Josh Cribbs is back with the Cleveland Browns.
He’s not a player this time, having retired from the game nearly a year ago. No, he’s back where his NFL career began in order to stay involved in another way: Coaching.
The Browns announced on Thursday that Cribbs will serve as a special-teams coaching intern for 2018. He’s been on the job for about a month, after asking head coach Hue Jackson about coming aboard after Amos Jones was named Cleveland’s new special-teams coordinator.
Cribbs first wanted to be the Browns’ special-teams assistant, but the job went to Sam Shade; that then opened up the possibility about the intern position. Jackson said, “We had great dialogue and conversations and felt like it was best to do everything I could to provide [Cribbs] an opportunity to understand what coaching was, from the bottom up. I wanted to do everything I could to put him in position where he could be successful. He was very open to it and we made a decision of, ‘let’s start on the ground floor and work our way up.’”
Jackson added, “He told me over a phone call that he had a tremendous passion to get the organization back to winning and that means something to me. We’ve had several other [former players] reach out, but this ended up being the right fit at the right time for us.”
Cribbs is aware that the transition will take a lot of work and effort, saying, “It’s a lot of time involved, a lot of hours and not everyone is cut out for it. Not that they can’t coach, but everybody is not cut out for the hours and the time it takes to put into coaching.” But he’s also ready for the challenge, adding, “I know I want this. I’m proving myself again. This is something I want to do and will exceed, just like I did as a player. I’m going to use that same mentality as a coach.”
Undrafted as a wide receiver out of Kent State, the position was not his strongest suit. In 10 years, he caught only 110 passes for 1,175 yards. However, Cribbs is a legendary punt and kick returner. His 426 kick returns netted 11,113 yards and a league-record eight touchdowns, and his 222 punt returns resulted in another 2,375 yards and three more scores. Cleveland let him leave in free agency in 2013 and he bounced around to the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts before hanging up his cleats.
He couldn’t be kept from the game for long. Indeed, Cribbs’ passion is what carried him to this moment. “I have this burning desire to be around football, to get back in the game. This is the closest way I can be around football, to still make an impact in the NFL. What better team for me to make an impact than the Cleveland Browns?” he said. And he’s not intimidated by his new students either: “I’ve earned their respect already as a player. Now I get to earn their respect as a coach. I pour into them all the knowledge I have to make them successful and make them do the things I did.”