Phil Dawson and Joshua Cribbs already have a lot in common.
Both are outstanding special teamers. Just as Cribbs owns all of the team's records and is probably the best returner in the NFL, Dawson is near the top of the league as well and owns, or is about to own, all of the Browns kicking records. Indeed, if Cribbs is the No. 1 player overall on the team, then Dawson is 1A.
Both are throwback players, too. Cribbs is the ultimate team guy who is willing to man just about any position on the field. He already has played a lot of those positions, in fact.
Dawson is the last remaining player left not just on the Browns, but in the NFL overall, from their 1999 expansion club. Talk about perseverance and being a survivor. But that's not where it ends. Long before the 2009 season began, Cribbs wanted his contract re-done. Now, at the end of the year, he is becoming much more adamant about it and may sit out further play until something is done, a threat he made back in training camp when he talked about foregoing the start of the 2009 regular season.
Dawson also went into the 2009 season wanting his contract reworked, thinking, like Cribbs, that his accomplishments had far outdistanced what he was being paid. He didn't sit out any of the season, but in protest, he did skip all of the so-called voluntary workouts. He may now be ready to join Cribbs on the list of dissatisfied players who, because they feel unappreciated, are willing to take it to the next, more decisive step.
In fact, it could be – could be -- that he's just done with football, period. He seems that upset, that disillusioned. Probably on purpose because he didn't want to be asked about his situation, Dawson was not around during the media availability period as players cleaned out their lockers a day after the season-ending 23-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. And though Dawson refused to discuss the situation as the season wore down, it was apparent he was upset with the fact there still has not been anything done with his contract, which was signed July 15, 2005 and extends through the 2010 season.
Despite missing five games in the first half of this season with a right (kicking leg) hamstring injury, and with his opportunities reduced drastically with an offense that was horrific for the first three-fourths of the year, Dawson still turned in a fine performance. He missed only two field-goal attempts all year, hitting 17-of-19 for a team-leading – by a wide margin – 69 points. He made his final six tries, including three against the Jaguars, and 11 of his last 12.
At 229-of-275 (83.3 percent), Dawson is tops for the Browns and No. 8 on the NFL's career accuracy list. Having passed Don Cockroft (216) earlier this year, he is in second place on the club's all-time field goals list and trails the leader, Pro Football Hall of Famer Lou Groza (234), by just five. With 966 points, he is still behind Cockroft (1,080) and is in third place on the Browns career scoring list.
Pretty impressive for someone who kicks on the shores of Lake Erie, where cold, snow and gusty, tricky winds – all enemies of any kicker -- are par for the course. Barring an injury like the one he suffered this year, it would still take Dawson a little over 3½ seasons at his current scoring rate to catch Groza (1,349).
But will Dawson be around long enough to do it? Do the Browns want him around long enough to do it? That remains to be seen. With the arrival of Mike Holmgren as team president, Dawson would be working under his fifth administrative regime. He doesn't seem sure he wants to continue.
He's tired of all the losing, and he's seen a lot of it – nine seasons out of 11 with a sub-.500 mark – since the new Browns took the field in 1999. He also seems disturbed about the laissez-faire attitude some of his teammates have had toward the losing in recent years. He has said any number of times that he would gladly trade all of his personal accomplishments for consistent trips to the playoffs.
The new Browns have made the postseason just one time, 2002, but lost in the first round. Still, Dawson thought the Browns were on their way then, but head coach Butch Davis, citing salary cap concerns, broke the team apart in the offseason and four straight losing records ensued. The Browns rebounded to go 10-6 in 2007 and narrowly missed earning a playoff berth. Again, Dawson had hope, but that hope was dashed when the club plummeted to 4-12 in 2008 and then 5-11 this year after a franchise-worst 1-11 start.
The fact he got hurt this season didn't help matters, either.
When it was mentioned to him several weeks ago that despite missing time to the injury, he was still having a good year, he shook his head in disagreement and said, "I got hurt. You never want to be out with an injury. That takes away from things.
"Like I've done each season, I'll wait until it's over to look back and see what I've done."
Dawson, however, may be looking at a lot more this year -- looking ahead even more so than behind to see if he wants to have any future at all in the NFL, whether it be with the Browns or anyone else. And if he does want to keep playing, then he has to consider if what he's being paid is worth it. Phil Dawson will have a busy offseason, as will be the case with the rebuilding – still, again -- Browns, and with his special teams buddy, Joshua Cribbs.