Updated: May 15
With the Oakland Raiders late game softening on defense and their last second loss to the Bronco’s and in looking at notes for the upcoming Monday night game between the Bears and the Seahawks I couldn’t help but wrestling again to come up with a reason for the Raiders trading of their ‘best player”. Here is where I settled in trying to rationalize it. When a franchise gives the keys to the personnel castle to a new Head Coach he just can’t wait to put his spin on a roster and bring in his guys.
Jon Gruden is not the first nor will he be the last to do so. I can understand the jettison of the punter, Marquette King. Nobody wants extra drama and maintenance, especially if it’s coming from a specialist. But with Khalil Mack, he got none of that. He’s a solid kid, hard working professional and produced on the field. I think sometimes, coaches underestimate how hard it is to acquire a really good player. They have seldom been involved from start to finish in this process. One has to first, identify them, second evaluate them and third acquire them. If you have grown up doing this everyday of your professional life you know how hard it is to then fit this player into a scheme that maximizes his potential. In most NFL front offices, the coach comes in toward the end of the process and gives his very valued opinion. This is when reasonable people with mutual respect for each other come together (The GM and the Head Coach) and make the decision that’s best for the franchise going forward. They had done all of this in Oakland prior to Gruden getting there.
From the Head Coaches angle he might think, 1. “I can plug anyone in” the scheme will make us effective, 2. “we got two high draft choices, we will find 2 great players”, or 3. “no 1 player is worth that kind of money”. Actually, I couldn’t disagree more on all three counts. Mack was special, he can make plays when the plan changes in the middle of a play, a drive, or when the scheme breaks down. He rushes the passer, late in games like very few in the entire league. He can change the outcome of a game on a dime. He can make any coach a great coach, if you just “let him play”. There are very few in the game today who can do this from either side of the ball. I think the odds of replacing this kind of talent are very low, no matter how many picks you can acquire in return. Impact players are the hardest thing to find when building a team. The players are the ones who make this game at the NFL level, not the coaches, not the GM’s. The Bears now have a difference maker, the Raiders are looking for a replacement.
The Sunday night game was a microcosm of the STATE OF THE NEW YORK GIANTS. A predictable outcome that Giants fans better get used to. A RB and WR that are special, clearly at the top of their game and the league. Unfortunately, in the two areas that are most important to win football games, at the NFL level, their Offensive line is in a state of flux and their QB is in a state of decline. I feel bad for Pat Shurmur, who is an excellent coach, because he and his staff will be tested to their maximum abilities in devising schemes each week to keep the QB upright and to get the ball out of his hand. A QB, even if young and inexperienced, give you hope for the future but that hope is gonna have to wait until next year now and Giants fans will now know, have JETS fans have felt for years.
Dan Bailey, the former Cowboys kicker might be the most sought after free agent of the early season personnel wars inside the NFL. Word is, he’s already turned down a couple offers. Probably with good reason. Cleveland would be a tough spot, for obvious reasons, Minnesota would be only short term, because the Vikings invested a solid pick in Carlson and even though he cost them a game yesterday his long-term potential outweighs any knee jerk reaction by them. I would think he’s waiting for a team with some post season upside and a future for more than one year. Plus, he might even get paid, again, if he plays his cards right.
How about the AFC West QB’s yesterday? More coming later in my QB ratings but these guys put on a show this weekend. Rivers, Carr, Keenum, and Mahomes completed 68% ( Keenum was lowest with 7 incompletions), for 1,092 yds, 10 TD’s and 1 INT all in, for the day. I’m no NFL researcher or historian but I have stayed at a few ‘Holiday Inn’s”, and that is some effective QB play, in my opinion.