When Jon Gruden first returned to the Raiders in 2018, he got started off with a bang. The veteran coach came in and quickly traded away the team’s best player in Khalil Mack. It was a move that was met with great controversy and it almost certainly looked like the wrong move in hindsight.
The way that we know it was the wrong move is that Gruden reportedly tried to trade back for the star pass rusher this offseason, according to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur. The Raiders haven’t adequately replaced Mack since they traded him away. Gruden is committed to winning this season and adding the former Defensive Player of the Year would’ve gone a long way towards making that happen.
Obviously, a trade never happened and the Raiders ended up signing a different pass rusher they like in Yannick Ngakoue. While it doesn’t seem like a huge deal that Gruden called the Bears about Mack, some thought it was proof of the coach’s incompetence.
Radio host Ken Carman came on strong against Gruden and claimed that the coach has “zero clue what he’s doing anymore.”
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Unfair to Criticize Gruden Over Mack Rumors
When it comes to the original Mack trade, Gruden deserves all the criticism in the world for how the situation went down. The pass rusher was at the top of his game and was the only thing keeping the Raiders’ defense from being a complete disaster. Gruden didn’t do a good enough job of keeping the star happy and making him an offer that he thought was fair.
However, Gruden doesn’t deserve to get criticized for trying to trade back for Mack. First of all, teams are constantly calling other teams about their best players. The Raiders probably aren’t the only team that called about Mack this offseason. Also, there’s nothing wrong with trying to rectify a mistake. Unless Damon Arnette and Bryan Edwards take major leaps in Year 2, then the Mack trade was objectively a mistake. Gruden deserves credit for understanding that he messed up and being willing to take a hit in the media if it means making his team better.
Any Chance Mack Returns to Raiders in the Future?
With the report that the Raiders made a call about Mack, it’s safe to say that the tension between the two sides is water under the bridge. It’s been a few years now so there’s no reason for Mack and the Raiders to have bad blood. While the pass rusher has been a stud for the Bears, he was much more productive when he was with the Raiders. He had three double-digit sack seasons with the silver and black as opposed to just one with Chicago.
Many fans would be excited to see Mack back with the Raiders but it’s just not likely to happen. He’s under contract until 2025 and will be 34 the next time he hits free agency. As great as Mack is, defensive linemen are typically past their prime by their mid-30s. Also, the Raiders may actually have a pair of young pass rushers they like. Ngakoue is only 26 while Maxx Crosby is 24. If those two pan out, the team has a great pass-rushing duo for several more years. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, Mack has likely played his last game with the Raiders.