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2,510 > 2,509

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland

Cleveland--The National Football League has a curious definition for its "Total Yards" statistic. There are numerous ways that a football player can accumulate yardage, ask Cleveland Browns Renaissance Man, Josh Cribbs. However, Total Yards is defined as the "the total of net gain rushing yards and net gain receiving yards from forward passing. Runback yards are not included, as only yards from scrimmage are measured."

First off, the NFL brass should know not to use a term in its definition. Second, what kind of "total" excludes a statistic?

All this discussion on the terminology stems from the recent NFL awards being handed out. Tennessee Titans running back, Chris Johnson, rightfully took home the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award. Much was made of his record-breaking 2,509 Total Yards in validating the outcome of the vote. This statistic surpassed that of Marshall Faulk during his "Greatest Show on Turf" days of 1999.

For this next section 3rd grade level mathematics and 5th grade scientific displacement logic will be used. Chris Johnson logged 2,006 with the ball placed directly into his hands from the quarterback, post-snap. "Analysts" have been known to call these "rushing yards." In addition, the Titans back caught 50 forward passes in the air. The distance the ball travels in the air--starting at the line of scrimmage all the way to the point of completion--plus any extra yardage run after the catch is allegedly called "receiving yards." Chris Johnson also had some of these; 503 to be exact. Taking the 503 and the 2,006 is how the NFL arrived at the awarding of a record 2,509 "Total Yards."

Here is where things become grey in my mind. I will not deny that Chris Johnson has a record 2,509 "Offensive Yards," but they are hardly all-inclusive. Josh Cribbs had more all-purpose yards.

Those same third graders that were doing the computations for me earlier just informed me that Cribbs' 381 yards rushing and 135 yards receiving only total 516 yards, nearly 2,000 yards shy of Johnson.

Oh, I forgot to mention the 452 yards on punt returns and the 1,542 yards from kick-off returns. Factor those in, and Cribbs eclipses Johnson by a single yard (Chris Johnson did not have one punt or kick-off return all season) 2,510 to 2,509. Cribbs' total is also the fifth most regular season all-purpose yards in NFL history.

Call it "All-Purpose" or "Total Yards" or whatever you like, but neither stat is reflective of Josh Cribbs' value to his team. The Browns' offense ranked dead last in the League yet they won 5 games. He scored 6 touchdowns for a team that mustered only 25 all season. This is not too bad for a person that only accounted for 516 offensive "Total Yards" and is listed on only as a Wide Receiver. Without uncovering the stats, no one can fully appreciate all that he has done for a poor football team. Josh Cribbs' ability to switch field position
was their offense, and he should be compensated accordingly (finances and statistics).

On second thought, the best solution is to create a new statistic of all runs, catches, and any type of return and just name it after Josh Cribbs. The first step is to throw out the distance the ball travels in receiving yards, and bring in the more telling Yards After Catch (YAC). Doing this makes it the statistic to end all statistics; weeding out the men from the boys. It would encompass
yards a player runs with the ball in his hands. In simplistic 5th grade terms, "Over the course of 16 games, who can personally travel with the football the furthest?"

Of the 503 receiving yards Chris Johnson accumulated, 445 yards were after the catch. This brings his "Cribbs Stat" down to a final 2,451 yards. Cribbs' 80 YAC bring his self-titled stat down to a final 2,455. He still beats Johnson.

The elimination of the the ball flight from the receiving yards does cost Cribbs the 2009 title: Fred Jackson amassed 2,504 by virtue of recording zero receptions. Give Cribbs some bonus points and the crown for being a more well-rounded football player.
Put another way, Josh Cribbs traveled 1.39 miles--ball in hands and 11 opponents trying to bring him down. Anyway you slice it, Cribbs is a man's man and should be given his due for an underrated 2009 season.

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