10,363 consecutive offensive snaps in 167 games over 11 seasons. The mere numbers are astounding to think about in context to performing your job every day. But, add in the consistent pounding, stress and physical torture; those statistics are downright unbelievable. Joe Thomas, a true iron man who means so much for the Browns on and off the field of the play.
This just plain sucks for Joe Thomas. He has put his blood, sweat and tears into being the best Browns left tackle of all time, through one of the worst eras of Browns football. It is a complete travesty that Thomas has not seen a playoff game in his 11-year career. He is the one person since 1999, who really, truly deserves to be in the playoffs. Now after being such a pro and a great player, he suffers this freak and serious injury. It just sucks.
Joe Thomas is a future Hall of Famer, who has been honored as a Pro Bowl participant in each of his first 10 seasons in the league. He has been the blind side protector for 20 Browns quarterbacks, who have made his job harder. But, through constant shuffle of mundane, often horrible and inadequate quarterbacks, Thomas has been the leader of the offensive line, shutting down the top pass rushers from getting to these 20 men.
As a left tackle, Thomas holds everything a coach would want in the blind side blocker. He is a great athlete with the movement skills that a 6-foot-6, 312-pound offensive lineman should be able to do. Beyond his natural athleticism and size, Thomas has the fundamentals, form and intelligence that makes it almost unfair to try and get past on the edge. He is able to read the rushers moves and predict what they will do, adjusting on the fly to stay in front of the pass rusher. His feet are quick with a good base and his hands are always moving to keep the rusher at bay. He is both a great pass and run blocker, making him a complete offensive tackle. If you drew up a model for what a perfect left tackle would look like and possess, Thomas would be a really good model to use.
Over his career, Thomas has shown the consistency that few other offensive linemen have shown throughout their career. The model of consistency can be seen in his performance this season before the injury. According to Pro Football Focus, in the 300 pass blocks Thomas has performed this season, he has allowed zero sacks, one quarterback hit and 10 quarterback hurries. At the age of 32, Thomas is still one of the best left tackles in the NFL. His loss will be huge given the consistent greatness Thomas has shown this season.
But, Thomas’ injury affects more than just the field of play. Over the past 11 seasons, Thomas has always been there for the Browns. He was the constant throughout the ever-revolving turmoil that is the Cleveland Browns organization. Throughout all the losses and struggles, the Browns have had the reliability of Thomas being the blind side blocker for the Browns. Oh, no problem Joe Thomas can handle that elite pas rusher. It’s what he does. His injury leaves a void in the sense of familiarity and comfort that the Browns and Browns fans have had over the past 11 seasons.
Even throughout the losing, the Browns had never had to worry about the second most important position on the offense. Thomas was always there and ready to dominate and keep his quarterback clean, while helping to open up running lanes for the run game. Now without him in the lineup, that sense of comfort, familiarity and trusting is gone. This is a bigger effect than you may think.
This season will be the first time in 11 years that the Browns do not know what to do at the left tackle spot. Who will be the blind side protector for the rest of the season? That question has not come up since 2006. It is a horrible feeling knowing that we cannot rely on Thomas just being over on the left doing his usual Hall of Fame job. The Browns and their fans are entering unchartered territory and that is scary to think given all the other problems. You really don’t respect something as much as you should until that thing is gone.
Thomas is lost for the season and possibly longer. This reality is tough to chew.