Jon Gruden Did Everything He Could To Stop Khalil Mack (And It Worked)

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Jon Gruden Did Everything He Could To Stop Khalil Mack (And It Worked)

Chicago Bears

I wore my “Khalil Mack Will Sack Your Quarterback” tee from Obvious Shirts at a Bears brunch party this Sunday, but Mack did not sack the Raiders quarterback, Derek Carr, which makes me a liar. Thanks, Khalil.

In fact, this is as close as he got:

Mack played on 85 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps over the weekend, but came up with just two tackles, one quarterback pressure, and one fumble recovery. It was a rough day at the office for Mack (relatively speaking), just as Jon Gruden planned.

Gruden had all the motivation in the world to stop Mack on Sunday after trading him last summer, then bemoaning the loss of his top pass-rusher as the rest of his team’s defense failed to pick up the slack. So while Mack tried to strike a balance between seeking revenge on the team that drafted him and downplaying the payback angle, Gruden was scheming to show the ex-Raider who was the boss.

And that’s exactly what Gruden did.

Connor Orr (SI.com) outlined how Gruden cooked up a game-plan with the sole purpose of mucking things up from mack. It literally started with the first snap, a designed bootleg-rollout that went to the opposite side of the field from where Mack was lined up. While Derek Carr rolled one way, Mack was met by left tackle Kolton Miller, left guard Richie Incognito, and a chipping running back for good measure. That’s three bodies on Mack from the outset. But that was just the beginning.

Gruden used misdirection runs in an attempt to use Mack’s speed as a weapon to stop him. Traps, counters, draws were deployed to keep Mack off balance. As were screens that froze him, rollout passes and stretch runs away from his side of the field, and a slew of double/triple teams just to remind him of the group effort that was going on to slow him down. At the end of the day, Orr counted 15 obvious situations where Mack was met by multiple blockers in a true commitment to the bit by Gruden.

Usually, the Bears counter with Akiem Hicks and his band of merry men along the defensive front to play the role of equalizer. But with Hicks being removed from the game after the eighth play on the game’s first drive, the drop-off to Nick Williams (42 snaps) and Jonathan Harris (24 snaps) proved to be too much for that front line to overcome. From there, the second and third levels were gashed. But make no mistake about it, this all began with Gruden and an emphasis on getting that win against Mack by any means necessary.

And as if Gruden needed more motivation, FOX’s Jay Glazer shared an anecdote that would have fired up any coach:

Glazer shared that Mack made it known to Gruden (by way of informing teammates/anyone who would listen) that he did not want to play for the Raiders’ new coach. In essence, Mack called Gruden’s bluff, then watched as he was dealt to Chicago. Glazer also shed light on the teams who the Bears beat out for Mack’s services, name-dropping the 49ers, Jets, and Packers (who offered two first-round picks) as teams who were “neck-and-neck” before Oakland  decided to go with Chicago’s offer because they thought the pick would be better. It turns out, the Raiders turned down packages that would have netted them the 2nd (49ers), 3rd (Jets), and 12th (Packers) overall selections. But at least that Josh Jacobs fella has turned out to be good to this point!

Perhaps history will look back on this deal in a more favorable light for Gruden down the road. And if it does, he will likely point to Week 5 of the 2019 NFL season as the point where it all started to turn around.

(Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)


Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.