Is this the last home game for Josh Cribbs in Cleveland?

Josh Cribbs was named the Browns’ fourth captain for the final home game against the Washington Redskins this week. “The fourth captain this week will be Josh Cribbs,” said Pat Shurmur. “I’ve talked about it numerous times, but I really appreciate Josh for his toughness. In a sport like football, a guy that’s tough, that’s the highest honor.” Could it be a coincidence that Cribbs gets this honor this week? Is it just happenstance that Pat Shurmur “wanted to get Cribbs the touchdown” last week when he challenged the spot on the goalline on first down?

A couple of facts can’t be argued. First is that Josh Cribbs has been an excellent player for the Cleveland Browns. At times he was the only legit scoring option on the field for the Browns. When his time in Cleveland is over he will go out having rewritten the record books for kick returns. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that he is overall the best special teams player in the history of the franchise – especially among non-kickers. The other thing that can’t be disputed is Josh’s displeasure with his current role on the team.

Cribbs was a running quarterback for Kent State. He was the team’s playmaker. He also wasn’t thought of highly enough to be drafted. Coming to the Browns as an undrafted free agent Cribbs knew the best way to make the team was to be a special teams player. He worked hard and eventually became a Pro-Bowl caliber returner and special teams player.

But Cribbs wanted to do more.

Let’s face it. If Josh was on the Packers or Patriots, he may have been satisfied with his role as a special teams ace. But with the Browns, Cribbs thought he surely could do better than some of the “playmakers” on the Browns offense. He was right. At least for a while.

On a bitter cold Thursday night at home against the Steelers, Josh Cribbs was a huge part of the offense out of the wildcat formation. He was one of the primary reasons Cleveland won that game. Several injuries and drafts later, Josh Cribbs is not the most explosive playmaker the Browns have anymore. He never developed as a wide receiver quite like he or fans had hoped, and the Browns have Josh Gordon and Greg Little there now. Additionally, the Browns have a speedy receiver capable of making plays in the return game in Travis Benjamin.

Several times this season Josh has made it known that he isn’t happy as just the kick returner. He feels that he can contribute more to the offense. He may even be right, but the coaching staff obviously has a different opinion. Now, the Browns are preparing for the Redskins, and Cribbs will walk to the fifty yard line before the game with Joe Thomas, D’Qwell Jackson and Phil Dawson flanking him. They are the four longest tenured Browns, and have seen their share of tough losses and turmoil with the Browns.

With Cribbs’ contract situation, there is a good chance the new regime, led by Joe Banner, won’t see Cribbs as a priority to bring back. Not when they have a young returner like Benjamin. Not with the rapid development of Josh Gordon.

If this is Josh’s last home game he does deserve the honor. He has been a stand-up guy in the community. He’s been a fan favorite. But it may just be time to part ways.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    First off, no offense to Cribbs, but he hasn’t been the best special teams player of his era, let alone the history of the franchise. That honor belongs to one Phil Dawson.

    Secondly, I know Josh is in the NFL record books as a returner, but I just don’t see the huge impact on the field. Sure, a kick or punt returned for a touchdown is a huge momentum changer within a game (it certainly was last week), but the record is 8 in a career…as in 48 points contributed over an entire career. It’s a huge play when it happens, but it just doesn’t happen that often.

    This isn’t a slight against Cribbs. I’m saying that no kick returner can really be considered a HUGE difference maker due to the limitations of the position. Kick returners are important, to be sure, as they can greatly affect field position, but there’s a reason the job is usually given to the fastest guy with the most expendable contract.

    In conclusion, I hope Josh gets the best deal he can if he stays or goes, but if I was playing GM for the Browns, I would say that we’re covered with Benjamin.

  • Much love to Phil Dawson, but Josh Cribbs has been my favorite player on this team since the reboot in ’99. Few moments over that time have been more exciting than seeing #16 awaiting a kickoff, wondering if he’ll break another one. What saddens me is that folks have clearly soured on him in the past couple seasons, either for the “Pay the Man” campaign or because he has not been as effective. Anyone begrudging him the payday is obviously forgetting just how outrageously he outperformed his initial contract (he was, after all, an undrafted free agent providing the only legit threat this team had for several seasons–I’d say at worst we’re all square by now). And bashing him for ineffectiveness ignores the fact that he was sacrificing his body on coverage teams while also taking big hits as a returner, all while working to help the offense. KR/PR is not a spot known for longevity, and I’d wager to say we’ve gotten more from him than similar guys who have come and gone at the position. My only regrets with Cribbs is that we may never have taken full advantage of his athleticism during his time here, and that we haven’t won much of anything during that time. If he does leave, I hope it’s for a successful (non-AFCN) team where he can enjoy some more victories. And I hope Browns fans and the organization show due respect and appreciation for what he’s done for the team and the community.

    Oh, and how about taking a kickoff back just one more time to keep his name ahead of Leon Washington in the record books?

  • MrCleaveland

    A good organization will find a place for a smart, tough, versatile football player who might not fit in some preconceived pigeon hole, but who can make a big play. Cribbs is certainly better than the 53rd guy on every team in the NFL. I hope the Browns find a way to make it happen and take advantage of his talents.

  • Harv 21

    I think he’ll be gone. His legacy with fans reminds me a little of Andre Thornton, another really good if limited player on horrible teams, who leaves nostalgic warm fuzzies that will make fans wear his jersey for decades. But Cribbs and Contracts always seem to go together. He signed a six year with Savage to make sure he some guaranteed money, only to demand renegotiation maybe a season later, then made that huge stink with Mangini by claiming that Savage had shut him up by promising him a renegotiation. A few weeks ago he admitted his most recent squawking about his role was influenced by upcoming free agency.

    The truth is that Cribbs has never been a particularly dynamic player within the offense, because of his lack of route-running and other nuanced receiver skills. Using him there has been irresistible to coaches stuck with Braylon’s drops, Winslow’s diminishing skils, and the Robiskie/MoMass failures. But he has nurtured this false narrative of being underutilized, unappreciated, chained by coaching incompetence, whatever, and a lot of fans buy it without question.

    He’ll be probably be gone because he wants the money of an offensive threat, even as his skills are now clearly past peak. He still can run over and through tacklers on returns, and he can still sure stick guys, but in a game of inches and milliseconds he doesn’t explode the same way through the hole or outrun the last guy. I’ll remember this guy as a true football player, a gladiator with unlimited heart. An epic special teams player with a really unusual blend of size, speed, strength, decisiveness and toughness. The Browns won’t find another one guy with all that, but they’ll find a few guys to combine to get close enough.

  • HRD53

    Despite everyone stating that he has ‘loss a step or two’, he is, statistically speaking anyways, still a top 10 return guy (top 3 in punt returns) in the league… definitely worth keeping around for a little while.

  • boomhauertjs

    Banner will never re-sign an “aging veteran” like Cribbs. I hope the fans give him a standing O on Sunday.

    I wish we would have had a coaching staff smart enough to best utilize him. Many writers, including Grossi and Pluto, felt that Cribbs best role on offense would have been as a 3rd down back and I agreed. His ability to block and run would’ve been best utilized, along with minimizing his need to run precise routes (his weakness).

  • Unfortunately the times of his explosive and exciting kickoff and punt returns have come and gone.. I agree, it was always so much fun thinking that at any time he can run one back and turn a game around so quickly. Hard to ever hate on him because of how much he has embraced the community of Cleveland and everyone in it. He’s one of those pro athletes who just GETS IT. At least for a while, he absolutely understood the fan base and the community. Also unfortunatley as of late, his public criticisms of play calling or positional reps on his own part haven’t won him any popularity points.

  • @clevebourne

    why not move cribbs to LB to add depth… his tackling ability on ST and his lack of fear for big hits could be intriguing.

  • Harv 21

    don’t think it’s a matter of who would like to have him on a roster – someone wanted Robiskie this year. It’s how much Joshie wants to be paid, how much guaranteed, and what cap space over how many years you devote to a guy like him who is starting his downside. He doesn’t want to be paid like the 53rd guy.

  • Natedawg86

    I think he started to be less effective that first high ankle sprain he sustained. He has still been good, just not as good.

  • MrCleaveland

    Josh has already had his big payday, and I think he knows it. I don’t see him trying to get unreasonable money or raising any stink. I think he’ll take the best offer and be happy with it. We might even get a little bit of a hometown discount.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong, but I just think Cribbs is a realist who has saved his money, doesn’t spend it foolishly, and is pretty much set for a long time, if not set for life.

  • Natedawg86

    I think he is going to want more $$. He wants more touches on offense, which would earn him more money. I am not saying that is the only reason he wants targets on offense, but I do think it is in the back of his mind behind the fierce drive for competition.

  • Natedawg86

    Could you imagine him getting the ball in the flats or as a release with an open field to work with

  • i’d say safety, but yes, if he’d been moved to defense a couple years ago i think he’d be a starter and his career would be extended.
    [and it’s not radical — belichick did this with troy brown and julian edelman and mike vrabel.]
    echoing harv’s point, he is a Football Player in the fullest sense. the team is better when he’s on the field. it’s been a miss not to have used him more.

  • mgbode

    that is the crux of the issue. if he’s willing to be paid like a very good ST player, then we can keep him. if not, then he’s gone.

  • Hadn’t really thought about Sunday being his last home game.

    Seems highly likely that Cribbs will be playing somewhere else next season. He will be 30 heading into the 2013 season and, after eight years in the league, Cribbs knows this next contract will be his last – or at least the last “big” contract he will sign. I can’t see Banner being willing to be the highest bidder on this deal, especially since he has no emotional ties to Cribbs the way a previous regime may have.

    Admit to having a soft spot for him because he is from Kent State, but I’ve never been all that worked up about Cribbs wanting a bigger role on the team. We’ve seen too many players come through town who just wanted to dog it, it was nice to hear someone actually want more, rather than just cash a paycheck and go home.

  • Natedawg86

    If he stays, he needs to trust the coach to make the best decisions, and not be a distraction off the field. Do what is asked, and be a leader. Special teams players are not supposed to be distractions.

  • JK

    Did Ori get banned? What did I miss?

  • he tweeted me that he did. not sure why or whether it’s permanent or probation or any of that jazz.

    but he did ask me to relay a message to bode about a bet..?

  • paulbip

    Offer him a reduced one year contract.

  • BenRM

    The comments have been so much more pleasant without him.

  • If the Browns used the wishbone or pistol backfield, they could rotate Hardesty, Cribbs, and Trent as an awesome headache for defenses. Weeden could shuttle pass a few times to either of those, and when the safety’s come up, the on top stuff would spring open. Swing one into the flats and the TE would be free over the middle. There’s so many things that could happen with the talent we have. Cut Josh loose? No! He is still the best and first covering kickoffs. He runs like a gunner and should be in on punts. He may be a half-step slower than Benjamin, but that is still faster than a linebacker. No, the Browns need him for the next three years. He deserves to go to the Super Bowl with us.