New (again) Raiders coach Jon Gruden was the driving force behind Oakland’s decision to trade all-world linebacker Khalil Mack rather than offer him a new deal. The Bears have reaped the more immediate benefits of that decision, as Mack’s ability to take over a game was on full display last night in Chicago’s eventual loss to Green Bay.
Gruden’s Raiders have their season opener tonight against the Rams as the late-game of ESPN’s now-annual Monday Night Football doubleheader, and (a surprisingly red) Gruden tried to sell the move as being a result of Mack’s desire to play elsewhere:
"Obviously, Khalil Mack didn't want to be here."
– Jon Gruden pic.twitter.com/t1NQzF5bVo
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 10, 2018
That idea was immediately refuted as, well, wrong:
This is just blatantly false from Gruden. It's not true. https://t.co/JvdKmcYvKD
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) September 10, 2018
What Mack actually wanted was to be paid his market value, a salary the Bears were willing to pay on top of sending a slew of draft picks to the Raiders. That there were plenty of other teams interested in doing exactly what the Bears did (even if none were willing to pay quite the same price in draft assets) suggests a wide gulf between what Gruden was willing to give Mack.
That Gruden would attempt to spin it this way isn’t surprising; it’s the go-to move for most coaches (especially those like Gruden with a ton of sway in personnel decisions), assuming fans will take it at face value. It’s a bit harder when current members of the team know the story full well, and have a very easy pipeline to speak their minds too. Here’s Bruce Irvin on Mack’s performance last night, for example:
100 million ain’t change Shit! My dawg still playing like it’s a contract year!
— Bruce Irvin (@BIrvin_WVU11) September 10, 2018
In the process, he even managed to meme himself:
When someone tells you, “When you really think about it, you now have a chance to draft *two* Khalil Macks.” pic.twitter.com/HYICQXxR2B
— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) September 10, 2018
Jon Gruden giving skin cancer the full come at me bro pic.twitter.com/OUPwmHOqw3
— BUM CHILLUPS (@edsbs) September 10, 2018
tfw you find out that if you show up before 6 pm, the west palm beach olive garden gives you a bowl of pasta AND another bowl of pasta to go pic.twitter.com/K41UQ36TCo
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 10, 2018
When Gruden was re-hired, there were plenty of questions about how he’d adjust to what is essentially a completely different league with a new generation of players. In attempting to spin the Mack story like this, Gruden is trying an outdated strategy that isn’t likely to fool anyone.
We’ll have to wait and see whether that will apply to his offense, too.