Khalil Mack’s Return Against Oakland Is More Bad News For Jon Gruden

Khalil Mack had to feel disrespected last season when Jon Gruden and the Raiders decided that he was expendable. 

The cost of doing business with the NFL’s premier defensive player was too high for the Raiders, so the Bears swooped in and traded two first-round picks, a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick to Oakland for Mack and 2020 second round and conditional fifth-round draft picks.

After trading for Mack, the Bears signed him to the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history. 

Mack immediately shook off the shock and hurt of being discarded and helped make the Bears a top defensive unit. The team went 12-4 and won the NFC North Division, coming off four straight losing seasons. Mack’s impact was felt immediately and he seemed to get the last laugh as the Raiders tumbled to 4-12. 

Since his trade on Sept. 1, 2018, Mack has had 17 sacks. The Raiders as a team have only had 18. 

Mack, ready to face his former team on Sunday in London, says he still holds a grudge towards the way the Raiders treated him and ushered him out the door, but he also says he will keep a level head and try not to make it personal.  

“You can’t play this game with too much emotion.” said Mack.

Say what he wants, but Sunday will be an emotional game for Mack. He wants to make the Raiders pay for not keeping him.

Jon Gruden maintained all along that getting rid of Mack was part of a long-term plan and the head coach thought he’d be entering his first meeting against his former player on Sunday with playmaker Antonio Brown at wide receiver and defensive spark plug Vontaze Burfict calling the signals and captaining a ferocious defense. 

None of that is the case. 

The Antonio Brown training camp saga resulted in AB being traded to the Patriots. He never played a down for the Raiders and blew $30 million. A sexual assault allegation and menacing text message later, and Brown is out of the league. 

Now he’s filed grievances for $61 million in the hopes of getting back money voided by the Raiders and Pats.  

When the Raiders signed Burfict, a guy who has been fined over $5 million in his career for a variation of illegal hits and rule-skidding, the franchise was criticized, but his value as a defensive leader made the team feel like it was worth it. 

Unfortunately, Burfict played just four games before his illegal helmet-to-helmet hit in last week’s game led to him being suspended for the season by the NFL.

So two of Gruden’s major power moves as Raiders czar have gone down the tubes four games into a 16-game season. 

The Raiders are 2-2 and a much better product than they were last season, but at this point in the season, they are working on adrenaline and are more like wounded puppies still scratching and kicking and snapping from the corner. 

As the season wears on, the loss of Brown, Burfict and Mack will continue to haunt both the Raiders and Gruden’s second chapter as an NFL head coach. Oakland is treading water as it is and when they get to the dog days of AFC West competition without their big guns, it’s not going to be sweet

Burfict’s suspension had to rock the team and we will see how much his absence has thrown the defense into disarray. On the flip side, Chicago’s defense is fifth overall in the NFL and has the second-most sacks in the league. 

While fans await to see the havoc Mack will unleash upon his former team, many are waiting to see whether Richie Incognito will be the next Raider to implode.

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