Skip to main content

Bruce Smith Not Happy With Tony Boselli’s Hall Of Fame Selection

Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith questioned why supporters of offensive tackle Tony Boselli are using Boselli’s performance against Smith in an 1996 AFC wild card game as one of the primary reasons for electing Boselli into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In a lengthy statement posted to Instagram on Monday night, Smith said that voting Boselli into the Hall of Fame based partially on his performance in one game “sets a horrible precedent” for the candidacy of future nominees.

“A large part of the campaign to promote Tony Boselli into the Hall of Fame seems to hyper focus on a single successful performance he had against me in a 1996 playoff game,” Smith wrote in his statement. “On the one hand, I’m quite flattered to be considered the gold standard by which another player’s game can be measured to determine his qualification into the HOF. But on a more serious level, I and other HOFers believe it sets a horrible precedent to negatively zero in on a standing member of the Hall’s play in order to validate the candidacy of a nominee.”

Boselli was indeed dominant against Smith in the Jaguars’ 30–27 upset of the Bills in the AFC wild card round in Dec. 1996. Smith had been voted the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year that season after tallying 13.5 sacks and 90 tackles, but managed just three tackles and two quarterback pressures in the game, in which he mostly matched up with Boselli.

However, Smith said he doesn’t agree with the notion that a single game should be used as an argument for any player’s inclusion into the Hall of Fame.

“The HOF is an exclusive fraternity that follows a tacit code of conduct which fosters respect and brotherhood between its members,” Smith said in his statement. “Given the opportunity, any Hall of Famer could use his credentials to boast about his dominance over another member, but such behavior is deemed inappropriate because of the friction and discord it could create within the group. Maintaining harmony and goodwill in the HOF is paramount, and it is precisely why player campaigns have historically been presented respectfully and thoughtfully, allowing the candidate’s stats and complete body of work to speak resoundingly for itself.

“Resorting to underhanded tactics, like targeting a Hoffer and hyping a one game matchup to bolster a nominee’s merit as some of Tony’s supporters have done, undermines the integrity of the Hall’s election process. It also invites otherwise unnecessary commentary and scrutiny around that candidate’s worthiness of becoming a member of the HOF.”

Smith also said that the length of Boselli’s career, which ran from 1995 to 2001, doesn’t quite compare to that of some of the other great NFL left tackles. He continued, saying that Boselli benefited from protecting a left-handed quarterback because he wasn’t positioned on Mark Brunell’s blind-side.

“Tony was a formidable opponent during his brief career, but I find it difficult to compare the totality of his body of work with those of the NFL’s greatest left tackles. With the exception of the legendary Anthony Munoz; Jonathan Ogden, Willie Roaf, and Walter Jones all protected the blind side of the quarterback for 12 seasons or more. In Jacksonville, Leon Searcy bore the arduous task of protecting Mark Brunell’s blindside, while Tony benefited from protecting the extremely talented, mobile left handed quarterback.

“During my nineteen years in the NFL several outstanding LTs, such as Bruce Armstrong, Richmond Webb and Will Wilford, all had stellar games against me. Perhaps they too would be wise to build HOF campaigns highlighting that fact.”

Boselli went to five Pro Bowls, was named first-team All-Pro three times, was a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and allowed only 15.5 sacks in 91 career games.

“I have the utmost respect for Bruce Smith,” Boselli told ESPN. “He’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game and is one of several men I competed against during my career. I played the games I played, and they’re all on tape for anyone to watch. My career ending early because of a shoulder injury has been much discussed. I don’t have much to add on that.”

Boselli will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 6.

More NFL Coverage: