After Khalil Mack was traded, much of Raider Nation and the rest of the NFL community were shocked that it actually happened. The Oakland Raiders had traded a future Hall of Fame player.
Adding salt to the wound, in his debut Bears performance, Mack completely dominated the Packers offensive line as he finished with one sack, a forced fumble, fumble recovery while putting the cherry on top with a pick six. It was exactly the type of game Raider fans had grown accustomed to seeing on a weekly basis, only this time, he was in the wrong uniform.
Mack’s performance proved three things:
2. It also serves as a reason for his departure from Oakland. Big money could be spent on a non-quarterback, but it doesn’t guarantee wins. Aaron Rodgers’ epic comeback over the Khalil Mack led Bears on Sunday Night Football proved that money invested in a franchise quarterback is money well spent.
Wait…did Aaron Rodgers just sort of prove Gruden's point?
— Christopher Hansen (@ChrisHansenNFL) September 10, 2018
3. It also provides some justification to Gruden’s previous comments about the Raiders defense when it featured Mack.
The former DPOY was demanding the Mother Lode and the Raiders weren’t budging. Why? Gruden is focused on the long-term while still being dialed in on winning now. Many are quick to judge the Raiders for this move, but there is actually logic behind it. This isn’t to suggest Mack isn’t worth the money either, it’s just under the right circumstances and with the current situation in Oakland, it wasn’t feasible.
Had the Raiders made certain roster moves to free up money to pay Mack, it creates several dilemmas. First off, the team would’ve had to part ways with other viable players, likely on the offensive side of the ball, to pay one person instead. Secondly, the team would also be without tons of money that could be spent to improve the defense across the board, rather than one individual. Third, by trading Mack, Oakland then retains the players it would have otherwise cut, save money, and on top of that added future (likely high) draft picks.
But how could this move help the team win now?
It doesn’t help the team win now, but at the same time, it doesn’t hinder the potential the team still has. Gruden said it himself, the defense wasn’t good with Mack on it. Yet in 2016 the team still won 12 games. In 2017, Mack again had another stellar season and the Raiders finished 6-10. Mack was great both of those years while the defense as a whole wasn’t. Carr, on the other hand, was great in 2016 and regressed in 2017.
Oakland still has a potentially potent offense that was routinely lighting up defenses until Todd Downing was named offensive coordinator. This is where the ‘if’ game comes into play because if Derek Carr can return to his MVP-caliber play, this trade could be water under the bridge.
Great game. Khalil Mack is having a day, but remember, if you have a QB on his A-game, you have a chance to win…
Jon Gruden has to get the most out of Derek Carr.
— Maurice Moton (@MoeMoton) September 10, 2018
Fact is, Gruden was right when he said the defense wasn’t good with Mack on it. That’s not to say Mack is not a worthwhile player, because his stats speak volumes to his value, and proves he’s worth a lot. But if you are building a successful football team, why would you funnel money into a position that only yields individual achievements while the rest of the unit suffers?
Now, this may only be one game, but as it stands now, this one game is perhaps exactly why Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie pulled the trigger on one of the most historic trades the NFL has ever seen. Mack undoubtedly had a great performance, but at the end of the day, that’s all it was; his team still came up short.