Here at TheInsideZone we were extremely fortunate to obtain an exclusive interview with 5x Pro-Bowler, 3x All-Pro, 1990s All Decade-Team and the Jacksonville Jaguars first ever draft pick (no.2 overall in 1995) Tony Boselli. The following article is the transcript from that interview…
Tom, TheInsideZone: When the Jacksonville Jaguars took you 2nd overall in the 1995 Draft, it was the first pick the franchise ever made. What did it mean to you as a player to have such faith instilled into you by an organisation?
Tony Boselli: Playing for the Jags was great. Being the first pick of a new franchise had challenges as everything was brand new and we didn’t have much history but the inaugural team and the created tradition was quite an experience and we had a lot of success early on.
Tom, TheInsideZone: The coach who took you at the time Tom Coughlin was also your Head Coach throughout your entire professional career. What is he like as a Coach as you hear these stories about him being a bit of a stickler for discipline and detail, but what was he like to play under?
Tony Boselli: Yeah Tom was… he was a very tough coach, demanding, and a lot of discipline especially early on, because we were such a young team and had a lot of guys from different backgrounds all trying to come together in a short time. He really demanded a lot out of us and his expectations were very high and he was difficult to play for at times, but such a great coach that his demanding style and his leadership style got the most out of us and I think a lot of it led to the early success we had.
Tom, TheInsideZone: You’ve played with some impressive players during your time; not only in college when you had Willie McGinest on your team but also during your time in the Pros. Who would you say is the best player you played with during your career?
Tony Boselli: Well I played with a lot of great players. I mean guys like Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, Keenan McCardell and offensively we had a lot of really good players. Leon Searcy was the Right Tackle and one of the best Right Tackles in football. I know blocking for Fred Taylor was very fun as he made us look good even when we maybe didn’t do the best as he was so dynamic and a guy like Jimmy Smith and Mark Brunell in the passing game really made our jobs much easier. I was really fortunate to play with some great players.
Tom, TheInsideZone: You not only played with some great players, but during your time in the League the NFL boasted some elite defensive talents, which made life for Tackles such as yourself incredibly difficult. Who would you say is the hardest opponent you’ve ever gone up against?
Tony Boselli: I played against a bunch of guys who are in the Hall of Fame. Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas and those guys are great great competitors and really difficult to play against. When you play against those sorts of players they bring out the best in you. Two other guys, one of them you mentioned Willie McGinest when he was at the Patriots and a guy named Michael McCray with the Baltimore Ravens and so the challenge of playing against a great player every play and the pressure it puts on you as an Offensive Linemen, it was definitely a challenge.
Tom, TheInsideZone: As one of the best Left Tackles to have played in the NFL, when you look at the current crop of NFL Tackles, who do you have as the number 1 Tackle in the League at the minute?
Tony Boselli: Well you know, there’s quite a few good ones like Tyron Smith for the Dallas Cowboys is really a good young player. Joe Thomas for the Cleveland Browns has been doing it for a long long time. Jason Peters is an older guy for the Philadelphia Eagles but has been a real physical presence. Those are guys that are playing at a high level right now and doing a great job.
Tom, TheInsideZone: Joe Thomas obviously is Mr. Reliable but a lot of people knock him as he’s not as great a run blocker as he is in pass protection. Do you think that’s something that slightly puts Smith over Thomas?
Tony Boselli: Well Tyron Smith is younger, more physical and he’s a powerful guy. Joe Thomas is just so sound in everything he does and you can see the veteran play that he brings in experience. They’re at different stages in their career but talent wise Tyron Smith has so much of a great career ahead of him and the ability really to excel.
Tom, TheInsideZone: Moving on to the current group of Jaguars. Blake Bortles has been the most sacked Quarterback in each of his first two years and has been sacked an average of 3.5 times a game. What do you make of the current Jaguars offensive line and do you think this unit could be something of an Achilles heel this season?
Tony Boselli: Yeah you know, you definitely want to limit, obviously the hits on the Quarterback and sacks and I think they’ve done a better job this year as an Offense and Blake also has a style where he plays and maybe takes some sacks but you live with it because he’s so dynamic and he can make so many plays outside the pocket. As a group they’re young and sometimes it takes time to learn to work together in the passing game but they need to get the run blocking better but in the passing game they’ve been much better.
Tom, TheInsideZone: The run blocking is something that I feel they really need to improve on. They’ve been held to under 70 rushing yards a game so far and against the Ravens they were barely opening any holes at all. There was a lot of buzz around the Jaguars at the start of this year. They had a great free agency and got two defensive studs in the draft. Who do you see as the key addition made by Jacksonville this offseason?
Tony Boselli: They did have a good offseason and its always good to have those guys and add those players, but you got to see that translate to on the field. Jalen Ramsey their first overall pick has been really good this year and for a young player to have the success he has had immediately and the impact that he has had in the defensive backfield. The free agent Malik Jackson has really played good ball, especially last week against the Baltimore Ravens where he was dominant and has added quite a bit to upfront.
Tom, TheInsideZone: The Jags appeared to win the offseason but have started 0-3. Do you think it’s a make or break game in London especially against the divisional rivals Colts?
Tony Boselli: Yeah I mean listen; they need to get a win. They’ve lost three games and two of them have been close. Greenery they had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win it down by 4 and they couldn’t make a play. Then against the Ravens they had the lead up until the last minute and couldn’t get the last stop. They’ve been very close games those two, but I think this one is a very important game because you need to learn how to win. They’ve been close but I think it’s critical that they win this week and they can’t afford to go to 0-4.
Tom, TheInsideZone: I imagine you’re going to get this question a lot throughout the weekend, but is this game a must win for Gus Bradley to stay on as Head Coach? Last year it was Joe Philbin with Miami, the year before it was Dennis Allen with Oakland and the fact that teams get the bye the week after. Does Gus Bradley have to win this game to stay on as Head Coach?
Tony Boselli: Well I don’t know, that’s up to Shahid Khan, the owner and David Caldwell the GM. I think Gus is a good head coach and he came in to a challenging situation to rebuild the franchise and they’ve gotten better and they’ve got young players. Hopefully the trend will break and they’ll get a win and we won’t have to worry about what happens if they lose. I think everyone needs to just focus on that.
Tom, TheInsideZone: The NFL is currently expanding heavily into the UK market and a lot of resources are being pumped into that marketplace. Looking at the situation from Stateside, do you think that a potential London franchise is something that is feasible in the future?
Tony Boselli: It’s tough to say, I know it’s an important market for the NFL, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are committed to growing there. It’s a great sport city and obviously one of the major cities in the world and I known the NFL want to be there. I think the NFL needs to continue to grow the market and grow the interest and start them young. Maybe down the road in ten years or however long it takes to grow that fan base, you will possibly have a team there one day.
Tom, TheInsideZone: Finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?
Tony Boselli: Most games in the NFL come down to one or two possessions and I think it’s going to be a very close game. I see both teams scoring in the 20s and hopefully the Jaguars will be on the right side at the end.
– Thank you once again to Tony Boselli for agreeing to interview with TheInsideZone and I hope it will prove to be an exciting divisional match up this weekend at Wembley Stadium!
-Tom Like, Editor-in-Chief