One day after Khalil Mack proved emphatically why he's a former (and future?) Defensive Player of the Year, the coach who pushed him out Oakland's door wasn't going to let that be the final word following Mack's stunning trade to Chicago.
In an interview with ESPN's Lisa Salters that will air during the "Monday Night Football" nightcap between the Rams and Raiders, coach Jon Gruden hoped to set the record straight. Instead, he twisted reality and attempted to form a favorable narrative for a Raiders club that's been roundly dragged through the mud since parting with Mack, a second- and a conditional fifth-rounder in exchange for two first-rounders, a third and a sixth.
"Obviously Khalil Mack didn't want to play here," Gruden said. "That's what's being missed here. He was under contract. He never showed up for an OTA. He never showed up for training camp, and it was obvious that he wasn't going to show up for the season."
Whatever gets Gruden through the night?
Mack wanted to be wanted and paid commensurately for his accomplishments, which vastly surpassed the expectations that came with his rookie contract, even as the fifth player selected in the 2014 draft. A three-time Pro Bowler and 2016 Defensive Player of the Year who logged nearly 90 percent of Oakland's defensive snaps and never missed a start in four seasons, he felt he had nothing left to prove, hence the holdout.
In this piece from July that analyzed Mack's holdout, we proposed that Gruden might be operating with an outdated set of coaching rules given the fact he hasn't been on the sidelines in more than 10 years — well before the 2011 collective bargaining agreement included slotted rookie deals that gave all the leverage to the teams in negotiating contracts with rookies.
Over that span, we've seen numerous players hold out before their rookie deals expired in an attempt take back some of their leverage. In some instances it works, in others it doesn't. But to vilify Mack feels like a petty, almost desperate move by the Raiders' coach whose second stint with the team has created plenty of questions but few clear solutions.
Don't hate the player, hate the game, Gruden.