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View from the O-Zone: Bo’s wait continues

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ATLANTA, Ga. – Big Bo’s wait continues.

That’s not fair – not even close – but the best player in Jaguars history on Saturday again experienced the excruciating side of professional football’s biggest honor.

Tony Boselli, the cornerstone of the franchise’s early and most-successful era and one of the best left tackles in NFL history, was not among the five modern-era members voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2019 Saturday.

Boselli, in his third year as a Hall finalist, again handled the news with characteristic class.

“Five guys get in; I wasn’t one of them,” Boselli told jaguars.com from the balcony of the Omni Hotel in Atlanta, where he spent Saturday afternoon waiting for the results of Saturday’s vote with family and close friends. “You just sit back and be thankful to be a part of the process and have a chance. 

“We’ll see what happens in the future.”

That has been Boselli’s approach throughout this long process – that all 15 finalists are deserving and all players elected are reallydeserving. He said that absolutely was the case with this year’s five finalists: safety Ed Reed, tight end Tony Gonzalez, cornerback Ty Law, center Kevin Mawae and cornerback Champ Bailey.

“All of those guys are great players,” Boselli said. “You can make an argument for every one of them.”

For a third consecutive year, the argument for Boselli was strong, too.

And for a third consecutive year, there seemed a very real chance Boselli would be elected. 

Voters throughout the week spoke of Boselli being the left tackle in the golden age at the position, and that his peers from that era – Jonathan Ogden, Willie Roaf, Orlando Pace and Walter Jones – long since had been inducted.

Boselli was considered the foursome’s equal or superior, and respected football voices said as much in the days and weeks leading to Saturday. John Hannah, considered by many the best guard in NFL history, this week called Boselli the best left tackle he ever has seen. Anthony Munoz, considered by many the standard at the position, long has called Boselli as good as any left tackle ever.

The feeling throughout the week also was that the main obstacle between Boselli and Hall election – career longevity – was becoming less of an issue. Boselli, the No. 2 overall selection in the 1995 NFL Draft, played 91 career regular-season games with the Jaguars from 1995-2001 before his career was cut short by shoulder issues. That long has been a sticking point among voters, but Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis’ 2017 election after a 77-game career seemed to weaken the argument.

So, why not Boselli in 2019? 

There will be hue and cry from Jaguars supporters about market size, and favoritism to more popular teams. The sense here is those factors were small ones, if they were factors at all.

The reality is while the length of Boselli’s career is less of an issue for voters, it still doesn’t help that he played seven seasons (eight seasons on rosters) compared to a player such as Mawae’s 16. When voters compare Mawae’s eight Pro Bowls and seven All-Pro selections to five and three for Boselli, it’s easy to get swayed by numbers and ignore the reality that when Boselli played he had few – if any – equals.

But the biggest reason this wasn’t Boselli’s year is the same reason it wasn’t multiple other finalists’ year. The Hall process is incredibly selective. Hall voters like to say that every finalist for the Hall is in fact Hall worthy, and there’s truth to the statement. Five spots for 15 worthy candidates mean 10 worthy candidates don’t make it.

The feeling this week among Hall voters remained strong that Boselli will get in eventually. The consensus among voters was that the backlog of offensive linemen that existed entering this year – Boselli, Mawae, Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson all are multi-year finalists – would soon break. Once broken, the theory has gone, all four will be elected relatively soon. In that sense, Mawae’s election could bode well for Boselli. That’s the theory anyway.

Not that theories were much solace for a typically classy Boselli Saturday.

“I think it gets harder every year, a little bit,” Boselli said. “It goes on, and there are no guarantees. You hear people say, ‘Well next year’s the year.’ I’ve had people call already and say, ‘For sure, next year.’ There are no guarantees, so you better enjoy the process. You better enjoy what you have and be thankful for it.

“I’m really happy for the five guys who made it. They deserve it. I’m disappointed for myself. But that’s OK. We’ll see what happens.”

The thought here is those people calling are right – that the offensive line logjam being broken indeed bodes well for Boselli and that next year will be the year. But for now, Big Bo’s wait continues.

And that’s not fair – not even close.

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