Joe Thomas: Not sure running backs have a place in today’s NFL

Pat McManamon of ESPN.com published some interesting quotes from Browns pro bowl tackle  Joe Thomas in his post on Friday.

The post centered around Thomas’ comments in response to being asked about Cleveland’s struggles to run the ball thus far this season. The Browns have only averaged 81 yards on the ground through nine games this season and are getting just 2.6 yards per carry out starting running back Willis McGahee.

“I’m looking at today’s NFL, and I’m just not sure there’s a place for a running back anymore.” Thomas said.

“If you’re a defensive coordinator and you give up a 100-yard rusher, you don’t really care,  it really doesn’t translate into winning many games.”

Whether it was his intent or not, Thomas’ remarks seemed to echo the beliefs of a front office who traded running back  Trent Richardson but held on to play making receiver Josh Gordon whose name was at the center of trade rumors.

“You have to have somebody who’s a once-in-a-generation talent like Adrian Peterson to really be a difference maker in the game,” Thomas said. “But you get one Josh Gordon, you throw him a jump ball in triple coverage and he goes up and catches a touchdown, you win the game. That’s one guy, one play. He can do that three times in a game. Calvin Johnson. You can go down the list of guys like that who are game-changers. A.J. Green.

You have to change the entire defense to try to take somebody like that out of the game. And the running game is so hard. Because first of all you have to have six, sometimes seven guys blocking perfectly up front. One mistake and it’s a tackle for a loss. So you have to have seven victories. And then you have to have a running back beat a safety. Today’s safeties are pretty good.”

[Related: Cleveland Browns Film Room: Blitzing the Ravens]

  • ch

    Felt like this started with Hillis and him having to block for a general turd. Then progressed when he had to block for T-Rich, a general turd-bust. Clearly the guy hasn’t been impressed and rightfully so.

  • Bourn, Michael Bourn

    I don’t think Thomas gives enough credit to the good running backs (McCoy, Charles, Lynch), but otherwise, he’s not far off. It killed me when Holmgren spent the 3rd overall pick on Richardson, who was actually a significant downgrade from Hillis. This is a passing league and a team must build through the passing game, making the running game gravy on an offense.

    This is not to say the running game is worthless; look at GB, Lacy has had a huge impact. The difference is they already had an elite passing game, whereas Holmgren thought Weeden and his dearth of receivers at the time could get the job done.

    It is also hard to be a great run team when our guards and our RT are below average and Thomas’ strength is undoubtedly pass protection. I’m really hoping for at least one lineman in the first 2 rounds next year.

  • Bourn, Michael Bourn

    Some turds indeed, but since Thomas arrived, the browns have had a decent amount of success running the ball with Lewis, Harrison, Hillis and to some extent Richardson. The passing game, on the other hand has been brutal except for DA’s one year, where we coincidentally went 10-6. He realizes that the passing game has held the browns back the past 5 years.

  • Natedawg86

    You can win in baseball without a stud dh too but it sure is nice to have a good one!


    How successful have the Patriots been for a decade-plus, and can you name more than three of their running backs?

    (I know you can. I was being rhetorical.)

  • James Workman

    Or you could win without having a DH at all. See National league. Just don’t see the correlation between a novelty like the DH and a running back. Sorry.

  • mgbode

    people are still calling the DH a novelty after 40yrs? good times.

  • mgbode

    they use more than 3 RBs in any given week 🙂

  • Tommy

    That’s a great theory for teams with elite QB’s. Last time I looked, Jason Campbell was starting 0_o

  • James Workman

    Obviously you’re not a purest. But since you asked , I felt it illustrated my point.