ALAMEDA -- Jon Gruden and the Raiders were hammered for trading star pass rusher Khalil Mack last season.
After all, who in their right mind ships out a perrenial All-Pro pass rusher in the prime of his career?
Gruden gambled, wanting to recoup picks to rebuild the Raiders. Fourteen months later, the Raiders coach might be the one getting the last laugh thanks to running back Josh Jacobs.
The Raiders secured two-first round picks from the Bears for Mack. The first they used to select Jacobs. The other will come in 2020. The Bears went 12-4 last season thanks to Mack, a last-place schedule and a knee injury to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that contributed to Green Bay's disappointing season.
Chicago has fallen back to Earth in 2019, setting the Raiders up for a potential top-10 pick should the Bears continue to flounder down the stretch.
Meanwhile, Jacobs has been a revelation for the Silver and Black. The Alabama product has rushed for 923 yards and seven touchdowns through the first 10 games, rewarding Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock's belief that he was their feature back of the future.
After Mayock claimed he told Gruden that Jacobs was their man after the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Levi's Stadium, Gruden was quick to point out they only were able to draft Jacobs because they had the pick in the first place.
"He's doing all the interviews taking credit for Jacobs," Gruden said Wednesday with a smile. "He can have all the credit, but Jacobs wouldn't be here if we didn't have the picks. So, I don't care who drafted him. We all were united in picking Jacobs, but he deserves all the credit certainly. We like to rib each other on a lot of things. But it doesn't matter. [Jacobs} is here, he's ours, he's a great prospect and he's off to a great start. I'm really happy for him, he's a great kid that has given us every ounce of energy he has."
Much was made about Gruden and Mayock's relationship in the lead up to the draft. But the general manager and head coach were united in their selections, leading to one of the most impactful draft classes in recent memory.
It starts with Jacobs, defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby, as well as cornerback Trayvon Mullen, but it could have been even better.
"If [safety Johnathan Abram] had been healthy we kind of saw him as an impact player," Gruden said. "It was a great collaboration [with Mayock]. We all look at the film. Coaches, scouts and we try to get a consensus on who we want to pick. But we needed a feature back. We didn't have one. We got one in the first round and we're going to try to add some pieces next year with all the picks we've assembled. That's one way to get better. You have to give Mike credit. He's done a nice job."
Trading away Mack was a bold move. Gruden was given the keys to make the tough decisions needed to build the Raiders back into a perennial contender.
Jacobs is a big part of Gruden's vision for what his Raiders will become.
Ten games into the back's NFL career, Jacobs has shown that Gruden's gambit was worth the risk.