Hall of Fame defensive end and Bills legend Bruce Smith is unhappy with the campaign which helped former Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Smith, the NFL’s all-time sack leader with 200.0, said supporters of Boselli’s campaign are using his shutdown performance against Smith in the 1996 Wild Card Game as the biggest argument for his election. Smith won the Defensive Player of the Year Award that season, but recorded just three tackles and two tackles in the game in Buffalo.
“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 said on Instagram Tuesday. “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.”
Smith claimed using the game, in which Jacksonville won, 30-27, as an argument for Boselli’s candidacy is “underhanded tactics.”
“The HOF is an exclusive fraternity that follows a tacit code of conduct which fosters respect and brotherhood between its members,” Smith said. “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 HOFer 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.”
Boselli’s case is unique in that his career was cut short after just seven seasons due to injuries. But in those seven seasons, it’d be hard to find a better left tackle in the league. Boselli was selected to five Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro three times. He was a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade-Team and allowed just 15.5 sacks in 91 career games.
Some would say Boselli’s career was too short to be enshrined into Canton. Smith appeared to imply that theory is correct and said since Boselli never had to cover the blind side of his quarterback — as Mark Brunell was left-handed — it goes against his argument for the Hall.
Boselli responded to Smith’s comments, taking the high-road and saying he has great respect for Smith.
“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.”
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