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.