By Steve King
Joshua Cribbs is OK, according to Eric Mangini, and the Browns' best all-around player would be even better – much, much better – if the head coach had to do it all over again.
Mangini, in a conference call with the Cleveland media late Tuesday afternoon, about 24 hours after his team had lost 16-0 to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football at Cleveland Browns Stadium, said the fifth-year wide receiver/returner/wildcat offense quarterback from Kent State is "stiff and tired, but he's moving around pretty well." He added that, unlike previoiusly reported by some media outlets, Cribbs does not have a concussion after getting crushed by 360-pound defensive lineman Brandon McKinney on the final play of the game.
"I talked to him today and he felt like when he was down on the field, he could have gotten up but didn't want to disregard what the medical people were telling him," Mangini said.
On the play, which started from the Cleveland 35 with three seconds left, quarterback Brady Quinn threw a 10-yard pass to Cribbs to the 45, and he in turn pitched it to tight end Robert Royal. As Cribbs let go of the ball, though, he got hit hard by McKinney. He had to be taken off the field on a stretcher and was loaded into an ambulance near the entrance to the Browns locker room and rushed to Cleveland Clinic for tests. The Browns say he was released early Tuesday morning.
While Mangini said it was "a competitive situation and you don't just kneel down. That's not usually done," he did say that "In retrospect, I would probably do it differently."
"I'd hand the ball off," he said. "There are not that many choices. You can either hand the ball off or throw it."
Mangini said it was "a catch-and-run play, but Josh improvised at the end there. You're trying to move the football."
But with just one play left, there's no way to win the game or even tie it. There is no 16-point play in football, and Mangini seems to have a better understanding of the balance between that and, in being a competitor, trying to have his players to get every last yard you can get.
Mangini does not know if Cribbs will be able to play in Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, but is holding out hope.
"I've got to see where he's at as we move through the week, but I'm optimistic about all of our (injured) guys," the coach said.
Cribbs, though, is by far the most important one of the bunch. With the Browns on track to set all kinds of team records for offensive futility, they desperately need him. They have scored just seven touchdowns all year, and two of them have come from Cribbs on returns, one each on kickoffs and punts. Thus, he is the one – and only one –scoring threat on the Browns whom opposing teams fear.
Now it's up to the Browns, now 1-8 and with a four-game losing streak, to keep him healthy. They had a very close call on Monday, and seem to understand how lucky they were in a season where such has been at a premium.
Cribbs might end up missing the Lions game – who knows – but even if he does, it could have been a whole lot worse.
Next time, Mangini knows to hand the ball off – that's more manly than just taking a knee – and get out of the game with no additional injuries. Save the "hot-potato" play for when it can really have an impact.