Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

If Sunday is the last home game for Josh Cribbs, it’s been a blast

cribbstbWe knew that Sunday’s game against Washington was the last home game on the schedule for the Cleveland Browns, but we hadn’t thought about how it could also be the last home game for Josh Cribbs in Orange and Brown until reading this post at WFNY.

It seems likely that Cribbs will be playing elsewhere next season. He will be 30 by the time the 2013 NFL season begins and, after eight years in the league, he will be looking for what will certainly be the final “big money” contract of his playing career. It seems just as likely that CEO Joe Banner will not be willing to be the highest bidder for Cribbs, especially as Banner has no emotional connection to the player.

And that’s too bad. While we don’t expect Banner to break the bank for Cribbs, it will be hard to watch if Cribbs is wearing a different uniform next season.

Browns coach Pat Shurmur, coaching issues not withstanding, showed that he gets it, naming Cribbs a captain for Sunday’s game.

“I really appreciate Josh for his toughness,” Shurmur said. “In a sport like football, a guy that’s tough, that’s the highest honor. He’ll be our fourth captain. Josh is not the fastest guy in the world and never really has been, but he’s found a way to run back kicks, quite a few in his career.”

We freely admit to having a soft spot for Cribbs because he went to Kent State, but there is little question he has proven he’s an NFL player ever since the Browns signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2005 (one of the few good moves by former Browns general manager Phil Savage).

In a lot of ways Cribbs was a victim of the flawed scouting system. Because he wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school he found his way to Kent State, where he accounted for 86 career touchdowns. But because NFL scouts don’t generally look at Kent State, he went undrafted. (If Cribbs had played somewhere like Indiana or Missouri and received even a little national exposure, there’s no doubt he would have been drafted at some point).

In 2010, the Golden Flashes retired Cribbs’ number, making him just the fourth player in the program’s history to receive the honor. (The other three were Jim Corrigall, Jack Lambert and Eric Wilkerson). Cribbs is at the top of the school’s list in rushing touchdowns with 38, completions with 626, second in touchdown passes with 43, and first in total yards with 10,839. He was also the first three-time captain in school history and an honorable mention All-American as a senior in 2004.

But the other teams’ loss was the Browns gain.

Since arriving in Cleveland, Cribbs has made two Pro Bowls (and leads voting this year), is currently sixth on the NFL’s career list with 9,722 career kickoff return yards; has 11,843 combined yards on kickoff and punt returns, leaving him just 157 yards shy of becoming the sixth player in NFL history to crack the 12,000-yard mark; and shares the league record for kickoff returns for touchdowns at eight with Seattle’s Leon Washington.

Cribbs is aware that Sunday could be his last chance to play in front of the home fans.

“I’ve put a lot of thought into it,” he said earlier this week in published reports. “I’m going to give it a little something extra special and try to put on a show. I’m sure it will be (sad), but not yet. I want to end my career here. I’ve raised my family here, went to college here. If I were to go somewhere else it’d be foreign territory for me. I don’t see myself having any other fans. It’s just my second home, and really my first home — I’ve been here (in Northeast Ohio) my whole adult life.”

There haven’t been a lot of bright spots for the Browns since they returned in 1999, but Cribbs has without a doubt been one of them – not only on the field but in the community as well.

And if it turns out that Sunday is his final home game, then we just want to say thanks for the memories.

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