Admittedly, Josh Cribbs has been a bit schizophrenic in public lately. Last year he talked about needing to get back to his special teams roots. Since then it’s been a bit frantic trying to figure out whether Josh Cribbs wants to play receiver or if the team wants him to play there either. All the while, Josh Cribbs seemed to be saying that he might just speak up later this year if the team isn’t winning and he thinks he can help the team more. Everyone, from fans to media, seem to be trying to figure out if this is good or bad and if Josh Cribbs can be a leader on the team in a more limited role.
Contrast all that with the young receivers that the Browns have on the team this year. Greg Little will look to build on a decent rookie year. Josh Gordon has all the prototypical traits you look for in a receiver, but looks to overcome a checkered past and year off of football. Most recently Gordon was mentioned by coach Pat Shurmur as someone who needs to be “inspired and motivated” as he’s at least momentarily, seemingly fallen down the depth chart. None of this is to indict the Browns’ young receivers, but as Gordon looks to become a player in the NFL while also tweeting pics of his new custom car, Josh Cribbs serves as a pretty healthy reminder of what it means to work for what you have and prove yourself in the face of doubt.
It would be all too easy to just gloss over it now that Cribbs has been in the league a while and gotten paid a real NFL contract as opposed to his original rookie deal. That wouldn’t be fair to Cribbs or his continued efforts as he works through his contract year at age 29, presumably looking to get paid an NFL wage at least one more time in his life.
Josh Cribbs never took a year off the game like Greg Little and Josh Gordon did. Josh Cribbs had some trouble in his past via a marijuana possession charge in 2004. He then entered the NFL without being drafted, while also switching positions from quarterback. He played positions – returner / coverage gunner – that have a tendency to chew up young guys well before they ever become team fixtures, let alone get anything other than undrafted rookie free agent money. Josh Cribbs became an answer to a question that nobody was even asking and Josh Gordon has gotten paid already without proving to be an answer to a question that Browns fans can’t stop asking.
While we all look for some necessary patience for the young receiving corps in Cleveland, I don’t think we should judge Josh Cribbs too harshly, even if his statements are a bit erratic lately. The fact is that he’s earned his keep up to this point, including his 41 catches and four touchdowns in nearly impossible circumstances a year ago.
And sure, from the outside looking in, it might look like Josh Cribbs is a potential distraction at times, but I believe him when he says it isn’t a problem in the locker room. Through it all, the biggest catalyst for most of Josh Cribbs’ statements has been a desire for the Browns to be a better team, not just for himself, but for Browns fans too.