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View from the O-Zone: 'Definitely a Hall of Famer'


JACKSONVILLE – Tom Coughlin was giddy and beaming. And why not?

These were good memories, vivid memories, proud memories …

But make no mistake:

When the Jaguars' executive vice president of football operations talked at EverBank Field late Tuesday morning, he did so to make what he considered an important, inarguable point.

Tony Boselli is worthy of what could happen Saturday. Absolutely and without question.

"This guy is definitely a Hall of Famer," Coughlin said.

This was a cool scene Tuesday, one that just felt right.

Here was Coughlin – the Jaguars' first head coach and general manager – in the bowels of the 'Bank. He wore a Jaguars logo again and was talking about the player he made the cornerstone of the then-expansion Jaguars by selecting him No. 2 overall in the 1995 NFL Draft.

That was Boselli at the time was a physically gifted, oh-so-ready-for-the-NFL left tackle from the University of Southern California. Fast forward to this week, and Boselli is now for the first time one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

With this year's Hall voting scheduled for Saturday, Coughlin – named to his current EVP/football operations role only three weeks ago – spoke to local media about the first player ever selected by the Jaguars in an NFL draft.

Coughlin made a ton of good points, correct points, because there's no question the Jaguars' first cornerstone also was one of the NFL's best left tackles ever. There's no question he was one of the best players in his position in the Golden Era of the position.

There's no question he is Hall-of-Fame worthy. We'll find out Saturday – the night before Super Bowl LI in Houston – if enough Hall voters agree to get Boselli in this year, but Coughlin knows it.

And he more than annunciated it Tuesday.

"Remember, the era in which he played: there were so many great tackles," Coughlin said of an era that included Hall-of-Fame left tackles Willie Roaf, Walter Jones, Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace. "With the era of really outstanding tackles, always to have his name mentioned in that group is a great tribute to him. Those guys are Hall of Famers. Boselli should be in the Hall of Fame."

Boselli to make the Hall needs the vote of at least 40 of 48 Hall voters. Jaguars senior vice president of communications Dan Edwards detailed Boselli's case with a packet sent to all 48 voters. In it are quotes from Roaf, Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian, former Pro Bowl defensive lineman Michael McCrary and Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz and letters supporting Boselli from Coughlin, Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis, CBS analyst Phil Simms and legendary NFL personnel man Gil Brandt.

Simms wrote of a time in September 1998 when the Jaguars were to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Jacksonville. Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas had had six sacks against Oakland the week before, and Simms the night before Chiefs-Jaguars game asked Coughlin how he planned to handle Thomas.

Coughlin recalled the story Tuesday:

"He was expecting something dramatic, strategic: 'We're going to go over there and chip; we're going to always slide to Derrick Thomas … we're going to do all of these things.' When he asked me the question, I said, 'What do you mean what are we going to do? We're going to put Boselli on Derrick Thomas and see where it goes.' That's the way I felt from day one."

Thomas did not have a sack in the game.

That was just one Boselli memory Coughlin shared Tuesday. He talked of working out Boselli in Los Angeles before the '95 draft, and how impressed he was with the traits of the player who would become a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a three-time All-Pro selection: the athleticism, competitiveness, drive, nastiness, intelligence. He talked of knowing he planned to select Boselli, and trying to hide his intentions in the weeks and days leading to the draft. He talked of calling Boselli after the selection, and he talked, too, of Boselli's reply.

"What took you so long?"

Coughlin, too, talked of Boselli's first game: a Sunday night matchup with the Green Bay Packers in Jacksonville in Week 4 of the 1995 season. Boselli had missed the first three games after sustaining a knee injury in training camp.

"I held him for a little bit in the first quarter and then I said, 'Go,''' Coughlin said. "And that was the last time I worried about anybody coming off that side, and that's a true story."

No, Coughlin didn't worry about the edge with Boselli, because in Boselli he selected not only a cornerstone but the heart and identity of those early Jaguars teams. Boselli was the first player to be inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars, and he remains in this writer's opinion the best player in franchise history. Coughlin was asked late in Tuesday's availability if it was a bit unreal in retrospect that the first selection could have been turned out to be all of what was expected and more.

"Look who picked him," Coughlin said. He smiled. His point was made.

The cornerstone is worthy. Absolutely and without question.

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