New Silver and Black Today contributor Chaz Osborne revisits the most controversial move of the Raiders 2018 rebuild: the trade of Khalil Mack. Was the move less about money and more about Jon Gruden not believing Mack was the right fit?
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? – Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men
We live in a world that has end zones, and those end zones have to be guarded by men with guts. Defense wins, period.
Jon Gruden didn’t come back to the Raiders with the intent to trade his best defensive player – quite the opposite. Kahlil Mack was a large part of the reason Gruden returned to coaching after a ten-year hiatus. So why was he ultimately traded?
After spending $55 million in free agency, and not saving cap space to restructure Mack, some say it was premeditated.
When a coach or general manager takes a position with a new team, it is widely speculated that they like to clean house and bring in “their own guys.” A perfect example of that would be in 2012 when the Raiders hired GM Reggie McKenzie to bring stability back to the franchise. The first move he made was firing the first-year head coach Hue Jackson after an 8-8 season. “He wanted to bring in his own guys. No job is safe right now” Jackson said after the firing.
So was it a case of Mack not being a Gruden guy? Not likely. Mack is an every team guy confirmed by the fact that more than half the teams in the league called for his services and Chicago gladly paid the hefty ransom without blinking.
No, it was a comedy of errors that led to this catastrophe.
Let’s start with the less-than-stellar Raiders 2018 free agent shopping spree.
Generally, when a team hires a new head coach, especially a high profile coach, the GM and owner will appease them with a little more input in the draft and free agency. That might explain the black Friday frenzy that happened last March. Another factor may have been the early extension of Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson’s contracts that didn’t leave enough room to tie Mack up long-term after the 2017 season. Or is it possible that the brain trust expected Mack to just tow the company line and play out his rookie contract?
Although Mack’s departure doesn’t have the vendetta feel of the Marcus Allen debacle, it does have the cash grab feel of the Gruden trade to Tampa Bay. No owner in professional sports (with the exception of Donald Sterling) wants to be known for being cheap. Not extending a generational talent like Mack feels oddly similar to not extending a promising and successful young head coach. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain my disappointment in both moves.
The bottom line is you cannot blame Mack for knowing his worth and getting what he deserved. I know it haunts Raider Nation that he is leading the league in forced fumbles and in the four games he has played in prime time this year. Mack has looked like a football god descending from the heavens to wreak total havoc against the other teams’ offense.
We understand owner Mark Davis has a greater responsibility than we could possibly fathom. Still, the sting will not go away until Gruden and company execute effectively in the upcoming draft. They have three first-round picks and there is no room for error.
Whether it was a comedy of errors or a calculated risk, the only thing that matters for the Raiders and their fans now is doing a better job in the next two drafts than they did in the two drafts following the Gruden trade to Tampa.
Channeling Nicholson as Colonel Jessup once again: do I make myself clear?