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Cooper Trade Creates Chaos for Fans but Points to Organizational Plan

Cooper Trade Creates Chaos for Fans but Points to Organizational Plan

Just a few months after head coach Jon Gruden told the fans of Oakland he wanted to win a championship before the team moves to Las Vegas, the Raiders are in complete rebuild mode but it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There’s many in Raider Nation alleging Jon Gruden lied to them in July at the famed Ricky’s Sports Theatre and Grill in San Leonardo, Calif. when he told them he wanted to bring a championship to Oakland before the team relocates to Las Vegas in 2020. He also promised fans would see Khalil Mack.

Now, a few months removed from the love fest with fans, the team has traded former first-round draft pick Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for another first-round pick in 2019. Cooper, who is also represented by Mack’s agent Joel Segal, seemingly wasn’t happy and hasn’t exactly been on the same page with quarterback Derek Carr for some time. The specter of another contract negotiation with Segal wasn’t something general manager Reggie McKenzie and Gruden wanted to participate in. Segal and Cooper had made it known in the last several days the receiver was looking for a new contract in advance of his fifth-year option which kicks in next season. All of that led to Cooper being shipped off to Jerry World for yet another pick.

Still, the move shouldn’t be a surprise and really only strengthens the view the Raiders are in full-blown rebuild mode (yet again) focused squarely on building a team for when they arrive in the Silver State in 2020. With the possibility they may not play in Oakland in 2019, the organization has decided they are too far from building a true championship contender and are tearing it down to build it back up.

From a business perspective, it makes sense. That, of course, relies on people trusting that McKenzie and Gruden are trustworthy enough to make good use of the three first-round draft picks the Raiders will make in next spring’s draft. The timeline the team is working on is only known to them and it’s not something anyone in the organization will share with the media or the public. It’s not going to be popular in any fashion with Raider Nation who is at 20 years and counting (sans 2002) of on-the-field ineptitude. The emotional connection fans have with their team is real and valid but it’s not something you use to gauge business decisions in the NFL or any other type of business.

To pass judgment on these moves now reeks of short-term thinking. For fans, understandable. For observers of the league who know what it takes to build a sustained winner, there’s more to digest.

That’s not to say some of the moves – and the way they’ve been handled – aren’t worthy of exploration or dissection. In fact, things like the Mack trade will take years to judge if they were good, bad, or downright awful. Time gives a full view of impact and the impact of that trade will be debated until the end of time.

When it comes to Cooper, I believe it was absolutely a great move for the Raiders. The Cowboys overpayed and how can you blame the Raiders for jumping at that offer?

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Gruden and McKenzie are executing a plan no one knows the details of. You either trust in them, or you don’t.

Whatever the reason, I don’t believe Cooper was comfortable in Oakland and his desire for a new contract, despite declining numbers and suspect performance, was a big red flag. According to Pro Football Focus, Cooper’s yards per route, one indication of his performance over his young career, had declined steadily since his first two seasons. After opening his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Cooper’s numbers have continued to fall. Not all of that is his fault but there’s no denying something has changed for the talented wideout. The team no longer believed he was the answer long-term for the Raiders in Gruden’s offense.

Now, the Raiders have hit the motherlode with three first-round draft picks in 2019. One could argue they’ve created more holes by trading these players (and releasing them) but if you didn’t believe they were the right fit, keeping them would have been a futile exercise. There is something to be said for addition by subtraction, even if it means short-term pain. Perhaps even short-term misery.

In the same manner, private businesses have to build for revenue and growth over time, so to do professional sports franchises. Especially if there’s been a lack of consistency and continuity over time. I believe the Raiders are looking at their current state the same way. They know it’s going to hurt now but if you believe in your plan and roadmap for the future, you close your ears to the echo chamber and execute it. Gruden and company will be the butt of jokes and on the receiving end of continuous criticism until he proves them all wrong. If he does.

When you have a 10-year contract, you’re not concerned with public sentiment at this point. You execute the plan and trust it’s going to work. Fans don’t want to hear that but it’s the plain and simple fact. Some fans might jump ship and I can’t blame them. For those who don’t, it’s either going to be heaven or hell. Either the Raiders start over again and do it right this time, or they continue what we’ve seen since 2003.

To pass judgment on these moves now reeks of short-term thinking. For fans, understandable. For observers of the league who know what it takes to build a sustained winner, there’s more to digest.

The Raiders are saying: “In Gruden We Trust.”

They have a plan and they’re carrying it out. And they don’t care if it’s popular or not.

Scott Gulbransen is an accomplished broadcasting, social media, public relations, writing pro, and thought leader and the founder, host and executive producer of Silver and Black Today on the Raiders flagship station Raider Nation Radio in Las Vegas. He has managed and led public relations, social media and digital marketing at some of America's largest brands and is the former Global Head of Digital Content at Haymon Boxing, creators of the Premier Boxing Champions series.

10 Comments

10 Comments

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