Josh Cribbs is undoubtedly a special return man and special teams player. After negotiating what most people in the league believed to be too high of a contract for a special teams player, Cribbs and the Browns attempted to get more value out of him by utilizing him at WR.
It has not worked out very well for a variety of reasons. My sources inside the Browns have confirmed that Cribbs is just as much to blame, if not more so than anyone else. Until very recently, he has not taken being a WR very seriously, skipping offensive meetings or leaving them early, not putting in the extra work to learn the playbook or to improve route running, etc. In fact, I'm told that at this point, he still routinely runs the wrong routes/yardages and makes it nearly impossible for a QB to get the proper timing down with him.
With that said, Cribbs is once again making noise about his offensive production, or lack thereof.
Josh Cribbs told the Cleveland Plain Dealer the following yesterday:
"I feel like I'm trapped. "I feel like a caged athlete."
This season, he has six catches for 54 yards and two runs for 8 after having career highs with 41 catches and 518 yards last season.
I think anyone with an unbiased perspective would also be able to compare the WR talent and depth on the Browns roster from last season to this season and understand why that may be. The Browns drafted ultra talented (and ultra raw) WR Josh Gordon in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft and added Travis Benjamin and Josh Cooper just this season.
Perhaps even more importantly, Cribbs is in the last year of that overpriced contract. It's highly unlikely the Browns will allocate new dollars (especially at the level Cribbs thinks he deserves) to an aging special teams player who's production on special teams has dropped. Why would the Browns feature Cribbs and take reps and experience away from the young WRs they invested in just to appease someone who will likely not be around next year? They wouldn't.
Cribbs, however, doesn't seem to understand how the NFL works.
"Me going from being able to run the wildcat, to playing receiver last season and catching 41 passes and four touchdowns to nothing -- I can't believe it," said Cribbs. "By me not playing, I feel like they think I'm not good, that I've lost it. But I haven't. I feel when I'm out there I can contribute, but I'm not able to."
Cribbs says he's already talked to Head Coach, Pat Shurmur about his role earlier in the season and said the following:
"There's no point," he said. "Obviously they feel like everybody that's in front of me is a better athlete. I disagree. I feel a different way than the coach feels about me. They must feel I can't produce. We have a difference of opinion."
While Cribbs undoubtedly wants to be more involved in the offense because he's confident in his abilities, perhaps the real motivation behind his public complaints lie within this quote:
"There's something wrong when one of your best athletes doesn't get the ball," he said. "I'm tired of people saying they don't know how to use me. Get creative. Find ways.
"I can't even showcase myself. I'm more than a special teams player. I've proven that. I belong on the field more than this, more than what they're allowing me to do. I've tried to not to say much, but it's upsetting. We're nine games into the season and I haven't gotten a chance."
Perhaps Cribbs knows his time in Cleveland is running out (at least he should) and he's frustrated that he's been unable to audition for other teams this season to help him land another big contract. But that is a strictly selfish position. As I've stated, why would the Browns hinder the development of the young players they've invested in for the future just to appease someone who won't be around next year?
Cribbs has long been a fan favorite and he has long used the media to manipulate fan sentiment (an example right here):
"It's because of these fans," he said. "I'm going to try to stay here. If Mr. (Jimmy) Haslam will have me, I'll stay. If not, I'm sure I'll be playing football somewhere else."
It seems many fans are becoming wise to his antics however and Cribbs may be wearing out his welcome in Cleveland sooner than he thinks.