Joe Thomas played as a king then retired on top, preferring to finish at his peak rather than continuing to play as he slowly became mortal.
“This was an extremely difficult decision, but the right one for me and my family,” Thomas said in the team’s press release following the announcement. “Playing in the NFL has taken a toll on my body and I can no longer physically compete at the level I need to.”
That’s commendable, although somewhat disappointing. It may sound crazy, but as great as it is to see him retire as a Cleveland Brown, it would have been satisfying to see him in a playoff game, just once, and maybe even see him hoist a Lombardy Trophy before hanging it up.
But that’s not what’s going to happen. Thomas, one of the most consistent and most talented offensive linemen of the current NFL era, played in exactly zero playoff games as a member of the Browns. His first taste of the postseason may end up being as a broadcaster, because the media booth is where you’ll be able to find him sometime soon—look out, Tony Romo.
Joe was a class act in the purest sense of the phrase, opting to be a stable presence amongst the chaos of change that has swept through the Browns locker room during his 11 seasons with the franchise. He’ll be missed, surely, but there’s something kind of serendipitous about the Thomas’ exit.
Did he just retire as the team has finally put together a team that can compete on Sundays?
That’s still to be determined. For now, let’s go around the league to see how his retirement was received.
From the man himself:
Thank you Cleveland!!! Thanks to the FANS who showed me what being a CLEVELANDER is all about; toughness, hard worker, dedication, passion... It’s with pride that I can say I’m a CLEVELANDER and a Brown for life! https://t.co/SWNnnQ646S— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) March 14, 2018
I am humbled by the amount of people who have reached out and all kind things people have been saying. Thank you to everyone who has shown me support during this incredible 11 year journey! Go Browns!!!— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) March 14, 2018
A video from his employer for the last 11 years:
A shout out from the GOAT:
A bunch of his teammates, old and new, and some other notables paid their respects to Thomas for his sensational career:
Joe Thomas is the best player from a draft that included Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, and Darrelle Revis. He was an All-Pro nine times in 11 seasons. He is, quite simply, one of the best players in NFL history.— Robert Mays (@robertmays) March 14, 2018
Not many offensive lineman retire and get pencilled into Canton 5 years from reitirment. @joethomas73 will walk into Canton on the first ballot. Not sure he’s been fully appreciated because he didn’t win in Cleveland— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) March 14, 2018
A brilliant career ends.— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) March 14, 2018
The retiring @joethomas73 leaves the Browns as a king.
Congrats on a beautiful, Hall of Fame career, JT.
The deer population in NE Ohio is now at increased danger given @joethomas73 ‘s retirement. An avid outdoorsman, dedicated family man, & the best I’ve ever seen play OT. Been a privilege to watch.— Phil Dawson (@phil_dawson_4) March 14, 2018
It was a TRUE HONOR to have @joethomas73 as a teammate for 7 years! I honestly looked up to your work ethic and how you were the same person Everday! No matter record.Congrats on a hall of FAME career!! #1stballot— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) March 14, 2018
Thank you for all of your support & dedication to our city over the last 11 years, @JoeThomas73. You’re a legend on and off the field.— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 14, 2018
Best of luck & we’ll see you in Canton! #ThankYou73 pic.twitter.com/dnHpiIV5ad
Congrats to @joethomas73, who taught me how to play Tackle and be a pro. I would not be where I am today without his teachings, wisdom, patience, and friendship. He made it hard to leave Cleveland, and I’ll always remember his off-field qualities far more than his play. Thank you pic.twitter.com/jLuDPEmD5L— Mitchell Schwartz (@MitchSchwartz72) March 14, 2018
It's 58 miles from Berea to the @ProFootballHOF. Joe Thomas will be there in 5 years.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) March 14, 2018
If it were perfect, the Browns would be Champions. But careers aren’t always that way. For 10,363 consecutive snaps, Joe Thomas was as close to perfect as a player could be. The gold standard at his position, and the only reliable thing for an unreliable franchise.— Ken Carman (@KenCarman) March 14, 2018
SB Nation had some parting words for Thomas in this unique video:
The world's best coworker is retiring.— SB Nation (@SBNation) March 14, 2018
Farewell, Joe Thomas . pic.twitter.com/n9aarYupDa
Here are some fun facts about Thomas’ career:
Every QB @joethomas73 blocked for:— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) March 14, 2018
R. Griffin III
Browns announced that the great OT Joe Thomas is retiring.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2018
Thomas played with 20 - 20! - different QBs during his time in Cleveland.
Joe Thomas' career:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 14, 2018
* Drafted 3rd overall in 2007.
* Named a Pro Bowler as a rookie and for each of his first 10 seasons.
* Named a First Team All-Pro seven times.
* Began his career with 10,363 consecutive snaps played.
* Dominance from start-to-finish.
* Future Hall of Famer.
My favorite Joe Thomas stat: he never started a season 1-0.— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) March 14, 2018
Joe Thomas gave up 30 sacks in his 11-year career (6,680 pass-block snaps).— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) March 14, 2018
His replacement, Spencer Drango, allowed 11 sacks in 11 games#Browns
There has NEVER been a player in @NFL history who made 10 Pro Bowls and endured more losing than Joe Thomas. His team gave him just one winning season. Even Barry Sanders had five winning years.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 14, 2018
Joe Thomas retired from the NFL today after 11 seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Thomas is 1 of 3 players to be selected to a Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. The others?— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 14, 2018
Barry Sanders and Lawrence Taylor.
Some Really Great Videos:
When you play 10,000 consecutive offensive snaps, you have a lot of teammates/coaches who want to congratulate you https://t.co/LGrnkPANYO— Dan Murphy (@DMurph_BrownsPR) September 17, 2017
Someone at Pro Football Talk had some parting shots for Thomas as he ventures into his next chapter. Definitely, and I mean it, do not put a hex on this person. I really mean it (wink). (Also, please let Mike Florio know he can send the SBNation.gif royalties to my PayPal.)
The FIRST in HISTORY:
The first offensive lineman in NFL history has hung up his cleats.— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) March 14, 2018
See you in the Hall of Fame, Joe Thomas. pic.twitter.com/Gmxjy7SNJu
Semi-NSFW Tweets (only our Twitter account):
The reason I love Joe is that he was just like us. Midwest kid, showed up Sunday, never bitched about his situation & always had a good attitude. It’s how I was raised. I respected the hell out of that and when he could have jumped he didn’t. He was always a Brown. @joethomas73— Dawgs By Nature (@DawgsByNature) March 14, 2018