Raiders coach Jon Gruden is not backing down from his decision to trade star pass rusher Khalil Mack, but his latest explanation for the move wrongly suggests that the Raiders had no other choice.
“Obviously Khalil Mack didn’t want to play here. That’s what’s being missed here. He was under contract,” Gruden told ESPN. “He was under contract, he never showed up for an OTA, he never showed up for training camp, and it was obvious he wasn’t going to show up for the season. Don’t forget that. We have to get ready to play and I want players that want to be here, that want to help us put this thing back in high gear.”
Of course, there’s nothing that says a player has to be traded just because he doesn’t show up. The Rams didn’t trade Aaron Donald when he didn’t show up, the Seahawks didn’t trade Earl Thomas when he didn’t show up, and many, many NFL teams have worked things out with players who held out of training camp.
The Raiders could have done what the Rams did with Donald and given Mack the contract he wanted. Or the Raiders could have done what the Seahawks did and held firm until Mack reported. (Unlike Thomas, Mack likely wouldn’t have reported in time to play in Week One, but if the Raiders had refused to budge he would have reported eventually, as his only other option would have been retiring.)
But Gruden is on Year One of a 10-year contract and calculated that the draft picks and cap space he acquired by trading Mack to the Bears will be worth it. In the long term, he might be right. In the short term, he’s wrong to suggest that he had no other choice.