Joe Thomas on why he spent whole career with Browns, turned down Peyton Manning's recruiting

By , Audacy Sports

When the face of an NFL franchise for over a decade is an offensive lineman, one of two things are the most probable scenarios. That lineman could be really, really, really good. Or the team could be really, really, really bad.

For the Cleveland Browns from the late 2000s to the mid-2010s, both of these statements were true — and still, Joe Thomas didn't want to be anywhere else. He joined Trey Wingo on his "Half-Forgotten History" podcast to explain why this was the case.

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Aside from his deep-rooted loyalty, a value that both his parents and Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez taught him, Thomas just really liked Cleveland and the thought of being a driving force in an all-time great sports story.

"...Getting into Cleveland, I fell so much in love with the city and the organization," Thomas said. "And my dream was always to be part of the turnaround and to be there when this once-proud franchise was brought back to life and they had this great period of success, because I can't think of a better thing to enjoy during your career than to turn around a once-proud franchise in a great city full of incredibly passionate football fans and to be there as part of the ride.

"To me, it feels a little hollow to just go to a team and then win a championship and then leave because you weren't there when it was built from the ground up. I really like that idea. So additionally every year as a football player, you have to convince yourself somehow — to get the most out of yourself — that this is our year. As a fan, right, you go through the draft, you go through free agency, like, 'We did all the things right, we got exactly the players we need and we're going to finally win the Super Bowl this year!' even though you're delusional, right?

"And I was clearly delusional, but I had convinced myself that we were right on the cusp and finally found the quarterback so part of me really believed it that, like, I want to be here and the last thing I want to do is to go ask for a trade, be traded somewhere else and then miss out on this. I had FOMO."

Thomas's willingness to stick it out and his immense talent seems to have led to a love for offensive linemen in the city, something that Wyatt Teller discussed — "I'm thankful for the fans of Cleveland. Offensive lineman are loved – they're glorified here. That’s just a special city." — after receiving a four-year contract extension with the Browns earlier this week.

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Granted, Thomas did have to resist a little bit of temptation that was trying to pry him away. His career started off with a strong team campaign — the 2007 Browns went 10-6 — but he never experienced a winning season again. Things started to get really bad after the team's 7-9 season in 2014, with follow-ups of 3-13, 1-15 and 0-16 to close out Thomas's career. Interestingly enough, his best chance to escape the losing ways of the Browns came in 2015, when Peyton Manning decided to hit him up with an offer he couldn't — but actually could — refuse.

"...He's like, 'What do we gotta do to get you in a Broncos uniform,' and I'm like, well, I kind of gave him the same spiel, 'I really love it in Cleveland, I think maybe we're not playing all that well this year but I feel like we got a chance that I don't want to miss out on, a chance to turn this franchise around,'" Thomas recalled. "And he goes, 'But we're gonna win the Super Bowl this year.'

"...He goes, 'Look, I talked to Elway. He said the Browns don't want to trade you, they're not gonna do it unless you really put your foot down.' So he goes, 'Why don't you go up to Ray Farmer's office, pull your pants down and take a sh-- on his desk... that's about what you have to do and they'll trade you the next day.'"

A valiant attempt from Peyton, but to no avail. And to be honest, we couldn't really see Thomas anywhere else, anyway.

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