Longevity is a critical issue when it comes to induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it is a particular subject of discussion this week on the Talk of Fame Network.
In continuing TOF’s rundown of the Hall’s 15 finalists for the Class of 2017, we visit with senior committee nominee and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Kenny Easley, as well as 1990s all-decade tackle Tony Boselli, who also happens to be the best player in Jacksonville Jaguar history. What unites them is that both had remarkable careers cut short after seven seasons due to catastrophic injury.
Easley is arguably the greatest strong safety in NFL history, yet has waited 25 years for his first, and likely last, shot at induction as this year’s senior nominee. A five-time All-Pro and member of the 1980s all-decade team, Easley was both Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1981 and Defensive Player of the Year in 1984, dominating the field so forcefully offenses began sending tight ends in motion or spreading them wide to draw Easley out of the middle of the field.
“Greatness should be measured by what a player did to alter the game from his position,’’Easley contends. “After 1984 (when he led the NFL with 10 interceptions and returned two for touchdowns) teams started to split the tight end wide because they knew our scheme (with Easley covering the tight end). They were playing 10-on-10 football. They didn’t do that against anyone else. If my play was that special that they’d use the tight end as a distraction ... I thought it was a game changing thing.’’
“Greatness should be measured by what a player did to alter the game from his position.’’
Easley certainly changed games, and so did Boselli, who for nearly all of his seven-year career was the prototype left tackle every team sought. That alone, he feels, should mitigate against the fact that his career was shortened by knee injuries.
“I understand longevity,’’ Boselli said. “It plays a greater role depending on whether you’re really good or great. But from my standpoint…and I hate to do this…but when I listen to the draft and hear people say ‘He’s not Tony Boselli’ or ‘all-decade team,’ it seems like a lot of people view me as one of the best to play the position. If you’re the best at what you do, doesn’t’ that have to mean something?’’
It should, and we will learn how much when the cases of Easley, Boselli and former Denver Broncos’ running back Terrell Davis are made next month. There is sure to be an equally heated discussion over the candidacy of contributor committee nominee Paul Tagliabue. This is the fourth time the former NFL commissioner has been a finalist, and the TOF chats with long-time ESPN reporter Sal Paolantonio, who will argue Tagliabue’s case to the other 47 voters – including our hosts Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge.
Paolantonio said that convincing a committee that three times shot down Tagliabue to change its collective opinion “one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.’’ He reveals why this week on the Talk of Fame Network.
Rick, Ron and Clark also handicap the divisional playoff games and the chances that a safety will be admitted to the Hall this year after a long drought at that position. Only seven pure safeties have been inducted and three are up this year, Easley and modern-day candidates Brian Dawkins and John Lynch. Will they split the vote or split the uprights?
There’s all that, plus our weekly two-minute drill, Rinnai Game Changers of the Week and more. The show can be found on 75 SB Nation radio stations around the country, in our free podcast on iTunes, on the TuneIn app or by going to our website, talkoffamenetwork.com and clicking on the helmet icon.