Last week I wrote about how Joshua Cribbs was the Browns MVP since their rebirth in 1999. Hard to dispute that, and yesterday's stunning performance against the K.C. Chiefs merely drove home that point. Cribbs returned one kickoff in the first quarter to become the NFL's all-time leader for kick return touchdowns. Then, for good measure, he returned another in the second quarter to distance himself from the pack. Considering he has done this in less than five pro seasons, we can safely say there has never been a player quite like Josh Cribbs.
Browns owner Randy Lerner has signed some very expensive contracts in the hope of building a good football team. Josh Cribbs does not own one of those contracts. The one sticking point in his time as a Brown has been the deal that will pay him about 1 million per year though 2012. He's unhappy and he's been very vocal about it. Normally professional athletes who bitch about the contracts they've signed get zero sympathy from me. You're already overpaid, children are starving in the world, so shut up and play. However, Cribbs, who has gone from undrafted free-agent to superstar, is a different matter. For two seasons, he has been the only reason to watch the Browns. Never once has his loyalty to the team been in question. He loves his teammates and they love him. He plays each down as if the fate of the free world hangs in the balance. His four kick returns for touchdowns this season still match the total rushing touchdowns for the Browns as a team. He is at once the most valuable and most undervalued player on the team. Most importantly, he gives the poor suckers who shell out for tickets and concessions and parking and those unholy PSLs something to watch besides a weekly dose of mayonnaise-filled misery.
The life of a professional football player is very short. One hit can end a career. By 2012, Cribbs' legs may be shot. He is setting records right now; he should be getting paid right now. With all signs pointing to Mike Holmgren becoming football czar (or tsar, if you prefer), let's hope a new deal can be struck, one that pays Cribbs in proportion to what he brings to his team.
Oh, and we would be remiss if we did not reserve a few lines for Jerome Harrison, the seldom used running back who yesterday exploded for 286 yards rushing. Yes, it was against the lowly Chiefs, but those yards simultaneously smash Jim Brown's 38-year-old team record and represent the third highest single game rushing total in NFL history!
For all the futility the Browns have shown all season, we at least can pluck a few gems from the muck.