JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – 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 better measuring stick than seasons since the length of an NFL regular season has expanded from 12 to 16 games.
To better compare, 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 percent of the total number of players in the Hall. So, including a player with less than 100 games played requires a special talent and Boselli qualifies as that.
Having drafted Boselli with the second overall pick in 1995, Tom Coughlin saw every play Boselli played. He called him the “cornerstone of the franchise” and said he believes Boselli lived up to 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.”
Mark Brunell said Boselli was easily the best player on the Jaguars. When asked 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.” That's pretty high praise -- being compared 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 postseason 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 in which Boselli played the “Golden Age of Tackles” in the NFL.
Boselli's career overlapped with that of Hall of Famers Willie Roaf, Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace. Another tackle might not be a Hall of Fame finalist for another 10 years. Maybe Joe Thomas or possibly Tyron Smith or Taylor Lewan will be 15 years from now. So we’re talking about a special time from 1992, when Pace came into the league, until he retired in 2009.
Statistically, 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 -- four if you count the 1996 selection by Sports Illustrated. He was named to five Pro Bowls.
He was named to the first All-Decade Team first team of the 90s, 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, who is in the Hall of Fame, was the other All-Decade tackle. Willie Roaf, also in the Hall of Fame, was second team. Every other offensive first-team All-Decade Player of the ‘90s 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 incontext. 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.