JACKSONVILLE – Tony Boselli should already be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Let's get that out of the way first because it's absolutely true, but what's also true when discussing the original Pride of the Jaguars member and the Hall is this:
Just because he's not in yet doesn't mean it won't happen.
Boselli, a three-time Associated Press All-Pro first-team left tackle in the 1990s, was not among five modern-era players in the 2020 Hall class. The honor this year went to safeties Steve Atwater and Troy Polamalu, guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Edgerrin James and wide receiver Isaac Bruce.
It's easy to see why Jaguars fans are upset. This wasn't a class stuffed with "locks," and this writer could make a strong case Boselli was as deserving as any of the members of the '20 class – and more deserving than most, if not all.
But let's debunk one theory that has been floating since the class was announced Saturday – that this somehow was Boselli's last real chance for election.
It is true this was Boselli's best chance yet. That's because there were no guaranteed "first-ballot" inductees. It's also true that next year will be tough for non-first-ballotters with legendary players such as quarterback Peyton Manning, cornerback Charles Woodson and wide receiver Calvin Johnson in their first year of eligibility.
One observer shortly after Saturday's announcement projected the following future Hall classes:
*2021: Manning, Woodson, Johnson, guard Alan Faneca, defensive end Richard Seymour.
*2022: Boselli, wide receiver Andre Johnson, safety John Lynch, linebacker Sam Mills and outside linebacker Demarcus Ware.
*2023: Defensive end Jared Allen, safety LeRoy Butler, cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker Zach Thomas and wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
The projections make sense and reveal multiple factors that could bode well for Boselli. One is while the '21 class could offer just two slots outside Woodson/Manning/Johnson, the two spots are relatively wide open – and there's no reason Boselli couldn't get one. Also, if he doesn't get in that year, the '22 class appears far more open.
The other point to be taken from the projections is that Hall voters indeed appear generally committed to something many first began discussing a couple of years ago – i.e., getting the offensive-line group of Faneca, Boselli, center Kevin Mawae and Hutchinson elected. Mawae was elected last year and Hutchinson's election leaves Boselli and Faneca. Many believe both will be enshrined in the coming years.
Those were other potential positives for Boselli Saturday. One was that the discussion around him was longer than any other candidate, and another was that the vibe around him was positive enough that many voters expressed surprise later that he wasn't elected. Still another is that he made the Top 10 for a fourth consecutive year, and it's rare for a player to get so close so often and not eventually be elected.
So, yes …
Boselli already should be in the Hall of Fame. But just because he's not there yet – and just because Jaguars observers are frustrated – doesn't mean it won't ever happen.
TAYLOR ON THE RISE?
We don't want to let this weekend pass without mentioning former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, who – along with Boselli and wide receiver Jimmy Smith – represents the former Jaguars players most deserving of Hall honors. Taylor progressed in the Hall process this year by making the list of semifinalists for the first time, although he was not among the 15 finalists discussed in Miami Saturday. Getting to the list of 25 is big because it puts the player in the discussion among Hall voters in December and gives them a chance to be discussed throughout the course of the year until the process begins next fall. The guess here is Taylor may have to follow a similar path as Boselli, whose first year as a finalist came in his 11th year of eligibility but whose candidacy gained momentum once voters refamiliarized themselves with his career. That's not to say Taylor will have to wait quite as long as Boselli to be a finalist, but there likely will be a process of convincing voters to reexamine a player who absolutely deserves more consideration than he so far has received.
CREDIT WHERE IT'S VERY DUE
While Jaguars players too often have been overlooked for postseason – and career – honors this offseason, it would be noted that one Jaguars player received what many players consider the league's highest seasonal honor. That's defensive end Calais Campbell, who on Saturday was named the 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. This is the honor the NFL saves for last at its annual awards presentation, and it honors volunteer and charitable work – as well as on-field accomplishments. "I am extremely honored to receive the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award," Campbell tweeted later. "This is the most prestigious award in all of sports and it represents everything that is good about the game of football. This journey has been incredible...but I feel like we are just getting started." Campbell was absolutely deserving of the honor. Here's to the NFL for saving the best for last Saturday.