Jon Gruden on Mack trade: 'Something had to happen'

One day after shipping out his best player for two first-round picks, Jon Gruden stepped in front of a microphone and immediately defended his decision.

Well, it wasn't entirely his decision.

Gruden explained to reporters in Oakland that the team had reached a financial impasse with edge rushing star Khalil Mack, stood firm as long as it could and, with Week 1 on the horizon, could wait no longer. That was the reason Mack is no longer a Raider.

"We have waited. We waited and waited, and the Rams game was looming," Gruden said. "Our feeling was he was not going to report anytime soon. Like I said, I saw the Redskins go through it with Kirk Cousins, this long process. You can wait it out. You can franchise him. You can force him to play. But we made a decision and we're going to stand by it.

"We made an offer. I don't believe we were anywhere close to where the Bears were. The Bears made us an offer that we thought was really unique."

Gruden lauded the efforts of Mack's agent, Joel Segal, in getting the star the largest defensive contract in the league with Chicago. He also mentioned Oakland wasn't going to meet Segal's asking price for Mack, reinforcing the belief that the stalemate had to end -- and the Raiders would be the ones to do it.

"I'm not going to get into the negotiations," Gruden said when asked about the Raiders' offer when compared with the Bears'. "(Raiders GM) Reggie (McKenzie) and (director of football administration) Tom Delaney and the people that were involved in the negotiations were involved in that. I know there is maybe some feeling that I was involved on a day-to-day negotiation. I had nothing to do with it. We were at a standoff and something had to happen. And here we are."

It wasn't the only reason, though. Gruden touted Oakland's ability to secure two first-round picks (in 2019 and 2020) in exchange for Mack, riding the optimism that typically accompanies high picks that have yet to be spent. It's hard to pass up that offer, right?

Shortly after, Gruden didn't stand in defense of the Raiders' inclusion of a second-round pick in the Mack package.

"I really wasn't involved in all of that," Gruden said. "So you have to ask Reggie to be honest with you."

The Raiders are now tasked with entering Week 1 with as much gusto as the rest of the league, but without its best defender on the roster. Veterans in the locker room will have to overlook the clear bet on the future in order to focus on the present, which includes earning paychecks and retaining jobs (the latter has already proven to be especially fleeting after Oakland's recent run of cut-down day releases).

If it sounds awkward, it is. Gruden spent as much time touting the potential of Oakland's future drafts as one would in February -- not one week before the regualr season kicks off.

He also spent time laying the foundation of blame for past mistakes, serving up harsh criticism of the decisions made by those who came before him. It wasn't entirely a finger-pointing session, though; Gruden acknowledged his feet will be held to the flames for the Mack deal, but it won't send him into hiding.

Hours after Mack was introduced in Chicago, the tone was vastly different in Alameda. The vibe was concerned, tense -- undoubtedly not the way most of Raider Nation imagined the second Gruden Era beginning.

"This is tough to swallow," Gruden said. "We wish Khalil the best, obviously, and we need some of our players to step up."

In Mack's place will likely be Bruce Irvin or Arden Key. The latter is a rookie, the same type of player Oakland will eventually fetch in the 2019 and 2020 drafts, with picks that used to be a superstar. Whether everyone involved in the trade will be around to see them through remains to be seen.

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