This is one of those topics that is a really just a time filler. It is the kind of debate people get into on sports talk radio when there is nothing real to talk about. It occurs in the same time space continuum where people start talking about cutting Colt McCoy. So, I do preface this by admitting that this is all just a crossword puzzle of a topic. At the end of the debate you might feel like you accomplished something, but really you just wrote out a bunch of words to a made up puzzle. The debate is on who is more valuable to the Browns between Joe Thomas and Josh Cribbs. I will admit that to me it seems quite obvious that Joe Thomas is more untouchable, but there are those who will argue the other side.
Josh Cribbs is a great player. He isn’t just a good player. He has found a niche and become a great special teams player and spot weapon on offense. As an undrafted free agent out of Kent State, at 27 years of age, Josh Cribbs probably can’t ask for much more than what he has achieved in his NFL career. He has helped keep the Browns in football games consistently with field position and by running the wildcat. His skillset easily travels across any team’s gameplan in the NFL.
Joe Thomas has also proven to be truly great. He came in as a highly touted draft pick and did exactly what he was supposed to do protecting the left side of the offensive line. He has made three Pro Bowls in all three seasons. Joe Thomas plays one of the most important positions on the field and the best to ever play the position do well to keep their names out of announcers’ mouths. A left tackle’s name is almost never spoken unless he gets beat for a sack, or commits a false start or holding penalty.
There-in lies the debate. Over the last few years, because the Browns have been bad, it seems like someone could make the case that Josh Cribbs has been more valuable. He has scored touchdowns and returned the ball into the opposing team’s territory. While that was going on, Joe Thomas was protecting the blindside for bad quarterbacks. (Does everyone feel comfortable in letting me call them bad quarterbacks now?) And when he wasn’t doing that, he was blocking for a running back with balsa wood holding his stutter-stepping ankles together in Jamal Lewis. Does that diminish the job that Joe Thomas did over the past few years?
Also, when we got into the Mangini debates a year ago, one of the big things we talked about was how he brought in guys with special teams experience in addition to having good attitudes and motors. So, as Joe Thomas’ supporting cast was failing himself miserably, Josh Cribbs’ supporting cast was doing a great job. In that light, it would also seem to be arguable that Cribbs is more valuable to the team than Joe Thomas.
Ultimately though, I took to Twitter to gauge Browns fan reaction to get to pure value. In a mythical world where you could trade Joe Thomas and Josh Cribbs for the #1 pick in next year’s draft, would you trade Joe Thomas or Josh Cribbs? When I asked about Joe Thomas, the answer was a resounding “NO!” pretty much 100% of the time. When I asked the same thing about Josh Cribbs almost everyone answered that as much as we all love Josh Cribbs, they would in fact trade him for the #1 pick in next year’s draft.
I know it isn’t 100% scientific. I am sure there are better ways to conduct a poll. Still, despite measurable contributions to the team over the last few years the bottom line is that Joe Thomas is more valuable than Josh Cribbs. Thomas is harder to replace. His skills and position dictate that he has the ability to play his position longer and at a higher level than a guy who relies on speed, and agility.
The good news is that the Browns aren’t going to trade either player, and they don’t need to. I can’t wait for some real Browns news as they get into real action soon.