Cribbs playing for the Bills in 1981
|No. 20, 28, 30|
January 5, 1958 |
|Height:||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight:||190 lb (86 kg)|
|High school:||Sulligent (AL)|
|NFL Draft:||1980 / Round: 2 / Pick: 29|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Joe Stanier Cribbs (born January 5, 1958) is a retired National Football League and United States Football League football running back. He played collegiately at Auburn University along with future NFL backs William Andrews and James Brooks. He began his professional career in 1980 with the Buffalo Bills.
After being drafted in the second round of the 1980 NFL Draft, Cribbs went on to start all 16 games of his rookie year with Buffalo, finishing with 1185 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. His performance earned him consensus UPI AFC Rookie of the Year honors and a spot in the Pro Bowl, the only rookie chosen as a starter that year. In five seasons with the team, split around a detour with the USFL, Cribbs had 13 100-yard games and ran for 1,000 yards in a season three times.
In the spring of 1984, Cribbs left the Bills in a contract dispute and signed on as a member of the Birmingham Stallions of the United States Football League (USFL).
Cribbs was to serve as the president of Team Alabama of the AAFL, which suspended operations shortly before it was slated to play its first games. Almost immediately, Cribbs was named commissioner of the United National Gridiron League, which likewise failed ever to play a game).
Joe Cribbs played college football at Auburn. He played his first college football game in 1976, and when the season was over, he had 171 yards on 43 rushing attempts. He got more playing time in 1977, with 872 yards on 161 rushing attempts. He scored four touchdowns as a rusher. He also caught six passes for 51 yards.
1978 was the breakout year. Cribbs rushed for 1,205 yards in 253 attempts, scoring 16 touchdowns, and averaging well over hundred yards a game. He was a threat out of the backfield as well, catching right passes. He was also used on gadget plays as well. Cribbs passed the ball four times, completing three passes for 74 yards.
In 1979, Cribbs final season at Auburn, Cribbs had 200 rushing attempts for 1,120 yards, and scored 14 touchdowns rushing
Cribbs was an immediate success playing for the NFL team which drafted him, the Buffalo Bills, and was named the American Football Conference Rookie of the Year for the 1980 season and as a starter in the Pro Bowl. He also played very well in each of the two subsequent seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl again following each. When the NFL played an abbreviated 9 game schedule due to the strike-shortened season in 1982, Cribbs was only able to play in 7 games but nonetheless lead the league with 90.4 rushing yards per game. Cribbs was not exactly happy in Buffalo, however, as he especially disliked playing in their infamous cold-weather home games. With one year left on his contract with the Bills, Cribbs signed a contract with the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL. In the summer of 1983, Cribbs officially inked a contract with Birmingham worth $3.5 million.
However, the Bills challenged the contract, citing that they had first right of refusal. This clause had been in Cribbs' original contract with the Buffalo Bills. This was placed in the contract in order to protect Buffalo in case there was no collective bargaining agreement and to prevent another NFL team from signing Cribbs in that event. However, obviously there was no mention of a prohibition of any team from the USFL signing Cribbs, as that league was yet to be formed when Cribbs signed his contract with the Bills.
The trial was held in Buffalo, and one of the people testifing for the Bills was head coach Kay Stephenson, who stated that Joe Cribbs was irreplaceable in the Bills lineup. Federal Judge John T. Elfvin heard the case. While the trial was going on, Cribbs continued to work out with the Stallions. When the verdict came down, Judge Elfvin ruled in favor of Cribbs, allowing him to play for the Birmingham Stallions.
Cribbs was a fairly major star with the Stallions; however the USFL folded after its 1985 season and Cribbs then returned to play in the NFL. Cribbs played for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1986 and 1987 seasons. He then divided the 1988 season between the Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins prior to his retirement. During this return stint in the NFL, Cribbs never came truly close to the level of consistency which had put him into three consecutive Pro Bowls early in the decade.
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