The impact of the Raiders’ trading away Khalil Mack – perhaps the NFL’s best defensive player – won’t truly be known for a long while.
We’ll have to see how Oakland defensive coordinator Paul Guenther fills his spot in the lineup, how the two No. 1 draft picks play out over the next two seasons and how the Raiders react to head coach Jon Gruden in Year 1 of his long-term contract with the franchise.
But already, the Raiders’ opening-game foe is just fine with the move.
When the Raiders open the season on Monday, Sept. 10, against the Los Angeles Rams at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum , the Rams are OK with not seeing No. 52 anywhere on the field.
“I’m just happy Khalil Mack got traded to the Bears and I don’t have to worry about him in Week 1,” Rams running back Todd Burley told the Los Angeles Times. Added L.A. head coach Sean McVay: “I would say I’m not upset about that (trade).”
It’s possible, too, that Mack’s Raiders teammates have had a reaction – and it’s not a happy one.
Quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Bruce Irvin both tweeted their astonishment immediately upon hearing the news. Irvin followed up later by tweeting, “What a shock. Now move on and win. Time to beat the Rams!”
But the question is, will the trade of Mack produce a hangover? Will Gruden lose the locker room over trading away the franchise’s most talented player? Will Gruden’s comments after the trade to reporters – essentially taking shots at GM Reggie McKenzie about the failure of recent draft classes – roil the front office? A team in transition with a new head coach and now without its heart and soul on defense could come out cold against a talented Rams team in the season opener, lose and then go downhill from there.
Plus, as Dieter Kurtenbach of the Bay Area News Group wrote, this trade – and everything else that happens with the Raiders from now on – is all about Gruden. The returning Raiders coach has ultimate control and isn’t afraid to use it.
Wrote Kurtenbach: “This is Jon Gruden – the ultimate ‘football guy.’ An alpha male. Someone who abhors nonsense, unless he’s the one delivering it. He’s a micro manager, an ideologue and a person who can charm you into drinking mediocre beer. This is not a man who shies away from control. And this weekend he made it abundantly clear to the world the he has full, unchecked control of the Oakland Raiders.”
Now we’ll all see how that works out.
The Rams-Raiders opener is set to kick off next Monday at 7:20 p.m.