TOFN podcast: What made Joe Thomas so good? We asked the GM who chose him
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It was two weeks prior to the 2007 NFL draft when then-Cleveland general manager Phil Savage told his wife that he was fairly certain whom he ... and the Browns ... would take with their first pick -- the third overall -- that year.
An offensive lineman from Wisconsin named Joe Thomas.
"Who's Joe Thomas?" she said.
She'd never heard of him. Neither, for that matter, had Browns' owner Randy Lerner. And while assistant coaches had, some were pushing for Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and/or Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn at the third spot.
But Savage didn't budge, the Browns took Thomas and the rest you know. Eleven seasons, 10 Pro Bowls nine All-Pro selections and an NFL-record 10,363 consecutive snaps later, Joe Thomas is signed, sealed and awaiting delivery to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
So what made Phil Savage so certain that Thomas was no ordinary Joe? Answer: What he saw in the opening game of Thomas' senior year.
"Ironically enough," he said, "Wisconsin's first game of the 2006 football season was at Cleveland Browns Stadium in one of those kickoff kind of contests. So it was the shortest, easiest scouting trip I had all fall ... and it was probably the most productive. Because what you saw in Joe was someone that had the requisite size, the athletic ability ... he was well respected by his coaches, he had a work ethic. He checked off all the different boxes that you would want.
"As we got into the evaluations ... by the time we rolled around to the spring of 2007 ... we had really strong grades on Joe. But I will tell all of you that I don't know that there was a man in the room that was completely, 100 percent sold that Joe was going to be an All-Pro left tackle.
"We thought that, OK, we'll start him out at left tackle, but if it doesn't work out there he can move to right tackle. And if it doesn't work out there we'll slide him inside. But there was no one in our room that really forecast what was going to happen to Joe, in terms of being a 10-time Pro Bowler and the 10,000-plus snaps and all those things."
Nevertheless, Thomas became the best draft pick the Browns made since rejoining the NFL in 1999 and one of the greatest left tackles in recent NFL history. So, the obvious question: Where, then, is his place among the NFL's best left tackles? Savage and the Talk of Fame Network hosts address that question, but you're going to have to click on to the following link for an answer: