The Oakland Raiders will begin the second Jon Gruden era on Monday night when they face the Los Angeles Rams in the second game of ESPN’s Monday Night Football doubleheader.
The story of the offseason in Oakland has been Gruden’s arrival and his questionable decisions when it’s come to roster management. The biggest move of the Raiders’ summer was trading Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears last week for a pair of future first round picks. Mack was holding out of Raiders camp as he looked for a new contract in Oakland like what Aaron Donald received in L.A., and Gruden and the Raiders weren’t willing to put that kind of offer on the table.
Ultimately, they chose to deal him to the Bears, where he was a monster in the opener, with a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, and a pick six against the Packers — although it wasn’t enough to keep Aaron Rodgers from orchestrating a near miraculous comeback. Gruden, as he gets ready for his opener, sat down with his old colleagues at ESPN and, unsurprisingly, pulled the “he didn’t want to be here” card when asked about Mack and why the dominant defensive end was dealt.
Gruden’s statement is clearly an attempt to turn Raiders fans against Mack, with the familiar rhetoric coaches and front offices use in these sorts of contract disputes about how the player doesn’t want to be here because “he has a contract.” However, in the NFL, where guaranteed money is the only important thing and the full contract number is meaningless unless the team is the one reaping the most benefit from it, players have to leverage themselves into a new deal when their value peaks.
Mack didn’t want to be a part of the Raiders if they weren’t going to pay him his worth, which is a big difference than him not wanting to be with the team at all. Now he’s in Chicago, happily paid and still producing at an All-Pro level despite having a $90 million guaranteed deal. Oakland, meanwhile, is without its best defensive player and has a very sunburnt coach making a reported $100 million (that’s guaranteed) who is basically football Tom Thibodeau/Doc Rivers and wants players that were good when he was last at the peak of his coaching years.