Joe Thomas has never missed a game in his NFL career, has been selected to the Pro Bowl every season, and been name first team All-Pro three times. He has also never been to the playoffs, as the Browns have gone 33-63 since Thomas was drafted 3rd overall in 2007.
He spoke to ESPN Cleveland about pining for team success, and what it would be like if the Browns made the playoffs, compared to what the team has experienced so far, and how it would feel if he never made the playoffs.
“It’d be hard,” he said. “I grew up playing football since I was 12 years old. At every level, I’ve been on winning teams. I never experienced a losing season since [until?] my second year in the NFL. Obviously, that would be a huge disappointment, just because it’s no fun playing in the NFL when you’re going 4-12 every year. It’s drudgery. It’s like covering a team that’s 4-12. It sucks.”
How does Joe Thomas compare to other star players who have toiled on teams that never played the playoffs the first six years of their careers? Since the playoffs expanded in 1978 to include wildcards, only four other players were selected All-Pro at least twice in their first six years, but never had a team reach the playoffs.
- Cortez Kennedy, Seattle 1990-1995 (5 pro bowls, 3 All-Pros)
- Willie Roaf, New Orleans 1993-1998 (5 pro bowls, 2 All-Pros)
- Mike Quick, Philadelphia 1982-1987 (5 pro bowls, 2 All-Pros)
- Bill Fralic, Atlanta 1985-1990 (4 pro bowls, 2 All-Pros)
I think you can put Thomas in the conversation with Kennedy and Roaf as the best player not to play in a playoff game in the first six years. All four of them eventually played in one, so keep those spirits up, Joe. Quick and Fralic reached the postseason the next year, Roaf two years later, and Kennedy had to wait the longest–a decade before his only playoff game after the 1999 season.
Thomas dreams of better days without the drudgery of losing: “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, you’d never buy another dinner the rest of your life if you won a Super Bowl here.”
[photo via US Today Sports Images]