On Saturday, the Oakland Raiders , pass-rusher Khalil Mack, to the Chicago Bears. Mack had been holding out for a contract extension throughout the offseason, but when the Bears offered the Raiders two first-round picks and a third-round pick in exchange for Mack and a second-round selection, the Raiders bit and dealt him away. Mack subsequently signed a that guaranteed him $90 million.
The move was met with almost immediate skepticism in NFL circles -- , most notably franchise quarterback Derek Carr, who had stated during the press conference announcing his own massive contract extension that he took a little less money than he could have so that the Raiders could retain players like guard Gabe Jackson and, well, Mack.
No way— Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) September 1, 2018
On Sunday, the Raiders' $100 million coach, Jon Gruden, finally addressed the Mack deal. True to form, Gruden's comments were interesting, to say the least. It had been reported in July that Gruden had not talked to Mack since he took the Raiders job in January, but he said during his talk with reporters that he talked to Mack after the deal was done.
Jon Gruden said he spoke to Khalil Mack after he was traded and thanked him for being a great Raider.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 3, 2018
Gruden maintained that he did not want to trade Mack when he took the job, and noted that Mack was one of the reasons he took it in the first place.
#Raiders coach Jon Gruden live on @nflnetwork for first time since the Khalil Mack trade. "It wasn't my goal to trade Khalil when we got here. One of the reasons I'm here is because of him." Says it was a contract standoff. Economics/salary cap factored.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 3, 2018
If that's the case, some of the other things he said are quite curious. On the subject of the extension negotiations with Mack that preceded his trade, Gruden said, "The negotiation was what it was. It was tough. It was a long process. We talked about it daily. We made an offer, I don't think it was anywhere close to the Bears."
He also said, however, that he was not involved with the day-to-day negotiations with Mack's agent. Oh, and he wasn't involved in the trade negotiations to also include a second-round pick in the deal.
Jon Gruden said he had “nothing to do” with the daily communication between Raiders, Khalil Mack’s agent Joel Segal. He did acknowledge economics was difficult with veteran QB Derek Carr not on rookie contract.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 3, 2018
Jon Gruden said he was not involved in including the second-round pick that went back to the Bears in the Khalil Mack trade.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 3, 2018
If Mack was one of the reasons Gruden took the job, why didn't he get involved in the negotiations for Mack's new contract before things spiraled to the point where the team had to deal him away? If Gruden didn't want to trade Mack, why didn't he step in and shut down the trade negotiations? Surely the guy the Raiders paid $100 million could have put a stop to the negotiations if he wanted to. And even if he didn't, why didn't he make an effort to reach out to Mack -- his best player -- at any time between January and after he was dealt?
But wait, there's more.
Despite professing that he was not involved in the negotiations, Gruden said that he felt that the Bears made a "unique" offer for Mack. He also said the team elected to trade him now because it felt there was no guarantee they'd get a similar return next offseason or at some other, later point.
So, despite his not being involved in the negotiations (contract or trade) and not wanting to trade Mack, he felt the offer was unique and the trade needed to be made now. Got that? Good. Because Gruden also wants you to know that he and general manager Reggie McKenzie were totally on the same page about the deal, despite the fact that Gruden wasn't involved and didn't want to trade Mack and didn't know about the inclusion of a second-round pick in the deal; and any insinuation to the contrary is just people outside the organization trying to divide them.
Gruden also acknowledged, however, that the team is going to be second-guessed for making the deal at all.
Gruden: “We’re going to be second-guessed until the cows come home and I understand that.”— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) September 3, 2018
And while many in and around the league are now asserting that this season will be one in which the Raiders do not compete, Gruden asserted that the plan is still to win right away. Even while saying that, however, Gruden noted that the team has a lot of holes that it needs to fill and that they need to build out the roster. As for how they'll rush the passer, he said it will be a group effort.
Can the #Raiders still win now? Gruden: "That's the plan. We're going to do everything we can to win. We also have to build this football team. We've had one winning season in 14 years." Hasn't said the word "rebuild" but keeps talking about all their holes, need to build, etc.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 3, 2018
Gruden on how they'll rush the passer without Khalil Mack: Says there are more ways than a four-man rush. "It's Arden Key's time. Bruce Irvin has to step up. That might mean more blitzing, we'll see."— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 3, 2018
So they're going to win right away but they also need to build and, well, everyone is going to replace Mack together. And in case you were wondering, Gruden did not want to trade Mack and he was not involved in the negotiations, but he thought the trade offer was unique but he didn't know about a major part of it, and also Mack was a great Raider.