When the Raiders traded defensive star Khalil Mack just before the start of the 2018 season, it appeared to have a big impact on the team’s morale and early-season play.
Oakland stumbled to an 0-3 start and won just one game before mid-November.
Though Raiders players said little to the media about the loss of Mack, Amari Cooper now says the trade was devastating to the players’ morale.
Cooper, who himself was traded to the Cowboys later in the season, said at the recent Super Bowl in Atlanta that Oakland players were demoralized at the trade, and then after watching Mack’s debut for the Bears the night before the Raiders opened their season vs. the Rams. In that Bears game, Mack had a sack, a forced fumble, a pass deflection, a fumble recovery and an interception return for a touchdown.
“It kind of took a big toll on the football team,” Cooper told interviewers on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We had a meeting about that on Wednesday, I believe, after our Monday night game because players were like, ‘This guy is wreaking havoc, making plays to put the Bears in position to win football games.”
For the rest of the season, the Raiders’ defense and pass rush struggled, and the Raiders finished with a 4-12 record. The team regained some life late in the year, but Cooper said he and his teammates were mad and disappointed that the Oakland franchise gave away one of the NFL’s best players.
Said Cooper: “Was that really the best move for our organization for a player like that to leave who could’ve done the same thing for us? I guess some of the coaching staff or people involved felt the players were kind of angry about that after seeing what Mack had done on Sunday night, so we had a meeting about it.”
The Raiders, with the fourth pick in the draft – along with two other first-round picks – will get the chance to rebuild this offseason, so players are likely to be much more optimistic when they head into Game 1 of the 2019 schedule. Mack, however, will still be a presence on their minds. The Raiders will face Mack and the Bears this season in a game scheduled for London.