steve Atwater, cornerback Champ Bailey, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, head coach Don Coryell, head coach Tom Flores, tight end Tony Gonzalez, running back Edgerrin James, cornerback Ty Law, safety John Lynch, safety Ed Reed and defensive end Richard Seymour.

The consensus among voters is that the four linemen at times cancel each other out in the voting process. The voters have faced a similar issue in recent years with wide receivers and pass rushers.

Longevity also has been an issue among voters regarding Boselli. But voters two years ago selected former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis, who played in 77 games. Davis’ induction in the eyes of many voters improved Boselli’s chances.

Boselli if selected would become the first Jaguars player so honored. Jaguars.com at Super Bowl LIII this week spoke to five Hall of Fame voters about Boselli’s chances:

Vic Carucci, Buffalo News: “I’m going to push as hard as I can. Something has to break the jam and why not have it be Tony? This is the wide-receiver thing all over again. When I think of a dominating guy, I think of [former Baltimore Ravens and Hall of Fame tackle] Jonathan Ogden … big tackles who have owned the position, guys who God said, ‘I’m going to create the perfect NFL tackle.’ That’s Tony Boselli. He’ll have an obstacle to overcome, the brevity-of-career thing. That will come up. It has and it will again. Then it just comes down to people as they did previously getting past that enough to recognize just how great a player he was in that short window. This panel has done that before with other players: Terrell Davis, notably among them. I think this group is capable of figuring that out.”

John Clayton, Washington Post: “He’s a Hall of Fame tackle. The problem that he faces is there are three Hall-of-Fame linemen we have comparables for and they’re all taking votes away from each other. Remember, last year it was five because [former Washington Redskins left tackle] Joe Jacoby was in the mix and now he’s a senior candidate. Now, it’s down to four. What has to happen is whether it’s Tony Boselli, Steve Hutchinson, Kevin Mawae or Alan Faneca – one of them has to make it. Then it starts. We’ve had this at wide receiver where we were backed up, and we’ve had this at pass rusher. They take votes away from each other. If we can just focus and get at least one in – whoever it is – ultimately it will be that they all get in. He was great in his generation. The only thing is he’s going against guys who have played longer and who have been to more Pro Bowls. That’s not saying they’re better, but it’s, ‘OK, where are the comparables?’ That’s where everybody lines up as far as where the votes are going to go. What helps him out is with Terrell Davis getting in now, there’s a little more of an acceptance for the good short-term as opposed to the good long-term. That helps him out. Whether it’s going to work, we’ll see, but ultimately it’s going to work. Ultimately, if you make the Top 15, there’s a 93 percent success ratio. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to wait six or seven years. It was seven years on Andre Reed. It was seven years on Art Monk. That was the same thing; we had a big backup of wide receivers. If you make the 15, and you’re that good, you get in.

Clark Judge, Talk of Fame Network:“Just taking an unofficial poll, I know he is among the front-runners of the offensive linemen. The problem is we have four offensive linemen. He is the most senior. He played the position that people pay the most attention to, left tackle. That’s going to help him. The 91 games is an issue, but a lot of that changed with Terrell Davis. From the people I’ve talked to, I hear his name. We’ve got to break that gridlock. The problem is they could all split the votes. That’s what they have done in the past. At the wide receiver position at one point, we had Andre Reed, Tim Brown and Cris Carter; at some point we had to crack it. That’s going to be mentioned this year. We have to crack it; otherwise, these guys are going to be sitting there forever. So, who’s the first guy in? It could be Boselli, but you have three other All-Decade [linemen] that he’s up against. The attraction is he’s a left tackle. We’ve inducted a left tackle four of the last seven years. A center, Kevin Mawae, has a good shot also; we’ve inducted one in the last 20 years. 

John McClain, Houston Chronicle: “I think Tony deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. We put Terrell Davis in, and he had a short career. Others have had short careers. I don’t think it should be held against Boselli because when he was healthy, he was as good a left tackle as there was in his generation. Orlando Pace, Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden are in there; they had longer careers, but Tony dominated when he played. I believe he’ll get in, but there is a lot of competition and a lot of offensive linemen. People seem to think there are three locks this year with Gonzalez, Reed and Bailey. If there are indeed three locks, that will be tougher for Tony. Like I tell everybody: You’ve to be patient. I’ve seen guys go in on their last year of modern eligibility and I’ve seen guys go in on the Seniors Committee. Tony Boselli deserves to be in because he’s one of the greatest offensive tackles in NFL history. I hope it’s sooner rather than later.”

Charean Williams, Pro Football Talk:“There’s no question he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and I think some of the shorter career guys we’ve seen go in in the last few years bode well for Tony Boselli. That’s the only knock on him, the only thing you can say he didn’t accomplish that makes a Hall of Famer – the longevity. Otherwise, he checks off every single box you want in a Hall of Famer. A few years ago, what we faced at the wide receiver position is it was logjammed. Everybody had their favorite, so none were getting in because one wasn’t getting in. Once we saw one of those guys, they all went in. That’s what we’re seeing on the offensive line: Kevin Mawae, Tony Boselli, Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca … all of those guys who are locked up and who all deserve to go in. We’ve got to get one in and then I think we’ll start seeing the parade of offensive linemen go in. I do think we need to put an offensive lineman in this year, whoever it is, to end this logjam and start getting linemen in because they all deserve to go in. If you go back to 2014, 14 of the modern-era finalists [from that year] are in the Hall of Fame, so that tells you that within five years this whole group will be in the Hall. I think this is a good year for it. Everybody believes Tony Gonzalez and Ed Reed are obvious first-ballot Hall of Famers and most people believe Champ Bailey’s going in. That leaves two spots. The obvious place you look is the offensive line. I think it should be Tony Boselli. I think he should be the next guy to go in. Does it play out like that? I don’t know.”

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