JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hall of Famer defensive end Bruce Smith is upset that offensive tackle Tony Boselli supporters are using Boselli’s dominating performance against Smith in a playoff game as one of the reasons Boselli got into pro football Hall of Fame was elected.
The NFL’s career sack leader also hinted that Boselli doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame due to the length of his career and the fact that Boselli played with a left-handed quarterback and didn’t have to protect the blind side.
“A large part of the campaign to induct Tony Boselli into the Hall of Fame seems to center on a single successful performance, which he had in a playoff game against me in 1996,” Smith said in a statement published on his official Instagram account was released. “On the one hand, I’m quite flattered to be seen as the gold standard against which another player’s play can be measured in order to determine their qualification for the HOF. But on a more serious level, I and other HOFers believe that negatively focusing on a standing member of the hall to validate a candidate’s candidacy sets a terrible precedent.”
Boselli dominated Smith in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 30-27 win over the Buffalo Bills in an AFC wildcard game on December 28, 1996. Smith was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year that season, having 13.5 sacks and 90 tackles had collected. but he only managed three tackles and two quarterback pressures in the game in Buffalo.
But Smith said using that game as an argument for Boselli’s induction into the Hall of Fame was “underhand tactics.”
“HOF is an exclusive fraternity that follows an implicit code of conduct that promotes respect and brotherhood among its members,” Smith said in his statement. “On occasion, any Hall of Famer could use their credentials to brag about their dominance over another member, but such behavior is considered inappropriate as it could create friction and discord within the group. Maintaining harmony and goodwill in the HOF is of paramount importance, and this is precisely why player campaigns have historically been presented in a respectful and thoughtful manner, allowing the stats and overall work of the candidate to speak convincingly for themselves.
“Recourse to underhanded tactics, like targeting a HOFer and touting a matchup in a game to bolster a candidate’s merits, as some of Tony’s supporters have done, undermines the integrity of the hall’s election process. It also invites otherwise unnecessary comment and inquiry into this candidate’s worthiness to become a member of the HOF.”
Boselli attended five Pro Bowls, was named a first-team All-Pro three times, was a member of the 1990s NFL All-Decade Team, and allowed just 15.5 sacks in 91 career games, but it was his performance against Smith that day, which earned him national recognition as one of the best players of his time.
“I have the utmost respect for Bruce Smith,” Boselli told ESPN. “He’s one of the greatest players to ever play that game and one of several men I’ve faced during my career. I’ve played the games I’ve played and they’re all on tape for everyone to see. That’s why my career ended prematurely. A shoulder injury was discussed a lot. I don’t have much to add to that.”
Smith also said the length of Boselli’s career, which ran from 1995 to 2001, means she can’t match some of the game’s best left tackles like Anthony Munoz, Willie Roaf and Walter Jones. The fact that Boselli played with a left-handed quarterback also speaks against him, Smith said.
“In Jacksonville, Leon Searcy bore the arduous task of protecting Mark Brunell’s blind side while Tony benefited from protecting the extremely talented, agile left-handed quarterback,” Smith said. “During my nineteen years in the NFL, several outstanding LTs such as Bruce Armstrong, Richmond Webb and Will Wolford have all put up excellent plays against me. Perhaps it would also be wise for them to build HOF campaigns to highlight this fact.”
Incidentally, Smith was the person who introduced Boselli as part of the Hall of Fame class of 2022 at the NFL Honors on February 10. Munoz, considered the best left tackle in NFL history, has consistently endorsed Boselli as a Hall of Famer, telling a Jacksonville radio station in 2020 that Boselli “deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.” … And people keep pointing to the career; It did not take long. No, but he was the best when he was playing.”
Boselli will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 6 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio along with wide receiver Cliff Branch, safety LeRoy Butler, official Art McNally, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive end/defensive Tackle Richard Seymour, trainer Dick Vermeil and defensive tackle/defensive end Bryant Young.