• The All-Pro tackle from Tom Coughlin’s old Jaguars team looks at the Jaguars-Patriots conference championship game and sees chances, especially with that fearless Jacksonville defense. Also, remember who coached against the Patriots in Belichick’s two Super Bowl losses?
By Tim Rohan
January 19, 2018

The Jaguars are back in the AFC Championship Game for the first time in 19 years. Our first thought was to reprise Jag Week—long live Jag Week!—but instead we decided to reach out to Tony Boselli, the All-Pro left tackle on the Tom Coughlin Jags teams from late ’90s who’s now a radio broadcaster for the team.

In this week’s Talking Football, Boselli gives his defense of Blake Bortles, explains how he’d block Calais Campbell, and expounds on the impact Coughlin has had since returning to the organization. But first, he had something to get off his chest. When The MMQB spoke to him Wednesday night, he had just finished a day of meetings and bonding events with employees of his healthcare company.

“What a crappy deal that SoulCycle is,” Tony Boselli said.

MMQB: You didn’t like it?

Boselli: “It wasn’t that tough, but my [backside] hurt, because you’re sitting on that little seat for so long. And the shoes were a little too small, so my feet fell asleep. And this is how I know I’m getting old, the music was so freaking loud. Someone turn down the freakin’ music please!”

MMQB: After that win over the Steelers, the Jaguars players were talking a lot of smack. You were at the game—what was that scene like?

Boselli: You know, them talking doesn’t surprise me anymore. They’re just so confident, and they’ve been like that all year. They’ve got this swagger. Some people say it’s a chip on their shoulder. It’s a little bit of that, everyone looking down on Jacksonville. I just think, they really think they’re better than everyone else in the league. And they may be right, by the way. They’re really good defensively.

Everyone keeps asking me this week, are they going to be intimidated going into New England, what with Belichick and Brady and all the experience the Patriots have? And I say, I don’t think so. Blake [Bortles] is really mentally tough. He can overcome anything with all the [stuff] he’s gone through this year. If you actually break down his numbers, he’s played better than anyone’s given him credit for.

But defensively? I promise you one thing that’s not going to happen: That group will not be scared and will not be intimidated by anything that happens in that stadium. That group on defense? They’re walking into that place heads high. They respect the Patriots. They respect Brady. But they’re not afraid.

MMQB: You’ve heard the Bortles talk this year, the last couple years—how has he handled it all?

Boselli: Blake Bortles might be one of the mentally toughest individuals I’ve ever been around. He’s either that or he just doesn’t give a crap about what anybody outside that organization thinks. He cares about his teammates deeply, and he cares what people in that building think. That’s really important, that he has their respect. Outside of that? I don’t know how he does it, [blocking out the comments].

Listen, Blake’s not perfect. Like anyone, when we call the games, I’m honest. At times he has issues with his footwork, which goes to his throwing motion, and then goes to his accuracy. He gets out of sync. It happens. I think that’s a fair criticism, that sometimes he needs to clean up his footwork.

But to say some of the things people have said about him, that he’s a terrible quarterback, that he’s the worst quarterback in the NFL … that’s nonsense! Go look at the numbers. Go look at what he does in big moments, when he’s made plays with his feet and made some big throws.

I’ve told people, if I was playing on this team, I’d love playing for Blake Bortles. Because he’s tough, he’s competitive, and he never points the finger at anybody but himself. And I really respect that about Blake Bortles.

MMQB: Say you were still playing. how would Tony Boselli do blocking this Jaguars front four? How would Tony Boselli do against Calais Campbell?

Boselli: Well, I would say a lot of prayers and make sure I got a really good night of sleep, before I had to block Calais Campbell. Because he is a big, powerful human being.

If it was me, and I don’t want to give the Patriots any ideas … I would try to get my hands on Calais before he gets started, because once he gets started, it’s over. Once he gets going? With his power? Then again, he’s got enough elusiveness that he can do a swim move, he can make you miss, knock your hands done. He’s not a one-dimensional player. But you’ve got to get on him and you’ve got to be physical with him, because he’s a physical player. If you try to finesse him, he’s going to kill you.

MMQB: What do the Jags have to do to win this weekend?

Boselli: The defense did two things [against Pittsburgh] that I think they’ll have to do in New England as well. The defense has been the catalyst all year—they need to give two short fields to the offense. If they can do that, if they can pressure Brady inside and out… And then offensively, I think Nathaniel Hackett has to do the same thing he did in Pittsburgh: From the start of the game, they have to be aggressive. And I think taking some shots on early downs is really important.

MMQB: Everyone’s wondering if Tom Coughlin is helping on the game plan this week. From your vantage point, what has Coughlin brought to the organization this year? What impact has he had?

Boselli: Let me answer about this game—it never hurts having a guy around who’s won two Super Bowls. By the way, he beat a Belichick-led team twice, doing it. So while he’s not the coach, I think he can add some advice that’d be very helpful.

What he’s meant to the organization, I can’t point to one thing and say, it’s this. Or he did this and changed this or whatever people want to talk about. It’s who he is, and it’s the weight of his presence in that organization. Tom Coughlin was part of this organization from the beginning. He built it, he was the architect, and he controlled everything we did the first time. Then he went and won two Super Bowls [with the Giants], which only built his credentials as a football guy.

When he walked back in the building, I think it put everyone on notice. It made everyone walk a little straighter, a little more upright, and pay attention to the details a little bit more. It’s just who he is. His presence has meant more than anything. There’s certain people, when you’re around them, it’s like, OK, I’ve got to be serious, I’ve got to be better, because that person’s watching. 

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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