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Ryan Pace Should Listen to Joe Thomas

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns
Also the #3 Pick in the Draft
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Thomas is a force of nature. Since being drafted by Cleveland in 2007, he has made ten straight Pro Bowls and has been named a first-team All-Pro seven times at left tackle. He’s played in nearly ten thousand straight offensive snaps. He has been a bright spot on a team that has had one winning season since he joined it (the Browns have won only 30% of their games since 2007). Through it all, Thomas has stayed with his team and continued to be a consummate professional. When he retires, he should only have to wait five years before being fitted for a new jacket.

During that time, perhaps he should manage a team. Or, at least, consult with one. After all, he’s given a lot of thought to the draft. quotes him talking about the rebuilding process:

"I think I've seen a million different plans in the NFL, but really the thing that's going to give you the best chances of success are being patient, building through the draft, picking the right guys in free agency, re-singing your own players, and just having patience with the plan…You have to accept a couple of tough years. That's just the way it is. There are no quick fixes in the NFL. You could get lucky and a franchise quarterback falls into your lap, and then you turn your franchise around. But the chances of that happening, even with a top five pick, are probably 25 percent. You can't really bet the house on the odds when it's only 25 percent."

That comes from an interview with Conor Orr on Thursday, but it also matches what he has said elsewhere—he does not want the Browns going after a quarterback with their top pick, because he thinks that they will get more value out of a defensive player—especially a pass-rusher. While someone might be able to quibble over his stated odds, but since his definition of a franchise quarterback seems to be one capable enough to turn an entire franchise around…good luck finding too many examples of that happening.

Honestly, the ideas Thomas elaborated on during the Dan Patrick show match—quite nicely—with a sentiment frequently expressed among Chicago fans as the Bears sort out what to do with the #3 pick:

“You gotta be careful reaching for a quarterback at No. 1 because if they fail, they don’t help your team at all. Whereas if you pick a defensive lineman and maybe they don’t live up to the hype, you can still find a place to get him on the field and to have an impact.”

I don’t know how well Thomas can manage a salary cap or work a trade, but I have to say that I like his reasoning regarding the draft. Thomas is probably more justified than most in being worried about swinging and missing when drafting a quarterback. In his time with the Browns, they have drafted Brady Quinn (in the same year), Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel, and Cody Kessler. That last one is, by many measures, the best find so far (and he came in the third round).

Thomas knows better than most that a single magnificent player at a valuable position is not enough. Even a couple such players are not enough. Instead, Thomas is telling fans that a team is built by adding and retaining quality at every level, not just at the quarterback position.

I hope Ryan Pace is paying attention, because the Bears aren’t picking that much later than Cleveland.