Farewell to Josh Cribbs (for now)

Josh Cribbs shares with rookie receivers

Josh Cribbs shares with rookie receivers

I have a sister in mourning over the impending departure of Josh Cribbs. It stinks to ever have to say goodbye to players that you love as a fan of a team. Even as much as people tend to dislike Ray Lewis outside of Baltimore, there’s no denying that his career there couldn’t have ended more perfectly for his fans. Those situations aren’t the norm and certainly not with the history of the Cleveland Browns since Josh Cribbs has been in Cleveland. I will argue that this Cleveland Browns ending with Josh Cribbs is perfect enough though.

The heart and head aren’t usually aligned when fans think about NFL players. It is a brutal sport dominated mostly by young people who have yet to put themselves through the numerous car crashes it takes to endure an NFL season. That punishment and ability to withstand it is part of the mystique of NFL players that fans end up gravitating toward.

Few have played the game under those conditions with as much passion and zeal as Josh Cribbs. The fact is that it is precisely and obviously why a universe of Browns fans loves Cribbs. Yet it’s also obvious to most that the best thing for the team they love and their future is to continue to get younger and plan for a future beyond the presumed expiration date of Josh Cribbs’ next contract.

I’ve fielded the questions already.

Won’t Cribbs continue to contribute to whatever NFL team he plays for?

I believe so, yes.

Then why can’t he just continue to play in Cleveland and do that here?

There’s no easy answer to that question. It’s better answered in terms of the cold-hearted world of betting. Josh Cribbs is going to turn 30 this year and might be absolutely fine as a returner and special teams ace for the next two to three years. There’s a chance he will be better than anyone the Browns use to replace him. The fact remains that in the NFL, betting on a guy who plays a high risk / high injury-rate position like Josh Cribbs, you’re on borrowed time as he approaches 30. No matter how much you love Josh Cribbs, when it comes to facts that live in the head and trying to ignore all the highlights that live in our hearts, he’s no longer a good bet for a business-focused organization.

Assuming the next returner for the Browns could be Travis Benjamin, it just makes sense. Travis Benjamin is 23 years-old. He is a budding talent at wide receiver at least situationally. Most importantly, he’s locked into a deal that will give him a cap number right around $600,000 for 2013. I definitely don’t envision Travis Benjamin making special teams tackles, but that’s usually reserved for up and coming corner-backs  linebackers and safeties with similarly small cap numbers. The Browns will be able to let three or four guys line up and play in their younger years with the same money that Cribbs would require all by himself.

The point is just that at this stage of his career, the efficiency of paying Josh Cribbs the money he’s worth and what he’s earned isn’t worthwhile to the Browns. In their current situation, to pay Cribbs a couple million per year to fight through his age, take a chance that he’ll stay healthy and also block the development of the next round of Browns starters from cutting their teeth in special teams isn’t all that worthwhile. Yes, they can afford it, but that doesn’t mean they should afford it.

So like many Browns fans, I am sad at Josh Cribbs’ departure. I wish him well and hope he finds a deal commensurate with his abilities and what he brings to a community as a person. This gives him a chance to say goodbye (for now) and let everyone know how he feels about the rabid community of supporters that has cheered him on. The fan base also gets the chance to thank him for his contributions and wish him well, and really truly mean it.

Would it have been nice to do this as a retirement party with every game played in his career as a Cleveland Brown? Maybe. Then again, there’s a chance that it could have gone south. Probably not, but you never know. Short of a Ray Lewis departure after winning a Super Bowl, I think this is a pretty decent “high note” for everyone to go out on.

So fare thee well, Josh Cribbs. Please come back and retire here as a Cleveland Brown on a one day contract whenever it is you decide you’re finished. Maybe there’ll be a spot for you in the Ring of Honor too. If I had a vote, I’d include you someday.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Cribbs has a better chance at a statue then the ring of honor!

  • cmm13

    While Josh played his butt off in the years he was here and I thank him for that, I shed 0 tears on his departure.

    It’s about the team, not the player
    Josh is no longer the dynamic return man he once was
    Josh was UDFA that made some serious money, he’s financially set for life

    Next man up.

  • mgbode

    we’ll always have the sub-zero Thursday night wildcat game against Pitt to remember

  • or pick a name

    Well said, Craig. Thank you for that, and, yes, fare thee well #16!

  • Jay

    Who gets a statue first, Josh or Phil?

  • MrCleaveland

    Yeah, Banner, why do we need a talented all-around football player? What good are they?

    Cribbs with diminished skills is still better than (just to pick a number out of the air) 99% of all the special teamers out there.

    This is foolish move.

  • Josh Cribbs was the only reason I stayed a fan for many years. He is by far my favorite Brown of the New Browns. This is a difficult time for true Browns fans. Banner is a weasel.

  • Natedawg86

    I believe his open bashing of the coaching staff (last year) was considered in this decision by player management personnel. He was frustrated with his lack of involvement on offense and was very vocal about it. As a team captain, you need to set the example, and I think he has digressed in this area. Loved watching him return kicks/punts and as a special teams player, but towards the end, I believe he needed to speak his frustrations to family or friends, not the media.

  • FearTheRoo

    Much better than the TE we picked up yesterday. Dude has 1 career TD.

  • I was in the dog pound that night. I actually cried a little bit after the game.

  • Agree 100%. He yaps too much and I’m glad he is leaving.

  • JK

    Completely agree .. This is a good move…. If you care about winning football games

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Lil’ Phil all the way!

  • Natedawg86

    It has been real Oscar

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I disagree maybe 4 or 5 years ago Cribbs was better then 99% of all the special teamers out there but not anymore. A rule change and age have all but rendered him ineffective. I will however be interested to see what he does with Arizona. Perhaps the climate will reenergize Cribbs not to mention a new coaching staff finding a way to use him more effectively. Time will tell as they say.

  • EyesAbove

    20 touchdowns in 8 seasons, meh, I wish him well but Im not losing any sleep over this.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I was there as well. No tears. Just relentless ripping on the Yinzers as we walked down the ramps from the upper deck. It was awesome.

  • Harv 21

    I totally respect Cribbs for his on-field passion and effort. However this is a relief. Cribbs long ago, maybe under the early influence of Braylon and Kellen, confused what was good for the team with what was good for him, and the local fan support of his constant self-promotion was ridiculous, even embarrassing.

    I cannot remember any Cleveland athlete so consistently manipulating the public for himself. Encouraging a campaign to have the team tear up a 6 year contract a couple years after he signed, public leverage displays of “cleaning out my locker,” calling out coaches in public, non-stop bitching about a bigger role he never deserved, announcing to locker room reporters he was returning to special teams instead of asking the coach … In some ways this guy is emblematic of what’s gone wrong since ’99. Even his little posted thing today seems as much a tribute to himself to remind fans how special he is as a thanks to the team and city. Like he saw Z and others do it but, typically, mistakenly thought that this message was supposed to glorify him.

    Good luck to the best special teamer we’ve had. And good night, already.

  • EyesAbove

    This ^

  • Harv 21

    a weasel? More like an exec determined to improve the team by paying players their current worth and ridding the locker room of those who tend to publicly push their agendas over those of the team. We don’t need Chud or Norv Turner as the next ones forced to respond to Joshie’s selfish complaints. We don’t need him role-modeling this for Little, Gordon or anyone else. Enough.

  • It would be like getting mad at LeBron without at least recognizing his enablers when he was in Cleveland. Josh Cribbs wasn’t without missteps, but you also can’t remove it from the dysfunction that was thrust upon him by Randy Lerner, Phil Savage, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, George Kokinis, Mike Holmgren, Pat Shurmur and the rest. Did he produce the culture or did the culture produce him?

    Good > Bad for Josh Cribbs.

    Like I said, it’s time and appropriate all the way around to say goodbye for now.

  • MrCleaveland

    NOT this^

    Jeez, Harv, you make him out to be a selfish drama queen for wanting to contribute — which, by the way, is the opposite of quitting in a peevish snit like so many real divas do.

    I see nothing wrong with trying to win favor with the fans and for being appreciative. It’s a lot better than being a jerk and blowing off the fans.

    And what’s wrong with showing some real enthusiasm for the game and his part in it? To criticize him for being so outgoing and honest is unfair.

    Cribbs is a good guy and a talented player who busts his butt on every play and asks for more. We’ve seen far worse.

  • Harv 21

    Don’t know where to start. Maybe LeBron >>>>>>>>> Cribbs?

    OK, here’s the best spin I can give on one point: um, Mangini had so little idea what to do with his offense and bad picks that his stupid impulse to make a non-receiver into a primary receiver was not Cribbs’s fault, and who can blame a guy if he never could get over that stupid, failed experiment?

    But no idea how you can attribute Selfish Josh to the owners, GMs and coaches. “Thrust upon him by ….” wha? No one – no exec, coach or player- acted like Josh and was permitted to stay so long. I do appreciate his on-field efforts. But it’s just so Cleveland to not demand more, to spray his stench with perfume as he leaves. He was what he was, a great special teamer for about 4-5 years. And an unrepentant disruption.

  • Harv 21

    “We’ve seen far worse.” This I give you. Nothing else.

    (Hard to think of many NFL divas that didn’t give their all, that’s the nature of the blood sport, from Terrell Owens to Favre to Michael Irvin or Hollywood Henderson or whoever. Cribbs gave his all on-field. For this I have praised him).

  • MrCleaveland

    Divas who didn’t give their all: Just off the top of my head, Randy Moss, Albert Haynesworth, DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace, half the Jets . . .

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Josh Cribbs averaged 27.4 yds per kickoff return and 12.0 yds per punt return. The league average was 25.41/8.96 which means that he was 7% above average on kickoffs and 33% above average on punts.

    If we can get an “average” returner for $600k, that means one could reasonably argue Cribbs’ worth at $650k – $800k.

  • Harv 21

    I think your diva definition is circular (if they dog it they’re a diva). My own def is a publicity whore/public pouter-type/team disruptor. Moss – yeah, he was the exception I immediately thought of. Wallace pouted, they say – did he go public with gripes to draw attention or mess up his locker room? Haynesworth – for sure. But there are relatively few. Way way more Warren Sapps, Ray Lewis’s.

    [why are we arguing about this?]

  • MrCleaveland

    Cribbs plays to the media and fans, but so what? So does Joe Haden, and nobody blasts him.

    And selfish cancers sure don’t volunteer to be on kick-off teams.

    Cribbs was not a pouter and he was not disruptive in any way. I just don’t see that he has committed any “crimes” here that warrant his expulsion from the Paradise that is the Cleveland Browns.

    [I’m arguing about this because I love everything about this over-achiever, who I believe is the antithesis of every entitled jerk out there. And because you are a worthy opponent.]

  • Harv 21

    he did kick-offs b/c that’s his paid position. Why did Dawson kick?

    Haden, though a publicity whore as well, doesn’t embarrass his coach or FO for the purpose of money or a bigger role he thinks he deserves. I believe Haden’s attention shtick is merely about a rich young athlete attracting babes [I have ZERO facts to back that up, just teasing, Joe].

    What Cribbs now does well: cover kicks. Does decently: return kicks (do NOT give me his average return yards in this deep end-zone era – he’s lost his top gear and can’t break it anymore). Other things not so well: Assuring radio hosts he won’t go public with his bitching as long as, in his own opinion, the offense is developing sufficiently without him. Leaked some gas on that post-season.

    “Cancer/ crime” – I never said that. But like the proverbial Russian 3 day old garbage and guests, I’m ready for him to go. Mr. C – a thousand words on Josh Cribbs? C’mon, let’s go literature or history or worthy thoughts. See what he’s still doing to us?


    Phil needs a giant bobble-leg statue that blows in the wind off the lake.

  • MrCleaveland

    Now Camus, there was a coffee-house lawyer, with his absurd . . .

  • mikez

    I don’t think Banner is a weasel but I do feel Josh has another good couple years in him. I’m still hopeful he will see what he is worth then give the Browns a chance to keep him in town with a home town discount.

  • cmm13

    “He was what he was, a great special teamer for about 4-5 years”

    ….all this over a Special Teams player, now you know you’re in Cleveland.

    Seriously this is our return guy who hasn’t returned a touchdown in 3 seasons, we didn’t just say good bye to Bernie all over again.

  • porkchop

    C’mon, only half the Jets? Are you inflating that non diva half by counting office staff as well?

  • porkchop

    I couldn’t agree more with your last 2 sentences. I don’t feel its a sin to admire his play while acknowledging his warts. Not to get sidetracked but I always felt he had this in him since his time here in Kent. Amazing college player, one of the only guys from Kent that I would go to games just to watch. Always reminded me of Tommy Frazier. That being said, he always had a gift for reminding people that he wasn’t going to remind them that he didn’t have the most talent around him. He has simply always had that Carvillian/Rovian way of saying exactly what he wants while claiming he’s not saying it at all.

  • MrCleaveland

    Oh well, at least it’s not like the Patriots being cheap and letting Wes Welker walk. (So much for Brady making cap room to help his team. Hey Tom, you just got Belichicked. And watch out. You’re next.)

  • Harv 21

    here we go …

  • Harv 21

    or put another way, he’s almost always almost gracious.

  • mgbode

    Billy Boy better help Amendola finally finds health. If he does, then Brady will have a younger version of Welker (for the same price). If not, then Billy is likely to get an earful on a weekly basis (behind closed doors, but still).

  • Harv 21

    sometimes I wonder what’s going to happen to Brady’s brain. No player has been exposed to this much radiation in close quarters for this long. Maybe his Stockholm Complex is too advanced to get out now, he’ll play for free next year in exchange for a couple of worn pennies coach pulls out of the magic jar on his desk.

  • Big Z

    Although I truly enjoyed watching the glimpses of the greatness that could’ve been, Cribbs wasn’t ever used properly or to his fullest capacity here. I’ll miss Josh – I hope he’s used more/properly in AZ. Thanks for the memories, bro.

  • Big Z

    I’tll be real weird watching someone other than #16 waiting to catch the opening day kickoff – kinda sad.

  • tikihat

    In a day and age when players sit out a year with one bum toe, Josh Cribbs played out a season for us with, not just one, but four of them dislocated. Why? Because hobbled as he was, he and Peyton Hillis were the only two offensive weapons we had left standing at the time.

    I see many fans slagging him for his attitude, but am left wondering at his supposed crime. During an era when few players wanted to wear the Brown and Orange, Josh was begging for a chance to try and help the Team to the best of his abilities. Is this really so bad? Cribbs truly thought that he could make a difference for this team if the coaches would just use him.

    I’ll not slag him for trying to get more time. Instead, I’ll honor him as what he was; a lone bright spot in so many otherwise dismal and utterly forgetable seasons. When other hometown heros were publicly humiliating us, Josh was desperate to NOT take his talents elsewhere. For that we should all thank him.

  • mgbode

    make it a windmill leg and we can earn some energy points too 🙂