Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas has never been bashful about criticizing his team. On Sunday, he’ll be lined up against a former teammate, Jabaal Sheard, now with the New England Patriots.
Sheard represents one of many players the Browns have let go, consistently setting the organization back.
“Certainly that’s one of the frustrations that I’ve had over the years,” Thomas said, via ESPN’s Pat McManamon. “That’s the problem when you’re constantly hitting the reset button. Guys that are really good players like that end up falling through the cracks or going to other teams because any time a new staff comes in basically they wipe out the middle class. They keep a couple of your ‘superstars’ and then they want everyone else being a rookie so that they can try to develop them. When you keep doing that over and over again you really lose all your middle class on your team.”
This seems like harsh criticism from a player still on the team. But in reality, Thomas is right on the money.
He’s not only an exemplary player, but has been with the team since 2007 and never missed a game. Nobody is more qualified than Thomas to speak on what Cleveland’s problems have been.
The majority of the attention around the Browns’ consistent ineptitude goes to the quarterback position, and deservedly so. While Thomas has never missed a start, he’s played in front of 18 different starting quarterbacks in that time. By contrast, the Patriots have had four.
But Cleveland has also let a lot of very good role players leave. As McManamon detailed, many of those like Buster Skrine, D’Qwell Jackson, Jordan Cameron, Travis Benjamin, Mitchell Schwartz, Tashaun Gipson, Alex Mack and T.J. Ward have gone on to be valuable players elsewhere.
While those players are valuable, they’re not typically the star players that new regimes keep when there are changes in the front office or at the head coaching position. While they’re not superstars, it’s awfully hard to win without them.
Really, that gets to the core of the Browns’ problems. Cleveland changes its front office structure and head coaching position so much that these building block players are so often shown the door. Until that changes, it’s awfully hard to think that the Browns’ results are going to get any better.
In this, Thomas will likely continue to air his frustration.