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Joe Thomas, Former Browns Offensive Lineman

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
The Truth Network Radio
December 15, 2023 3:45 pm

Joe Thomas, Former Browns Offensive Lineman

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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December 15, 2023 3:45 pm

Former Browns Offensive Lineman joins Zach

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I'm Kate Abdo, the host of Kicking It, a new weekly show from the CBS Sports Galasso Network, where Clint Dempsey, Charlie Davies, Mo Adoo and I connect with the biggest personalities from global soccer and beyond to learn about their journeys and what makes them tick. This is the place for football fans to hear unfiltered conversations with the game's most familiar faces. So what are you waiting for?

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Well, thanks so much for coming on. So I want to start you off with the Hall of Fame because I've talked to you off the air, but not on the air since you got into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It didn't surprise anybody. We knew that you weren't going to have to wait. When you look back at that summer day when you were on that podium and you were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, just one of the memories that come back to mind for you. I remember sweating a lot in that gold jacket, just like a lot of people that got inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was a nice warm day in Canton, but even more than that, I think I remember the warm reception from all those Browns fans. It felt like a home game because it really was. I mean, Canton, Ohio is only an hour from Cleveland, and to see 20, 30,000 Browns fans come down to be able to wish me well and cheer me on during my speech was really special. Being the first Browns player since the team came back in 1999, it gave me a lot of pride to be able to be up there representing all those fans that were in the stands and all those fans that were at home that lived through a tough stretch of Cleveland Browns football. Let's be honest, we were not that great, never made the playoffs in my 11 seasons, but the loyalty was always there, and the love was always there, and I definitely felt all that love that day, and it made me so proud that I was able to play my entire career in Cleveland. And no one would have ever fault you if you left and you wanted to go to more of a contender. Why did you always stay, and were you ever close to maybe leaving the Browns organization? You know, I was always really happy in Cleveland. I loved the organization. I fell in love with it from day one. I love the city.

You know, I'm a big fisherman, outdoorsman. Cleveland's got a backyard right there on Lake Erie, and it's just a great place to live. It's a great place to raise a family. The fans are as loyal and passionate as any fans in the country.

It's a great family feel of an organization when you're there, and so I always loved it. My dream was always to turn the team around, and so I never really considered going anywhere else. I always felt of myself as a Cleveland Brown, but there was a chance in like 2015, I think it was, that I did almost get traded. John Elway was the GM of the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning was a quarterback. They had just lost their all-pro left tackle, Ryan Clady, for the season. They were obviously making a Super Bowl run. They won the Super Bowl that year. And they were looking to replace Clady at left tackle to try to win a Super Bowl for Peyton Manning, and from my understanding, them and the Browns were very close to getting a deal done. But I think what ended up happening is the Browns just kind of let the clock run out at the trade deadline because they weren't winning the Super Bowl that year. And I think everybody in Cleveland was maybe a little bit nervous for being known as the person that traded Joe Thomas to the Broncos, whether they lasted more than that season or another season. But it was a little bit close that season, but that was as close as it ever came. Now, I remember when Brian Dawkins, obviously a Pro Football Hall of Famer, was on the Eagles, and he eventually ended his career with the Broncos. And he tried to bring Philly a Super Bowl all those years, and they were close.

And then he came back in the front office in some capacity when they actually won the Super Bowl. Do you ever have like any interest coaching or maybe being in the front office one day and maybe aspirations to finally get that ring and maybe do so with Cleveland down the road? It's a great game, Zach. I love the game of football. It's provided so much for me and for my family. I'm so happy right now to be able to coach my son.

He's seven years old playing flag football. I love that. And so really in retirement, I'm very happy to be dad first. Got a bunch of businesses that I'm working on that I really enjoy chasing those passions, chasing coaching the kids at home, which is a lot like babysitting when you're dealing with seven-year-old boys.

But it's a lot of fun at home. It humbles you. But I do have that itch to coach. And I am going over to Germany actually this next two weeks in January to go coach the Munich Ravens professional football team, which is a season that happens in the summer. So I'll get a little taste of coaching, but I don't think until my kids are a lot older and kind of done going through their youth sports phases that I would even consider being in the NFL or college just because it becomes your life. It becomes your identity, which is great. I mean, it was my identity when I was playing, but there really is not a lot of room in your day for anything else when you are playing coaching or in the front office in college or in the NFL because it just it's all encompassing. It takes all of your energy and all of your effort.

You don't have time for your family or friends. Talking to the Pro Football Hall of Famer, Joe Thomas, how about the coaching job Kevin Stefanski has done this year? Injuries keep on popping up all throughout the year and the Browns somehow, someway, keep on winning. A lot of people thought he was going to be on the hot seat this year. He'll absolutely be back next season, I would imagine.

He's doing such an amazing job. I mean, I don't know where they're going to finish. I know there's some teams in the NFC that are probably going to have better records no matter what happens down the stretch for Cleveland, even though Cleveland does have a pretty favorable schedule going and finishing the season. But Kevin Stefanski is basically doing it right now with the guys that I was talking about during preseason when I was covering the Browns and, and calling their games with Chris Rose. And I made the joke to Nathan Zagura, the great Browns color radio guy used to work for CBS.

I said, Hey, do you want my notes from preseason? Cause that's basically the guys that they've got out there. And Kevin Stefanski is winning games.

It's amazing. I mean, Flacco, he popped up out of carpool, hanging out at his mom's house to go play for the Browns. He's won a couple of games for him.

It's a, or sorry, he's won one game for him and look great in both games. And it's just amazing the job that they're doing. I mean, they're down to their fourth and fifth starting offensive tackle. I mean, when I was playing, we had a really good offensive line, but if we lost one dude on the line, we were kind of cooked. Now they're down to dudes that weren't even on the roster that are starting a tackle and they're, they're playing some of their best offensive ball right now.

Uh, so I think you really can't say enough about the job. Stefanski's done being able to pivot, especially on offense around the talent that he's got. And not just saying, Hey, this is my offense.

This is what you guys have to do. I mean, he was running wide open three receivers shotgun when Deshaun Watson was there and a DTR was there at the helm. And then now all of a sudden Joe Flacco comes in, it's under center, it's play action, it's more tight ends. Uh, and so to me, that's the mark of a great coach. It's seeing what your personnel is and adjusting what you do to the talents of your team. And the Flacco story is wild.

And I know we probably shouldn't look at it this way cause players change teams all the time, especially when you've been around this long. But how many AFC North matchups, right? The Browns head up against the Ravens Browns fans probably used to hate Joe Flacco and now they're rooted for him to potentially lead the team to the playoffs. Yeah, it's crazy. So when I was playing in Cleveland, there was this great YouTube video. It was called the hastily made Cleveland tourism video.

It's super funny. It was, you know, kind of poking fun at ourselves in Cleveland. Uh, it was all about things that maybe aren't the best about Cleveland, but it finishes with this great line. It goes, at least we're not Detroit.

We're not Detroit. And as soon as we signed Flacco, all I could think of is at least it's not Ben Roethlisberger because that would not be forgivable for Browns fans. Even though we, we had a lot of battles against Flacco.

I feel like there was not, um, a lot of hatred towards him, but I'm not sure if we signed big Ben, if there would be the same love, uh, and the Flacco nation crew out there at Cleveland Brown stadium as they have right now. You've gone up against so many great defensive Lyman to see what miles Garrett's do it. Even with the injury, let's say you were going up against miles. Like what would you be thinking about to try to slow him down as he's just been a force, not only this year, but really his entire career. Yeah, I had to play against him as a rookie. Thankfully, I didn't practice all that much my last season in the NFL cause I was so banged up, but just even going against him when he was a rookie was scary because he's just so explosive off the ball. He's got such a quick first step. He can get so low when he bends around the corner, ducking under an offensive tackle, and then he can change direction at full speed. I imagine his L drill, the three and cone drill that he did at the combine had to be like world record because he doesn't lose any speed, whether he's running straight or he's turning.

And I think that's what makes him so dangerous and he's just super powerful. So he can bull rush guys. Um, he can really beat you in three ways, which is an offensive tackles nightmare.

He can go inside, outside, or he can run you over. Um, and really on the defensive side of the ball, they've got great players across the board, but they've dealt with a ton of injuries as well. But miles is really the glue on that side of the ball because when you can rush the passer and the only way an offense can stop you is by putting two resources on you on every play.

And that's like, okay, the guard and the tackle have to double team or the tight end and the tackle have to double team, or we need to leave in a receiver or a running back like automatically it gives you the chess advantage on the board from a defensive standpoint, because you're playing now 11 on 10. I'm just wondering because Joe Thomas here with us, the pro football hall of fame or the Browns this weekend, they played the bears. The bears have two high draft picks expected this year, maybe the number one overall pick. And everyone's wondering, well, will Justin Fields be back as the quarterback? Will they take a quarterback in the draft?

Unfortunately, during your career, you know a thing or two about the Browns drafted a ton of quarterbacks and there being speculation, is this guy the guy or not? What is that like as a player when you have all these distractions and all these questions around your team, if the quarterback is going to be the quarterback next year? If you've dealt with it a few times throughout your career, like I did, because there was always a revolving door at quarterback, you just learn to tune it out. But I think it's really difficult for young guys because they hear it in the media every day. And I think this generation, because they did grow up with social media, they have a harder time tuning out the noise in the fan base and in the media. My rookie year in the NFL, I had Romeo Cornell who won a bunch of Super Bowls with Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells. And one of the things that he said to me as a rookie, he said, whatever you do, don't read the newspapers, right?

At the time there was newspapers, right? Now it'd be like, don't read your social media mentions. Yeah, it was the best advice ever because if it's good, it's rat poison, right? Because you start believing the hype, how great you guys are, and then that leads to diminished preparation and diminished focus on your job. And you start, you know, smelling yourself and you think it's pretty, pretty smelly in a good way.

It smells like roses. But as soon as one bad thing happens, right, you lose and maybe it's not even your fault. Maybe you played the best game of your life, but you lose. And then, you know, everybody kind of smells bad and you start reading that and then they get focused on those things. And it just distracts you from going into and doing your job every single day. And so I took that to heart and I just never paid attention at all. And it led to some aloof moments sometimes when the media would ask you about, Hey, what do you think about this? I'm like, I don't know. I didn't even know that happened.

You know, that was on the defensive side of the ball or, you know, Hey, that's, it's not in my department. I'm sorry. I just don't pay attention to it.

And it was tough, but I think once you did it and you got used to that routine, it became easy. And, you know, for, for this generation, for guys that are used to just, you know, quickly looking up Twitter or Instagram, as soon as they get off the practice field, it's tough not seeing that stuff. And it does become a huge distraction because you're, you're looking at Twitter and you're scrolling or X, and you look over and the guy that they're talking about replacing was the guy that was just calling the place in the huddle. And he's sitting right there. And you're thinking, wow, that's kind of weird. It's kind of awkward. And then you start thinking about like, well, if he's not my guy next year, should I be putting in that time to build that relationship with him? You know, he's, he's taking the old line out to dinner and it's the end of the year.

Like we should be having a good time and breaking bread and sharing that brotherhood. But like, maybe he's not the quarterback next year. And you just have all those thoughts in your mind that are counterproductive. And then I think then leak into his mind. And he starts wondering, you know, should I be putting all my effort into this?

If this is not where I'm going to be in a couple of weeks. Did you ever have a conversation as a player? Cause we always knew you gave a max effort. There was an effort was never a question with you, but you see like last night, the charges, a lot of 63 points to the Raiders. I sit back and I go, they quit on their coach.

We know Staley gets fired today. We know you would never quit, but you used to have to tell your players in the locker room, guys, I don't care who the coach is. I don't care how bad we are, how bad the quarterback is. We got to give it a full effort each and every week. Yeah, I think it's important to do that during the week and, and you're maybe not asking them to try hard, but you're trying to get them to focus and say, you know what? Maybe the result of the game is not important because we're out of the playoffs or the coach has already been fired or whatever that looks like. But you try to find ways that will motivate each player individually. Hey guys, you know, the new coach is going to get hired and he's watching this film. He wants to see who's bought in and the decisions that they make in the off season are if it's 50 50, they're going to get rid of your ass because they're going to want to bring in their own guys. And I think it's important to understand that everything you do is always being evaluated and the microscope just gets bigger when you're losing. And when they are bringing new people into the building, because you get rid of the GM, you get rid of the head coach, the first thing they're going to want to do is get rid of all those old guys that were somebody else's problem. And so I think you can kind of bring it home like that.

And Hey, you know what? Within your position group, there is a lot of pride in playing for each other. And that was one of the things that always motivated me. I played 10 and a half years without missing a snap and I had plenty of injuries. And what motivated me was not trying to get to the playoffs because a lot of times we were out by the middle of the season, but I was looking at the left and my right. And there was guys that I really cared about. And I knew that if I cared about them and I wanted them to have the best opportunity for success in their NFL career, I had to be at my best. And I had to be out there providing them being a great servant so that the running back could get the yards that he deserves, that he's working for my left guard. We could get the combinations that we need.

I could be there if you needed body presence when he was trying to block Aaron Donald, like it was all those little things. And I think that that brotherhood, that's where it really kicks in. And that's where it really pays off is some of those lost seasons maybe down the stretch. But I think with the Brandon Staley situation, it's pretty easy to see that when the players have been reading the news clippings and they know that the coach is getting fired. It's pretty easy for them to let it slip because now all of a sudden the king doesn't have power anymore. What would Joe Thomas's reaction be if this off season we get a trade alert that Bill Belichick gets traded from the Patriots to the Chargers?

Because I've been on this one since October. That's what I think is going to end up happening. Yeah, no. Zach, I've been following that obviously like all NFL fans this season and then specifically this week with the reports coming out of New England. And I think that's the most likely outcome. I think for him, he's going to want to go somewhere that has a quarterback because I think he's pretty clear now. If I don't have a quarterback as great as I maybe thought everything was, the setup that I had in New England, it really doesn't matter unless you've got a guy that can throw the football. Justin Herbert is one of the elite young talents in the NFL and so I think Bill Belichick would want to commit a long-term part of his career to a guy like Justin Herbert. He doesn't want to go to a situation where they're hoping to be able to get a quarterback where they're trying to sell him, Hey, we got a top pick. We're hoping to get a young guy. He wants to go somewhere where he's got a chance to win right away. I think he's 71 years old. I know he's probably going to be one of these guys that coaches maybe until he's 80.

And so if he's got one more decade of coaching, he doesn't want to spend four or five years trying to find a quarterback. Last thing I'll ask you, Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, your Browns are 8-5. Big win last weekend with Joe Flacco up against the Jaguars. Their next four games, the Bears, the Texans, the Jets, and the Bengals scale a 1-10. 1-0 confidence, 10 all the confidence in the world. Where's your confidence that the Brownies, here we go Brownies, here we go. We'll be playing in a playoff game. You know, I was a disillusion-al Browns player when I played because every year I thought we were winning the Super Bowl. And now as a fan, it's even worse.

I got Browns by a billion in every game, baby. Absolutely love it. Joe Thomas, all the best to you and your family. We appreciate the time. Thanks for doing this. Yeah, man. Thanks for having me on, Zach. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-15 16:16:07 / 2023-12-15 16:24:57 / 9

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