The Oakland Raiders’ season-opener being on ESPN’s Monday Night Football allowed Head Coach Jon Gruden to get together with some old media friends, giving him a platform to air out some of his frustrations regarding the Khalil Mack situation:
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) September 10, 2018
“Obviously, Khalil Mack didn’t want to play here. That’s what’s being missed here,” Gruden told ESPN’s Lisa Salters in a sit-down interview. “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 be ready to play, and I want players to be here, that want to help us put this thing back into high gear.”
This is a rough look for Gruden, whose relationship with Mack seems to be as contentious as media reports made them out to be. Sure, Mack didn’t show up for OTAs. But Gruden conveniently doesn’t point out that those aren’t mandatory. As for Mack not showing up for training camp, it was the only course of action Mack could take to show how serious he was about wanting a long-term deal to stay with the team. Mack wasn’t the first (and definitely won’t be the last) player to withhold his services from OTAs and/or training camp in order to prove a point (and, again, that point was “Please give me an extension to stay here as long as possible!”).
Gruden’s interview was shared one day after NBC’s Cris Collinsworth shared an anecdote from a conversation he had with Mack before Sunday’s game against the Packers that shows how easily this conflict could have been avoided by simple communication:
Khalil says a call from Gruden might have kept him with the Raiders pic.twitter.com/aCHvPVkJXe
— NBCSAuthentic (@NBCSAuthentic) September 11, 2018
Sometimes, finding a resolution can be as easy as picking up a phone and telling someone you care. The Mack anecdote from Collinsworth is highly relatable, because I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to hear that they are appreciated by their boss. It’s amazing that something as simple as that could have squashed a beef and kept Oakland’s best player in the fold.
There there is something so valuable about feeling wanted, something Gruden simply couldn’t connect with (perhaps because he was out of the league for nearly a decade). The Raiders’ loss turns out to be the Bears’ gain. Now, the next step is for Chicago to turn this stroke of good fortune into wins on the field.