Joe Thomas is a man of few words, at least publicly, so when he says something, it tends to draws notice. A year ago, Thomas made news when the topic of Peyton Hillis came up and he made his feelings known on the former Browns running back, which had a ripple effect locally. This week, Thomas made news by explaining to reporters what he has been saying to the younger players on the team. Thomas said, “I try to talk to the young guys and let them know how important this team is to the city. We could be legends if we bring this organization back to where it was a couple decades ago or even win a Super Bowl. You’d never buy another drink, never buy another dinner the rest of your life if you won a Super Bowl here.” Thomas is saying something that fans of the Browns are aware, but when it comes from a player of his stature who does not tend to say much, it has a little deeper meaning. In addition, it could also mean he likes the hire of Rob Chudzinski, and that like D’Qwell Jackson, the most vocal leader of the team, that Thomas has decided to be a more vocal leader and extending to the public as well as in the locker room.
Joe Thomas is a great player and short of the unthinkable, he is not only headed to being a lifelong Cleveland Brown and the last player ever to wear #73 on this team, but one who will eventually have a bust in Canton as well. If he is not the best in the business, he is always in the top two and there is no reason to think that will change heading forward. Thomas brings a ton of credibility because of his play on the field, but he also has been a member of the Browns his whole career and these quotes show his understanding of the fan’s mentality and excitement for this team. He gets it. Thomas wants his teammates to get it and buy in and there is a level of expectation that has not been there for players on this team. In years past, there seemed to be hope of teammates stepping up and being a good team. Now, that appears to be something the veteran players expect and demand.
It is important to remember that when Joe Thomas was drafted to the Browns in 2007, Chud was the offensive coordinator. Thomas knows him and also experienced the highest level of offensive success of his career with him running the offense. This type of interview and these types of quotes may subtly show how confident Thomas is in Chud and how important that is for the team. It is not always easy to have players buy into a new coach, but because of his run in Cleveland, even though Chud is only a first time coach, there seems to be a level of credibility within the locker room and the want to buy into the new coach. Having the best player on the team seeming to want this guy to run their team and buy in causes teammates to do follow suit. That should only help a first time head coach. It does not guarantee success but it certainly helps.
It just does not seem like Thomas would come out and say this type of statement if he did not believe in Chud and think he could lead this team to success. These types of quotes were nowhere to be found under Pat Shurmur. This is important for the team and belief in the coach and what they are doing will cause players to work harder and play for a coach and want him to succeed. It may not cause them to make the playoffs this year but it should have an impact on the standings.
Just like with D’Qwell Jackson sending an important message publicly to Josh Gordon, Thomas publicly sending a message to the young players as well as sending a message to the fans of what he expects or even demands is important. Both messages suggest that these guys see the Browns as their team and their teammates answer to them. This is something this organization has not had since the Browns moved to Baltimore. It is incredibly important as players are not just living up to coaches but they have to answer to players like Thomas and Jackson. That type of accountability and that type of internal pressure causes guys to work harder, watch more film, be prepared, and raise their games to meet the expectations of these guys. It is a different type of pressure when a player on the offense has to answer to a 6’6” 310lb man. It is a good type of pressure and one this team has desperately lacked.
These types of public messages from players like Thomas and Jackson matter. They may be relative baby steps and this is not suggesting that either of these guys need to start doing a weekly radio show or anything of the like (though Jackson could do it), but just having a presence and being able to deliver a message like this every so often is useful and meaningful. In Thomas’s case, it suggests he believes in Chud, which is important, sees promise on this team, and expects this team to be better. Most of all, Thomas is right: If the Browns win the Super Bowl, assuming the apocalypse does not immediately follow, the players on that team would never have to buy a drink or a meal in this region for the rest of their lives.