Jon Gruden bears the brunt of brutal feedback regarding the Khalil Mack trade to the Bears. Former team executive of the year, GM Reggie McKenzie, gets a free pass, albeit a damning one as to his position with the Raiders organization.
Gruden should have been named GM/head coach if he truly is the sole force behind the decision to take two first-round picks for the only franchise-type player on his roster.
There are technical reasons why GM McKenzie would make that call. For one, the Raiders would be significantly hamstrung in future free agent markets if they handed Mack more money than they already paid their quarterback.
Teams like Chicago, with quarterbacks playing out their inexpensive rookie deals, could afford to give Mack an extension and still have plenty of cap room and maneuverability.
Maybe McKenzie comes from the old-school notion that you can find adequate pass rushers in every draft. But unless Oakland comes up with the next Lawrence Taylor and… well, Khalil Mack with those two picks, upcoming Chicago playoff runs will have Raider Nation grumbling menacingly.
Of course, it is more likely Jon Gruden is the old school influence in Oakland. I happen to be a fan of old school football, too. Part of that “old-school-ism” is an absolute annoyance at players under contract who hold out in search of a raise or extension.
NFL football is a hard sport. Players endure far more physical wear and tear than any human being should. Injuries can derail a career and a life with one big hit or a series of lesser hits.
Sacrificing your body to entertain others and pad team owners’ bank accounts is a thankless task. I am on the players’ side when it comes to getting the big payday. But, a contract is a contract.
Odell Beckham Jr just convinced another old-school management team to make him the highest-paid wide receiver in history. There is no doubt in my mind he would still be looking for that payday if he failed to show up at offseason workouts and preseason practices.
Los Angeles’ recent deal with Aaron Donald made it impossible for Oakland to come up with a team-friendly contract extension, even if Gruden was willing to negotiate one.
But based on the reports that Donald and the Raiders didn’t even talk about the contract during his holdout, I have to believe this is supposed to be a lesson from Gruden to future hold out players.
Gruden has no intention of investing money in players who are not 100% devoted to the Oakland Raiders. To him, that means the Raiders come before money.
That is easy to say when your boss already guaranteed you $100 million dollars to make whatever decisions you want.
Oakland blew up that lesson, however, by dealing with Chicago. Chicago is a team on the rise. Mack will not only get paid, but he goes to a team with a much better supporting cast and playoff odds.
So, what is the lesson? You can’t be a Raider? So what? There are 31 other teams who will pay Gruden’s future holdout players eventually.
All Gruden’s stubbornness did was let Matt Nagy and the Bears jump several seasons ahead of him in the rebuilding effort. If Gruden really wanted to serve Mack up as an example, he needed to let him to sit out the season until he accepted Oakland’s best offer or agreed to finish out his current contract.
Maybe that was the plan until the Bears made an offer the Raiders couldn’t refuse. Whatever happened, this is a victory for the young and talented player and a lesson to consider for the old school coach.