No hard feelings for Mack
Now that he’s back, in body if not in spirit, look for Alex Mack to behave himself and continue his career with the Browns as if nothing happened.
That’s the way it’s done when acrimonious acts occur during one’s career. He is a professional and most likely will act like one once he returns to Berea.
It’ll be business as usual because that’s the way it should be.
Once cornered by the media, you can expect something like this from the veteran center: “It’s strictly business. I meant nothing personal to the fans or the team or the city of Cleveland. Right now, I just want to focus on playing football and be the best player I can be.”
In actuality, he told cleveland.com Saturday that he’s happy. “It’s been a long, hard road, but I’m here and I’m happy,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m fired up. There’s no bad blood. Now that it’s done, I’m happy.” He’s also a wee bit wealthier.
Matching the Jacksonville Jagwires’ offer sheet was something the Browns had to do. The Cleveland offensive line, overrated for some reason the last couple of years by veteran observers of the National Football League, could not afford to lose Mack.
Bringing in a new center via the college draft or free agency would have exacerbated the situation. In building an offensive line, you don’t want to start new at the second most important position (blind-side tackle being the most important) on the offensive line.
Do not underestimate the importance of the center. He’s not some slug who snaps the ball to the quarterback. He is the linchpin. Everything revolves around him. Everyone else on the line get their blocking assignment changes from him. He is the smartest man on the line.
Watch a center once he sets himself over the ball at the beginning of a play. His head is on a swivel. He is the key to the success or failure of every play. And when a play fails, it is not necessarily the fault of the center. Four other guys have to carry out their assignments properly, too.
Mack, through hard work and diligence, rose to Pro Bowl status with a team that had no identity. To be recognized by his peers playing a position that is virtually anonymous to the ordinary fan was a signal honor.
Perhaps it was that reward that emboldened him to seek his escape from Cleveland. Who could blame him for wanting to leave behind all the losing, all the frustration of playing well for naught?
And now that he’s back for at least the next two seasons, the Browns are on the clock. During that time, they have to show Mack that losing football will not be tolerated anymore. They’ve got to build a winner and they’ve got to start right now.
But they can’t do it with words. As former Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer used to say, “Deeds, gentlemen, not words. Deeds.”
It is incumbent on Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine and those responsible for turning this sad franchise around to start making the right moves. Not just a few here and there. All the right moves. No slipups.
Sure it won’t be easy. But it can be done. With 10 picks in the upcoming college draft, rated by many experts as the best and deepest draft in nearly a generation, the opportunity to finally rid this franchise of its losing ways is clearly coming into focus.
For most of the last 15 seasons, fans have clamored for a team to rid once and for all the stench of the ones that became the butt of jokes on a national level. It is time to turn the Factory of Sadness into the Factory of Happiness, Joy, Merriment. Whatever.
Even though it has a three-year hole in its history, this franchise is still very much alive and rooted in winning football. Yes, the last 15 years have been miserable from a performance standpoint. No one could have forecast such misery once the NFL righted a terrible wrong.
Some day, though, when historians look back at the fortunes of the Cleveland Browns, they just might point to the day they matched the Jacksonville offer sheet for Mack as the day the franchise began its comeback.
Ironically, his supposed desire to leave Cleveland and subsequent return might turn out to be the driving force behind the comeback of the Browns. At 28, he is now entering the prime years of his career.
All that hard work finally paid off.