March 1, 2013

Rookie of the Year: Joe Cribbs, 1980


Running Back, Buffalo Bills



Age: 22
College: Auburn
Height: 5’11” Weight: 190

Prelude:
Buffalo’s running game had been subpar in 1979 with Terry Miller as the feature back, and the Bills took Cribbs in the second round of the ’80 NFL draft. Small but versatile – and having gained 4561 all-purpose yards and scored 34 touchdowns in college - it was anticipated that he would at least initially return kicks, but he quickly moved into the starting lineup as well.

1980 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 306 [4]
Most attempts, game - 30 (for 90 yds.) vs. Oakland 9/28, (for 118 yds.) vs. New England 10/26
Yards – 1185 [6, tied with Tony Dorsett]
Most yards, game – 128 yards (on 18 carries) at San Francisco 12/21
Average gain – 3.9
TDs – 11 [3, tied with Tony Dorsett & Curtis Dickey]
100-yard rushing games – 3

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 52      
Most receptions, game – 9 (for 71 yds.) vs. Miami 9/7
Yards – 415
Most yards, game - 71 (on 9 catches) vs. Miami 9/7
Average gain – 8.0
TDs – 1

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 2
Yards – 39
Average per return – 19.5
TDs – 0

Punt Returns
Returns – 29 [18, tied with Keith Wright]
Yards – 154
Most yards, game – 46 (on 3 ret.) at NY Jets 11/9
Average per return – 5.3
TDs – 0
Longest return – 16 yards

All-Purpose yards – 1793 [5]

Passing
Attempts – 1
Completions – 1
Yards – 13
TDs – 0

Scoring
TDs – 12 [5]
Points – 72

Postseason: 1 G (AFC Divisional playoff at San Diego)
Rushing attempts – 18
Rushing yards – 53
Average gain rushing – 2.9
Rushing TDs – 0

Pass receptions – 4
Pass receiving yards - 36
Average yards per reception – 9.0
Pass Receiving TDs - 0

Awards & Honors:
AFC Rookie of the Year: UPI
1st-team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Bills went 11-5 to finish first in the AFC East with their first winning season in five years. Lost AFC Divisional playoff to San Diego Chargers (20-14).

Aftermath:
Cribbs followed up his outstanding rookie season by gaining 1700 yards from scrimmage in 1981 (1097 rushing, 603 receiving) and was again selected to the Pro Bowl. Due to a contract holdout, he missed the first two games of the strike-shortened ’82 season but was effective upon the resumption of play with 633 rushing yards in seven games, although his productivity as a receiver out of the backfield dropped considerably. Cribbs rebounded in 1983 with 1131 rushing yards and 524 more yards on 57 pass receptions, garnering a third Pro Bowl selection. He jumped to the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL in 1984 and led the spring league in rushing with 1467 yards while also catching 39 passes for 500 yards. He gained a further 1047 rushing yards and caught 41 passes in 1985. With the demise of the USFL, Cribbs returned to the Bills during the ’85 season before moving on to San Francisco for two years in a part-time role. His career came to an end in a 1988 season split between the Colts and Dolphins. In the NFL, Cribbs rushed for 5356 yards and 27 TDs on 1309 carries (4.1 avg.) and caught 224 passes for 2199 yards and 15 touchdowns. With the USFL, he rushed for 2514 yards on 564 attempts (4.5 avg.) and 15 TDs and had 80 catches for 787 yards and six TDs.

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Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

[Updated 2/4/14]

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