Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas’ number should be retired not passed down

Cleveland Browns Joe Thomas (Photo by Jason Miller /Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns Joe Thomas (Photo by Jason Miller /Getty Images) /

With all due respect to Joe Thomas and Jedrick Wills, the Cleveland Browns should formally retire Joe Thomas’ number and not let it be used ever again.

Respect goes out to Jedrick Wills and Joe Thomas for their desire to share a number. Thomas offered the iconic No. 73 to Wills to wear for his rookie season and it’s great to see that type of admiration from Thomas to Wills. Thomas is very high on Wills and that’s a huge honor. More importantly though, and thankfully, good on Cleveland Browns’ head coach Kevin Stefanski for putting the boot down on the whole thing.

It’s rare you’re in a situation with the Browns where everyone does the right thing and the right outcome is still achieved. Neat.

Wills was told by Stefanski that No. 73 wasn’t available for “a bunch of different reasons”.

And it should never be again.

Thomas is a first-ballot, no doubt about it Hall of Famer. The Browns would be wise to retire his No. 73 as soon as possible because no man can ever live up to the legacy of Thomas and what he meant for this organization.

Rarely, if ever, should a jersey be retired and often times people look for reasons to retire them all the time in modern times. You could argue that maybe, maybe, four people deserve to have their jersey numbers retired in all of Cleveland sports over the last 30 years. Thomas is one of them.

It’s not just about honoring the legacy of that specific player but it’s also about protecting the expectations of the person taking up the honor. It’d be one thing if an already established player came in and asked for it, like a Ronnie Stanley or a Ryan Ramczyk or a future Hall of Famer in Jason Peters came in and took up the number. There’s no worry that they’ll live up to the expectations. Guys like Stanely and Ramczyk are the top of the position currently and Peters has nine Pro Bowls to his name. The pressure wouldn’t phase them.

Wills, however, has to earn his job first and foremost. Then he has to earn a Pro Bowl appearance or an All-Pro position and that has to happen his rookie year if he wants to do that number justice. Then and only then can one say he’s worthy of dawning that iconic number. Yet, that’s not the case and to saddle a rookie with that type of hype and expectation can’t be good for his development and psyche. Wills probably won’t make an All-Pro or Pro Bowl squad in his rookie year and that’s ok. Thomas was the exception, not the rule.

Stefanski did the right thing putting his foot down and letting Wills carve out his own legacy with No. 71. It’s a fine number and one that fits him perfectly. Here’s hoping in a decade-plus we’re talking about Wills’ number being hung next to Thomas’.

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