Why Would Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders Trade Khalil Mack, the Team’s Best Player?

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos speaks with Khalil Mack #52 of the Oakland Raiders after the Oakland Raiders defeat of the Denver Broncos 21-14 in their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 26, 2017 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)
Khalil Mack will be a Chicago Bear.
Robert Reiners/Getty Images

Khalil Mack is headed to Chicago. According to reports, the Oakland Raiders are sending the star defensive end to the Bears in exchange for draft picks, including two first-rounders. Mack was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, and he has one more year left on his contract. The Oakland front office didn’t give him the kind of lucrative offer that similarly accomplished players have obtained this offseason, and they opted to clear Mack off the books instead.

Rarely, if ever, will you see one of the league’s best players get traded during his prime. Judging by their tweets from Saturday morning, Mack’s former teammates in Oakland aren’t exactly thrilled by the move.

Oakland will save some money by shipping out their best defensive player, but this frugality looks pretty silly when you consider the team just gave Jon Gruden a 10-year, $100 million contract to become head coach. Gruden hasn’t coached in the NFL for a decade, but Raiders owner Mark Davis was happy to hand him the keys to the franchise’s future anyway.

Reports indicate that Gruden was the driving force behind the Mack trade, and he has a history of preferring unheralded players on short contracts to expensive stars. To borrow a catchphrase from his Monday Night Football broadcasting days, Mack apparently isn’t a “Gruden Grinder.”

When Gruden speaks to reporters on Sunday, they will certainly ask him to explain his decision to send Mack to the Bears. How does a coach defend a move that plainly makes his team worse? Will Gruden be able to provide the clear reasoning and eloquence required by the moment? Perhaps this video of his elocutionary prowess from preseason offers a glimpse of what to expect.

Boom boom, indeed.