If there’s one sticking point to Tony Boselli’s inclusion as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s the perceived brevity of his career. The numbers are straightforward: Boselli played 91 regular season games plus six playoff games for a total of 97 games.
Games played is a good measuring stick instead of seasons since the length of an NFL regular season has expanded from twelve to fourteen and to the current sixteen games.
So by comparison, players who played about one more modern 16-game season more than Boselli who are in the Hall of Fame include:
Lynn Swann … 116
Earl Campbell … 115
Dwight Stephenson … 114
Kellen Winslow … 109
Paul Hornung … 109
In addition to the two players who were selected for induction last year, Kenny Easley and Terrell Davis, played 96 and 78 games respectively. In all, there are 32 players with less than 100 games played already in the Hall including: Gale Sayers, Dick Stanfel, Doak Walker and Cliff Battles. That’s about 12% of the total number of players in the Hall. So including a player with less than 100 games played takes a special talent and Boselli qualifies as that.
Having drafted Boselli with the second overall pick in 1995, Tom Coughlin saw every play Tony played. He called him the “cornerstone of the franchise” and believes Boselli lived up to the expectations.
“Tony was simply the best offensive tackle in the game throughout his career,” Coughlin said. “I never had to worry that his guy would make a play. Ever.”
Often called the best tackle to ever play the game, Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz agreed.
“In my opinion, after watching Tony Boselli play during his NFL career, is that he is one of the best offensive tackles I have observed.”
I asked Mark Brunell, who said Boselli was easily the best player on the Jaguars, if Boselli was the best football player he’d ever played with. The 19-year veteran and teammate of Boselli for Tony’s entire career said “I wouldn’t say Tony was better than Brett Favre, Reggie White or Drew Brees, but those are the guys he’s in the conversation with.” Pretty high praise and comparison to two, no discussion, first ballot Hall of Famers and a Super Bowl winning quarterback.
It’s no coincidence that when the Jaguars were relevant when it came to the post season in their infancy, it was during Boselli’s career. They went to the post-season four times in his first five seasons and twice played in the AFC Championship game.
You could call the era Boselli played in the “Golden Age of Tackles” in the NFL.
Willie Roaf, Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace all Hall of Famers, and Tony Boselli had an overlapping career with all of them. Another tackle might not be a Hall of Fame finalist for another ten years. Maybe Joe Thomas and possibly Tyron Smith or Taylor Lewan15 years from now. So we’re talking about a special time from 1992 when Pace came into the league until he retired in 2009.
Statically, Tony compares favorably with all of those players. In an analysis of sacks allowed and yards rushing and numerous other categories, Boselli is equal to or above those other four.
Boselli was on the All-rookie team in 1995. He was All Pro three times, 4 if you count the 1996 selection by Sports Illustrated. He was named to five Pro Bowls.
He was named All-Decade first team of the 90’s despite only playing five years in the decade and one was his rookie year. He passes the eye test. If you saw him play, you knew you were watching a special talent.
Gary Zimmerman, in the Hall of Fame, was the other All-Decade tackle. Willie Roaf, in the Hall of Fame, was second team. Every other offensive first-team All Decade Player of the ’90’s has been elected to the Hall.
Everybody I talked to from Boselli’s era agreed that he was Hall of Fame material during his playing career. The perceived brevity of his career, 97 games, should be viewed in its perspective. It wasn’t so brief after all.
If the election of Easley and Davis last year showed that greatness is the overriding qualification for the Hall, Tony Boselli checks every box.