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The Less We See of Josh Cribbs, the Better the Cleveland Browns Will Be

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 19: Wide receiver Josh Cribbs #16 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a touchdown during the game against the Washington Redskins on October 19, 2008 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Tom DelamaterAnalyst IAugust 10, 2010

Pardon me while I go against the grain for a moment, but I’m getting a little concerned about all of this Josh Cribbs exposure.

First, a disclaimer: I love how good this guy is, and I love his versatility. I love that he returns kicks (better than anyone), covers kicks, and can play receiver, running back, quarterback, and, yes, even safety.

He, as much as any individual, embodies the essence of Cleveland Browns football.

Did you read what he said recently?

"To be a Brown is to be bestowed with dignity and honor, and to be a part of rich history."

No kidding, that's an actual quote. And then:

“I say all the time, if our stadium was an island off the coast of Alaska, you’d see Browns fans in canoes rowing out to the games. It’s a way of life.”

The guy just gets it. No wonder Cribbs has supplanted LeBron James as the favorite son of Cleveland sports fans.

With that said, I could stand to see a little less of him.

That’s because the more we see Cribbs at wide receiver, the more I worry about the position. The same goes for quarterback, and running back, and, quite frankly, safety.

Yes, I jump out of my seat with a “did you see that?” look on my face when Cribbs lines up in the wildcat formation and runs rings around flailing, frustrated defenders.

Yes, I find myself thinking “why don’t they do that every play” when he splits out wide on offense and catches a quick slant pass for a first down.

Yes, I get excited when I see Cribbs trot out to join the defense, line up at safety, and burst into the backfield on a beeline to the quarterback that, in a regulation game, would likely result in a sack.

It’s the fan in me who loves that, just like the fan in you. There’s nothing wrong with it either, providing it comes in small doses.

However, the more of it I see, the more I’m reminded that there is no Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Tom Brady at quarterback for the Browns, no Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson at tailback, no Andre Johnson at receiver, and no Ed Reed at safety.

Teams that have those players don’t resort to the kinds of things the Browns do with Cribbs. They don't have to.

As great of an athlete as Cribbs is, there’s a reason why players don’t play two ways (or five or six ways, as is being suggested in Cribbs’ case) in the NFL.

It’s the same reason former college stars often struggle early in their pro career—namely, these guys are good.

Not in the tactical way the PGA Tour slogan implies, either. No, we’re talking about a blindingly fast, bone-jarringly vicious, world-class athletic way.

It’s the reason no individual NFL player can be all things to all people and survive. The other guys are just too good.

So, while I can marvel at Cribbs’ versatility right along with the next guy, and even cheer when it's on display this season, I really don’t want to see him all over the field on offense, defense, and special teams.

I admire his athleticism. I'm as amazed as anyone to see him step in seemingly anywhere on the field and have an impact.

Relying on one person for so much, however, can have serious ramifications down the road. For example, if he is counted on to play an overabundance of roles, and then suffers a serious injury. What then?

What I want from Cribbs is to see him do what he does best, and do it better than anyone else.

Meanwhile, I want to see other players on the Browns do their job better than he could.

Then, and only then, will we know that the Browns are legitimate contenders in the AFC North.

Where can I comment?

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