As wild as it may seem when looking back at an Oakland Raiders offseason dominated by , things could be much worse for the team as they enter Week 5 of the 2019 season. Following an opening day victory against the Denver Broncos, they dropped two straight games but bounced back in a win against the Indianapolis Colts to land at an even 2-2 for now.
Of course, being the Raiders, there was bound to be another bout of drama sooner or later -- this time being the Jack Doyle -- which won't help their chances against a visiting Chicago Bears team that is bringing with them a very familiar face.for a dirty hit against Colts linebacker
This is where things can definitely get much worse for them, because that face belongs to linebacker Khalil Mack, the three-time All-Pro and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who was traded away by head coach Jon Gruden before the ink on Gruden's new contract with the Raiders had dried. Although a gaggle of draft picks went to Oakland in exchange for Mack, it's clear which team actually won the trade.
Since the move was executed in 2018, Mack has racked up 17 sacks for the Bears. The Raiders, as a team, have only 18 sacks in that same span. That's worst in the NFL, and it's so bad that the 31st-ranked Miami Dolphins have twice as many.
This coming Sunday will be the first time Mack plays his former team, and his continued dominance will be in his carry-on bag.
Gruden takes no pleasure in talking about the decision to send Mack packing instead of paying him what he wanted and obviously deserved, but he readily admits his plan was to keep the generational pass rusher in black and silver.
"I'm not going to get into all the drama," Gruden said as he readies to try and stop Mack from wrecking his offense in London this week, via Jason Lieser of Chicago Sun-Times. "We wanted to sign Mack, OK? We didn't want to trade him. I wish him the best.
"I'm not re-hashing all the drama. We wanted to have him. We couldn't make it happen."
Obviously, couldn't and wouldn't are two separate encumbrances, but Gruden holds firm to the former. That said, he's far from naive regarding how destructive Mack can be, and also gives the Bears a nod for how they scheme the four-time Pro Bowler into situations that give him the best chance at succeeding on any given play.
"Not a lot has changed when I watch Khalil play," Gruden said. 'He's a great player. They move around, so he's hard to find at times. They have a lot of other players on defense that are concerning to us also.
"So he's a great player -- a great effort player certainly -- and he's surrounded on all three levels by talent. And they also have depth. We're going to have our hands full, that's for sure."
Mack hasn't had a season without a double-digit sack tally since his rookie year, and already has 4.5 sacks through the first four games of 2019. For his part, the coming battle with a team that chose to swap him out for a handful of draft picks is not as emotionally charged as you might think. Instead, the even-keeled Mack remains in machine mode -- treating it like it's just another day at the office.
"Vindictiveness? I like that word," Mack said to the Chicago Sun-Times, when asked if he felt any of that creeping into his motivation as he preps for Gruden's bunch, before ratcheting down any presumed emotions. "You can't play this game with too much emotion. Ultimately, I try to stay focused on the task at hand, understanding the situation. Absolutely there's feelings that you suppress, but it's also no big deal to me.
"I'm here. I love the Bears. We're gonna go out and try to get this win."
The cyborg did finally reveal a bit of his human side before he ended his talk with the media, though, in a rather blunt statement that should send a very real chill down the spine of quarterback and former teammate Derek Carr -- who's already been sacked eight times in four games.
"You could say I'm suppressing the emotional side," Mack confessed. "But the other side is to go out and make them pay for it."