If you look at the headlines, people think Khalil Mack is battling the Raiders organization. In reality, his beef and animosity probably lies with one man, Jon Gruden. Reggie McKenzie drafted Mack fourth overall and wanted to throw money in his direction. McKenzie found himself on the other side of the facility door. Now, Khalil Mack stands across the field, looking at his former team.
When the Raiders traded Mack, the edge rusher did not disparage his former team or fanbase. Mack thanks the club and the Nation, in an earnest, sincere manner. In so many other occasions, former players shade or insult where they arrived from. In all honesty, the Raiders put out a statement that was similarly classy.
“RaiderNation the love you’ve shown my family and I for the past 4 years has been amazing we loved every minute of it! Unfortunately it has come to an end but I will cherish my time in Oakland forever and will forever have love for the Nation!”
When the Raiders hired Jon Gruden, talk of re-signing Mack surfaced immediately. In front of hundreds of fans at a gathering, Gruden vowed to ink Mack to a deal. During the summer, this dragged on and Mack did not show. Over the summer, Gruden’s tone changed rapidly. while circumstances change, telling the truth should not. During an interview with ESPN reporter Lisa Salters, Gruden stated
“Obviously, Khalil Mack didn’t want to play here. That’s what’s being missed here,” Gruden told ESPN’s Lisa Salters.
No, Khalil Mack wanted a raise. He rightfully felt that the Raiders needed to pay him what his talent and production commanded. Instead of admitting this, Gruden sought to change the narrative, attempting to turn the fanbase against him. This comment rings in the ears of objective, rational fans.
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For the first time in his career, Khalil Mack operates within a scheme that accentuates his talent. Despite the Bears changing coordinators, Mack enjoys phenomenal success. Playing with an actual plan works wonders. In 18 games with Chicago, Mack tallied 17 sacks and forced ten fumbles. Meanwhile, the Raiders continually fail to get into the backfield with any semblance of consistency.
While people expect the Bears to make a Super Bowl run in the next few years, that pales in comparison to the heat on Gruden. Taking 100 million dollars of the Davis fortune, everyone demands rapid improvement from the Raiders. More importantly, ego surfaces here. You have to know that Gruden heard the whispers about winning a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s players. Under those circumstances, dismantling and rebuilding the Raiders needed to happen for Gruden. For the most part, the roster mirrors his vision. As a result, the onus to win also falls solely on his shoulders.
Did people forget that Al Davis traded Gruden to Tampa, only to destroy Oakland in the Super Bowl? Yet, Mack gets grief and words about wanted more money. That does not sync for me. Each person, Mack and Gruden wanted to improve their situation in the game. While some fans understand the nature of football, others hold a resentment to Mack. Yet, these are the same people that will change jobs for a raise. We all want fair compensation for our skill set. Football is a hobby for most, but a career for the fortunate few. Know the difference.
In essence, Khalil Mack and the Raiders remain intertwined. Also, within that entanglement, Jon Gruden’s decision looms large. If the Raiders win multiple Super Bowls under Gruden, some will absolve him for the deal. However, if Mack continues to excel at this level, this trade will follow Jon Gruden forever and haunt the Raiders.