BEREA, Ohio -- The latest upheaval with the Cleveland Browns might cost the team its best player.
Left tackle and perennial Pro Bowler Joe Thomas is finally weary of re-starts. Thomas said he will assess his future in Cleveland after he knows the identity of the next coach.
"As you get older, the tomorrows become fewer and far between and you become more reflective on your own football mortality," Thomas said Sunday after the Browns' season-ending loss to the Steelers. "Who knows who's going to be back in this locker room next year?
"It becomes harder every time it happens because you realize you're closer to your end. And every time there is a reset, it puts you further away from achieving that goal of making the playoffs and once you're in, making that push for a Super Bowl, which is every player's dream."
Thomas sounded disheartened and disillusioned by Jimmy Haslam's decision to fire coach Mike Pettine after two years on the job. Thomas has been around for the move from Romeo Crennel to Eric Mangini, from Mangini to Pat Shurmur, from Shurmur to Rob Chudzinski, from Chudzinski to Pettine, and from Pettine to TBA. He's also been around for the front office changes and the ownership change. He's heard the rhetoric, he knows what's going to be said. And he has finally wavered in his long-held belief that he only wants to play in Cleveland.
"We'll have to see what happens," he said. "When there's turnover in the coaching staff, a lot of good players end up leaving for whatever reason. A lot of good coaches leave. There's a lot of uncertainty when there's turnover in the front office and the coaching staff. Certainly I could be one of them that might not be here next year. I'll have to wait and see what happens."
Thomas has been the ultimate Cleveland Brown since the day he was drafted in 2007. He did not enjoy the Mangini years, but he re-upped his deal in 2011; it runs through 2018. He had one of his best seasons as he turned 31.
Thomas' main option, should he choose not to be a Cleveland Brown anymore, would be to ask for a trade. The Denver Broncos tried to acquire him at the trade deadline, but then-GM Ray Farmer would not make the deal even though it involved a first-round draft pick.
Standing in the locker room on Monday, Thomas felt no need to change his stance.
"I don’t think any of that changes, really, until you put a head coach in place and put a GM here and you get kind of the direction of the franchise from those guys," he said.
There is no better measure of how much the strain has affected the team and the players than the reality that Thomas might ask to be elsewhere in 2016.