The wooing of Peyton Manning by sports media executives has been an on-again, off-again story for the better part of a couple years now. After his retirement, Manning has been highly sought after to become a lead analyst at a network, and his name has constantly been linked to ESPN’s Monday Night Football telecast. However, Manning has resisted those overtures and instead is focusing on his own show on ESPN+ on the outskirts of the sports media limelight.
While most of the focus has been on where Manning will land, there was another All-Pro who was a hot commodity in NFL broadcasting ranks—former Browns’ offensive lineman Joe Thomas. Like Manning, Thomas was considered for top jobs. He auditioned for roles at both ESPN and Fox, but in the end, the former Browns left tackle won’t be headed to either of those places. Thomas has signed with NFL Network to be a studio analyst with a prominent role on a multitude of platforms. Thomas’ biggest role will be as a studio analyst on all Thursday Night Football telecasts.
Via the NFL‘s announcement:
Former All-Pro offensive tackle with the Cleveland Browns, Joe Thomas, has joined NFL Network, it was announced today.
In his new role, Thomas (@joethomas73) joins NFL Network’s on-location pregame and postgame shows for the 13 Thursday Night Football games during the 2019 season, which kicks off Thursday, September 12 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting the Carolina Panthers. Additionally, Thomas will appear on NFL Network’s expansive coverage of such events as Super Bowl LIV, the NFL Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft, as well as various NFL Network programs such as NFL Total Access and NFL GameDay Morning.
“I am thrilled to join NFL Network and Thursday Night Football,” Thomas said. “Throughout my playing career, I quickly realized there are few events which can rival the excitement and action of primetime NFL games, and having the chance to be a part of that atmosphere each week is something I greatly look forward to.”
A 10-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle, Thomas played 11 seasons with the Browns after being selected with the third overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. During his first 10 seasons with the Browns, Thomas played in every game and never missed a snap, having earned the starting left tackle job as a rookie. In his final season, Thomas’ streak of consecutive snaps played ended at 10,363, which is the longest streak recorded since snaps played were counted. Thomas announced his retirement following the 2017 NFL season. During the 2018 season, the Browns added the number 10,363 to the Ring of Honor, commemorating Thomas’ milestone consecutive snaps played streak.
Thomas has made various media appearances since his retirement, even hosting his own podcast with former teammate Andrew Hawkins, who works as an analyst for ESPN.
Thomas will arguably land the most prominent role for an offensive lineman covering the league today with his role on Thursday Night Football, but he’s not entirely alone. Mark Schlereth was in the top half of the rotation at ESPN as one of their most reliable analysts across a number of shows, and he now works as a game analyst for Fox. Damien Woody and Jeff Saturday have also been analysts for ESPN, with both making a number of appearances on various Bristol studio shows. Nevertheless, we haven’t really seen an offensive lineman on the lead line for a network, at least in recent times. You could maybe count John Madden on that list as he was a lineman at Cal Poly in his playing days, but he’s known far more for his coaching career with the Oakland Raiders.
Judging by Thomas’ appearances throughout the media to this point, he should be a smart decision for NFL Network. And hopefully he can provide a unique perspective on the game.