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Kevin Mack still vividly remembers what it was like to play in the last dominant Browns era, where making the playoffs was the standard and finishing atop the AFC Central was expected each year.
Mack, who now works in alumni relations with the Browns, was a running back for the team from 1985-1993 and played with quarterback Bernie Kosar and running back Earnest Byner. The Browns made the playoffs in each of Mack’s first five seasons with an aggressive, hard-nosed offense, but the franchise hasn’t sustained a similar run of offensive success since their era.
The current Browns, however, remind Mack of his former team, and he believes the new offensive weapons on the Browns offense will live up to the hype.
“I think they have a chance to be really, really good this year, a lot better than most people think,” Mack said. “I don't like to make predictions and put pressure on people.”
The Cleveland Browns Presents: Club 46 - player stories through generations of football
Mack sees similarities in quarterback Baker Mayfield with Kosar, who was the last Browns quarterback to throw for more than 3,500 yards in a season until Derek Anderson threw for 3,787 yards in 2007 and Mayfield totaled 3,725 yards last season.
It’s not just Mayfield’s style of play, however, where Mack sees similarities. Mayfield isn’t afraid to show his confidence, and while Kosar was never one of the most exuberant quarterbacks in the league, Mack believes the two still shared the same level of determination.
“You want your quarterback to be out there and show some confidence,” Mack said. “A lot of people don't realize that Bernie was a really confident guy. He didn't display it the way Baker does.
“(Kosar) knew what he was doing and knew what everybody else around him was doing. Sometimes he would change things up and you'd go, ‘OK, what made you do that?’ It would be perfect, so I think we might be seeing a little bit of that return in Baker.”
Mack is optimistic about the Browns’ running back situation, too. He believes Nick Chubb, who ran for 996 yards last season as a rookie, is set for a fruitful NFL career, and Mack appreciates Chubb’s aggressiveness when he bursts through the line.
It’s the same running style Mack, who was nicknamed “Mack Truck,” thrived with when he moved to fifth on the Browns’ all-time rushing list with 5,123 yards. Chubb likely isn’t concerned about personal accolades — he just wants to help the team win — but if he continues to mimic Mack’s running style, the Browns’ backfield should be set for the future.
“The first few times I saw (Chubb) run I was like, “Oh my God,” Mack said. “He breaks through the line, and it's like, somebody better catch this guy. He's gone. We could have ‘Mack Truck Junior’ here.”
The Browns have persevered through their ups and downs since Mack played his last snap with the Browns in 1993, but he hasn’t noticed any change in the fan support he witnessed during his playing days.
“I just think it's amazing how the fans of the Browns have given 100 percent no matter what,” Mack said. “No matter the circumstances or conditions, they had open arms for this organization and the teams that passed through.”
Now, Mack believes the fans’ wait for another booming era of Browns football could be over.