The Cleveland Browns have retired five numbers in franchise history, but they’re all for players from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, players from the proud early days of the franchise that later moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. The new Browns have been a dreadful franchise, with just one player worthy of a retired number: Joe Thomas.
Thomas, the future Hall of Fame left tackle, has been a great player on a terrible team, and the Browns will surely hang up his No. 73 jersey some day. But after Thomas suffered a triceps injury on Sunday, I’d like to see the Browns hang a banner for him right now, rather than wait until he retires.
I think the Browns should hang a banner now with the number 10,363 on it. That’s the number of consecutive snaps that Thomas played in the Browns’ offense before he got hurt yesterday. That number, 10,363, represents as impressive a streak as there has ever been in sports. To play every single play, game after game after game, never taking a snap off, never needing a breather, never exiting a game early, is extraordinary.
Thomas probably wouldn’t want that kind of fuss made over his extraordinary streak. He’s never liked a fuss, dating to 2007, when the Browns chose him with the third overall pick in the NFL draft and he chose to go fishing with his dad instead of going to the draft.
But it’s an honor he warrants. And it would be a rare instance of the Browns having something to celebrate, as I’ll get to now on my other thoughts about Week Seven.
The Browns are a mess. I fully understand that the Browns are in the midst of a long-term rebuilding process, and that they have a boatload of draft picks next year, and we can’t really judge them until we see what they do with those picks. But. Shouldn’t we be seeing some progress by now? I’m seeing none. After the Browns went 1-15 last year, they’re 0-7 this year. Coach Hue Jackson cannot make up his mind at quarterback, first starting DeShone Kizer, then benching him for Kevin Hogan, then going back to Kizer, then benching him for Cody Kessler yesterday. It’s a little unfair to play 20/20 hindsight on draft picks, but the fact is the Browns traded away the pick that became Carson Wentz last year, and traded away the pick that became Deshaun Watson this year, and they look like two of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks. The Browns’ big acquisition in free agency, Kenny Britt, is woefully underperforming his four-year, $32.5 million contract. The Browns are a long way away. And yesterday’s injury was a reminder that they won’t have a Hall of Fame left tackle forever.
We’ve seen some ugly offense this season. In addition to the Titans and Browns scoring nothing but field goals in Tennessee’s 12-9 overtime win, there were three shutouts on Sunday, with the Jaguars beating the Colts 27-0, the Rams beating the Cardinals 33-0 and the Chargers beating the Broncos 21-0. There have already been five shutouts this season, and the three shutouts yesterday matched the total number of shutouts for the entire 2016 season.
Jimmy Graham looks terrible. Entering yesterday’s game, Graham, the Seahawks’ former All-Pro tight end, was already having the worst year of his career, averaging just 8.5 yards a catch. Yesterday he was worse than ever, dropping a pass in the end zone and dropping another perfect pass when he was wide open and Russell Wilson hit him in the hands. Graham did score a late touchdown, but he didn’t play as well as his 51 yards and a touchdown might suggest. Graham, who will turn 31 next month, appears to have his best football behind him.
Adrian Peterson is not good. I know, I know, Peterson exceeded expectations last week in his Cardinals debut. But yesterday’s game, in which he gained just 21 yards on 11 carries, was what I expect to see from Peterson going forward. He’s way past his prime and just not a good player anymore. Last week was probably the last good game we’ll ever see Peterson play.
Does Mike McCarthy really have faith in Brett Hundley? McCarthy insisted after Aaron Rodgers went down that the Packers are very confident in Hundley as their starter as long as Rodgers is out. But if that’s the case, why did McCarthy implement such a conservative game plan for Hundley’s first start yesterday? Hundley showed that he can run, but he didn’t do much of anything, nor was he asked to do much of anything, with his arm. He finished with 12 completions in 25 attempts for 87 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. That’s not going to get it done.
The Bears aren’t bad, except at quarterback. Chicago poured enormous resources into the quarterback position this offseason, guaranteeing Mike Glennon $18.5 million for 2017 and then trading up to the second overall pick for Mitch Trubisky. Glennon opened the year as the starter and was absolutely awful, and Trubisky took over and hasn’t been much better. But the Bears managed to win one game with Glennon starting, and they’re now 2-1 with Trubisky after beating the Panthers yesterday despite Trubisky completing just four passes. The reason is that the Bears actually have a solid team, other than the quarterback position. Both the offensive and defensive lines are good, and there’s no team with a better pair of young running backs than Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Put a decent quarterback on this team, and they’re in the playoffs. Maybe Trubisky will develop into that decent quarterback next year. Maybe.
Andrew Luck should not play this year. Luck, who had shoulder surgery in January, still hasn’t been cleared to return. At this point, he shouldn’t return until 2018. The Colts are 2-5 and going nowhere, and by the time Luck is healthy enough to play the Colts are going to be out of playoff contention. It would be foolish to risk another injury to Luck in meaningless late-season games. If there’s one thing this NFL season has reminded us, it’s the physical toll the game can take on its players. Let Luck rest up for next year.