ALAMEDA – Paul Guenther was as shocked as anyone when the Raiders traded Khalil Mack.
The Raiders defensive coordinator said he let out an, ‘are you kidding me?' after news broke. That might be the clean version. Could've been a few swear words sprinkled in.
The initial shock, however, has worn off. Guenther can see the long-term vision in a move to strengthen the overall product.
"Khalil is a fantastic player. We all know that," Guenther said Thursday. "We've been here for six months trying to build this thing the right way, and we brought a lot of guys in this offseason. We're trying to build a program and, as an organization, we made the decision to go in that direction (with a trade). If you keep one guy, you lose seven others. The best interest of the team was to make a move."
A trade that gleaned future draft picks won't help the Raiders now. Guenther can.
It's his job as play caller and play designer to keep pressure on the quarterback without Mack. He spent some time this offseason at the dry erase board trying to create one-on-one matchups for Mack. Now he'll earmark different pages of his playbook to aid this current group.
"The plan changes when you have a guy like that," Guenther said. "It's like having a great receiver or great quarterback. Your plans change with what you've got. You have to put your players in the best position to succeed. That's what I get paid to do. I'll try to do that with the guys we've got here come Monday night."
Guenther has had the same guys all spring and summer. Mack withheld services through the entire offseason program looking for a deal he eventually got in Chicago.
Roles and rotations are already defined, and chemistry has been built within the group. Bruce Irvin's the alpha, an established talent likely to see more attention without Mack on the other side. They'll work Tank Carradine in the base defense, with Arden Key coming in as a situational pass rusher Fadol Brown will rotate in with his trademark energy. That's how the Raiders have worked without Mack, who barely knows all the new faces on the Raiders defensive line. And the coordinator himself.
"I saw the guy in a restaurant on time in March, and my kids noticed that he [Mack] had nice Jordans on," Guenther said. "With as many new players as we brought in, as a new coaching staff, we kind of got used to him not being here and operating with what we've got. We're going to move along that way."