Let’s take a long trip back to the Eric Mangini era of the Cleveland Browns. While we had some horrendous teams since 1999, the 2009 season stuck out the most to me, because not only was the team bad, but it had a severe lack of talent. There were certainly exceptions, and Alex Mack was one of them.
The only draft pick to really work out for the Browns in the 2009 draft, Alex Mack proved to be a phenomenal selection. Selected in the first round, Mack quickly cemented himself on the offensive line and overtook Hank Fraley for the starting job at center. Mack, alongside linemate Joe Thomas, established the Cleveland offensive line as one of the best in the NFL. The run game improved for Cleveland significantly: In 2008, the Browns had 1605 rushing yards. And in 2009? 2087 rushing yards! Remember when Jerome Harrison rushed for 286 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas City that year? Well, you can thank Mack for that.
The 2010 season demonstrated just how tough Alex Mack was. He played through an appendicitis, had an appendectomy during the Browns’ bye week, and came right back for the next game. After a stellar sophomore campaign, Mack was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl appearance and had one of the greatest touchdowns of all time. Mack caught a lateral pass from Montell Owens and ran it 40 yards for an epic touchdown. He even deflected Roman Harper who was trying to stop him.
Mack returned for the 2014 season, however his iron man streak came to a screeching halt. After 85 consecutive starts, Mack broke his leg during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a season where the Browns could have possibly made the playoffs and I have to think that our success derailed in large part to Mack’s injury. The offensive line just crumbled afterwards, and our quarterbacks started getting sacked frequently.
This past season was a disaster for the Cleveland Browns. A dismal 3-13 record highlighted the turmoil that was occurring with the team. After cleaning house, Hue Jackson was brought in to be the next Cleveland Browns coach. Unfortunately, he wasn’t enough to convince Mack to stay here. See, Mack had an opt-out clause in his contract and he used it to become a free agent. He signed with the Atlanta Falcons for a five year $45 million dollar deal. Mack was the second of the “big four” free agent to leave us.
I’ll remember Alex Mack for his tenacious game on the offensive line. He was a phenomenal center who would give defenders no room to rush the quarterback and did a solid job of blocking for the running back. It was an absolute joy to see our offensive line as one of the most dominant in the NFL. I hope to see our offensive line strong once more in the future.
GOOD LUCK, ALEX!