JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the third time in as many years, Tony Boselli is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What are his chances to be selected as one of the five modern-era players this year? Let's size up the field.
There are two no-doubt candidates who are going to be first-ballot selections. Both Ed Reed, the former Baltimore Ravens' safety and tight end Tony Gonzalez, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, need little conversation. They'll be in. That leaves three more spots.
Champ Bailey will probably get in. The former Charlton County High School and University of Georgia star was one of the best cornerbacks of his era and was also versatile enough to be used on offense from time to time. In his 15-year career with the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos, Bailey recorded 52 interceptions. Only 25 men, including two other candidates this year, Ty Law and senior committee nominee Johnny Robinson, had more in their careers. Bailey was named as a first-team All-Pro three years in a row, and four other seasons, he was a second-team pick. He made 12 Pro Bowls in his career.
Will the committee decide that only one offensive lineman can go in at a time? Three other worthy candidates are on the list: New York Jets center Kevin Mawae, guard Steve Hutchinson, who played for the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans, and fellow guard Alan Faneca of the Steelers, Jets and Arizona Cardinals.
Mawai was a three-time first-team All-Pro selection and made eight Pro Bowls in his 16-year career.
Hutchinson, was a five-time first-team All-Pro who went to 8 Pro Bowls in 11 years.
Faneca earned six first-team All-Pro selections and went to nine Pro Bowls in his 13-year career. Remarkably, he missed only two games due to injury in his career.
By comparison, Boselli made five Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro three times before injuries cut short his career. Boselli's Pro Bowl seasons were 1996-2000. In 2001, Boselli sustained a shoulder injury from which he never returned. Detractors will say that Boselli's 97 career games, including the playoffs, aren't enough to merit a bust in Canton. However, there are 32 players in the Hall of Fame who have played fewer than 100 games in their careers.
The other candidates who could take a spot from Boselli include Isaac Bruce, fifth on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list and the aforementioned Law, who has 53 career interceptions, the same number as Deion Sanders.
And how will the two coach candidates impact the selection? Don Coryell revolutionized the passing game in the NFL, while Tom Flores won two Super Bowls as a head coach. There are 14 coaches who have won multiple Super Bowls. One, Bill Belichick, is still active. Seven are in the Hall of Fame. Of the remaining, Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan are not yet eligible. That leaves Jimmy Johnson (somehow not in, yet, and not a finalist this year), and George Seifert, who took over for Bill Walsh and never had a winning season when he was thee head coach in Carolina. And then there is Flores, who has two rings, but only six winning seasons in 12 years of coaching.
Other finalists include safety Steve Atwater, Edgerrin James, John Lynch and Richard Seymour.
If I had a ballot, I would vote for Reed, Gonzalez, Bailey Coryell, and yes, Tony Boselli.