Never forget Josh Cribbs’ difficult NFL path

Josh Cribbs-10

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.

  • cmm13

    Josh was a great athlete but his speed (which was his biggest assest) is now second to Benjamin. To me he is best used as a gunner and occasional gimmick back (no, not the Wildcat).His flip flop on what he wants to do on this team could ultimately become a serious distraction as this becomes a contract year and he looks for fan support to pay him again.

  • Grif_E

    If we hit the salary cap and Cribbs is still on the team, that is a day to start judging him.

  • mgbode

    I would say his speed/power combination is/was his greatest asset, which Benjamin seems to lack (the power side).

  • mgbode

    I know we didn’t score much last year, but nearly all the scoring drives we did wind up having included a big Cribbs play (either catch or DPI). last season, he was still our best deep weapon (which is likely why we went out and got Benjamin and Gordon, but still).

  • Dee P

    Agreed. Cribbs’ returns are a product of not so much “out of this world” speed, but because his strength as a runner broke arm tackles allowing him to release past the first one or two waves of tacklers. Not saying he is slow – but in my mind the speed was just a notch behind his power as a runner as his most important quality when returning.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I think Cribbs is virtually done on special teams especially if Benjamin can do anything. I think Cribbs is best utilized in the slot or in positions where he can work in space. Unfortunately I feel like his best days are behind him as he took to much punishment in the return games. That and the new rules didn’t help. If he can’t contribute something significant this season I can’t see him lasting with the team.

  • nj0

    Vision. Guy has always had tremendous vision which lets him find the seam on returns.

  • porckchopexpress

    The one thing I have always disliked about Cribbs is his use of the media for negotiating purposes. Whether its playing time, position, or salary, he seems to like to put a message out and hope that fan pressure on the team will bring desired results. I don’t doubt that he doesn’ cause problems in the locker room, but I think he is a terrible example of leadership. What is the biggest lesson the young players learn from him? If you don’t get what you want go public with your gripes and hope the coaches cave.
    If he wasn’t here next year I wouldn’t be that sad. I’m also begining to fear that the early returns on Shurmur season II aren’t that promising. The man simply has no idea how to control his teams message, and he seems to bounce between confused and control freak anytime any issue arises. I hope I’m wrong but I’m not feeing good about the guy.

  • Garry_Owen

    Dreadlocks. Definitely the dreadlocks.

  • Dee P

    I know I’m probably in the minority here and may get blasted for it…but I’m still on the “give Cribbs a chance at wildcat” train. Not saying that he should see significant time back there, but 5 or so plays, in the red zone, with Richardson back there with him would be very effective in my opinion. Or on short yardage – he always seems to get what we need when we need it.

  • mgbode

    i’d rather use him more like Harvin in the run game than in the wildcat.

  • Harv 21

    Re the Cribbs part of your comment, thanks for saving me the typing.

  • Harv 21

    “My complaining to the media about how the coaches are using me is a distraction in the locker room.”

    Said no athlete, ever.

  • cmm13

    great call on his vision.

  • cmm13

    the fact the he was never used exactly like this 2-3 years ago still frustrates me.

  • Dee P

    That would be fine too. My thought process was, when Cribbs came into the game like this, he always carried the ball – telegraphing big time was an issue. With Richardson back there with him, it becomes a read on his part with the defense having to respect either one. Could open things up for both and could be effective in red zone and short yardage.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’ll pass on Cribbs in anything resembling the wildcat. That gimmick for college not the NFL well except for the Jets. Now if they wanna line Cribbs up in the backfield in some shotgun sets that would be interesting.