The one dismal truth about Raiders trading Amari Cooper to Dallas

The one dismal truth about Raiders trading Amari Cooper to Dallas

It's time to get over the “Jon Gruden Broke Faith With Oakland” thing, because (a) we know he did and is comfortable having done so, (b) he views his mandate differently than anyone else because Mark Davis told him he could, and (c) he gets first-round draft picks for things he doesn’t like.

But if you're bothered by the “But he said Amari Cooper would be the centerpiece of the offense” part of the thing, well, now you know that when he speaks, he speaks with the kiss of death. The next time he says something glowing about an Oakland Raider he didn't bring in, Allied Van Lines is getting the first call.

Gruden extracted a first-round draft pick from the Dallas Cowboys for Cooper on Monday, reiterating that anyone currently a Raider not named Marshawn Lynch can be an ex-Raider in a heartbeat. That Gruden got a first-rounder for Cooper speaks to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' own desperation as the team’s gasbaggy general manager, but it's also the latest in a series of reminders that the Raiders in their current state of disarray essentially are a giant 53-person couch placed out on the front lawn for anyone to grab.

The surprise here is that Cooper fetched such a price, because his glow had faded (from star to desk lamp) so quickly in Oakland that he seemed like a particularly distressed piece. Once you accept the fact that the Raiders are for sale, as a set or in pieces, and that your hopes for something great and parade-ish to come out of these last 25 years of Raiders football, the Cooper deal seems a lot less offensive than the Khalil Mack trade.

Of course, Mack is an elite player. Cooper never was, at least not as a Raider. Maybe there is a new life for him in Texas, but at least as a Cowboy, he won’t be expected to become the offensive focus (see Elliott, Ezekiel) as he was in Oakland when the franchise had no face at all.

That’s the one dismal truth -- that a player who came with so many promises made on his behalf never delivered (or was allowed to deliver) on those promises. He struggled to catch the ball early, had a brief renaissance as Derek Carr’s first target, and then lost more and more favor until Gruden came and finished the deal by saying how important Cooper was to the team’s future.

You can say that Gruden was correct about Cooper in one way, though -- he is important to the team’s future, just as someone else.

It also serves as a handy reminder to all of us that all the hand-wringing about the Raiders’ inability to target Cooper more often was another example that what you see very often is exactly what you get. It wasn’t that the Raiders couldn’t target Cooper nearly as much as it was they decided they didn't want to target Cooper. Targets are choices, and Cooper stopped being a prime choice in Oakland even before Gruden arrived.

So as part of the deep clean in Alameda, Gruden found in Jones someone who had turned on his own receivers and whose impatience is, if anything, greater than Gruden’s. Hence, Cooper the Cowboy.

And hence Gruden increasing his draft choice total to a more reasonable for rebuilding purposes to nine, including three firsts and a second.

And there will be more, because not even local outrage will serve as a deterrent to further fire sales -- not that it ever did, of course. Local outrage already has largely morphed into local apathy anyway, so the Cooper trade comes with another knowing nod about the value of taking praise in sports and thinking it constitutes anything but empty words meant to fill in the time between one impertinent question and the next.

So now that’s done, and the speculation about who is next on General Manager Jonny’s list of ex-Raiders can begin. All we know is this -- the asking price always starts with a first-round draft choice, and sometimes when you least expect it, he’ll get it.

Despite big day, Darren Waller focused on opportunity missed in Raiders loss


Despite big day, Darren Waller focused on opportunity missed in Raiders loss

MINNESOTA – Darren Waller was targeted 14 times on Sunday against Minnesota. He caught 13 passes.

The Raiders tight end didn’t care much about that. He harped on the one that went through his hands, a third-down opportunity missed that would’ve put the Raiders in field goal range.

Such is life after a 34-14 shellacking from the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the pass I didn’t catch,” Waller said. “That’s points right there. We could’ve gotten on the board and entered halftime with momentum.

“I look at me first and what I could’ve done better. There are plenty of things I could’ve done better. There are things we all can do better. That’s why we play a whole season. We can turn this thing around.”

The Raiders have some soul searching to do after getting blasted by the Vikings in a game that wasn’t ever close.

They can rest assured knowing they’ve got a dangerous weapon playing tight end.

“They guy blocks and running routes on linebackers and cornerbacks and you think, ‘Darren, what can’t you do?’” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I don’t think enough kids are wearing his jersey.”

Today was tailor-made for Waller, a big, fast, sure-handed receiver. The Vikings played tons of zone coverage, leaving Waller to find holes on intermediate routes. That led Carr to feed Waller consistently throughout, though the long drives didn’t always put points on the board.

“The looks they gave us weren’t new,” Waller said. “They’re a good defense, and they’re going to run what they’re going to run. Credit the offensive staff for having things drawn up and in place. The line gave Derek time and he made those throws. We expected those [opportunities] to be there. We didn’t have to do anything special.”

The Raiders could’ve had points at the end of the first half had Waller made that play. That’s going to drive him nuts when reflecting on this game.

“I had two hands on the ball. I already know,” Waller said. “My trainer from back home told me I need to start doing pushups for all drops. It absolutely should’ve been caught.”

Waller can see he did some good things and has clearly gained Carr’s trust. He has 26 catches for 267 yards through three games, far and away the best receiving numbers on the team.

That should continue, even if extra attention gets paid down the line.

The more they put on me, the more I’m willing to take,” Waller said. “I try to not be too extreme. There’s a lot of good, and there’s bad to clean up. I feel like I’m growing in a positive direction as far as my game is concerned. I always try to take and good and bad out of everything. There was some good there, for sure.

“In the end, it’s just playing football. I try to not make it much more complex than that. The scoreboard’s there, but you just have to go from play to play to play. You can get in a groove and that’s fun.”

Watch Raiders' Vontaze Burfict seemingly try to punch Vikings players


Watch Raiders' Vontaze Burfict seemingly try to punch Vikings players

Things didn't go well for the Raiders in a 34-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Oakland trailed the Vikings by two touchdowns, and would fall into a 28-7 hole by the end of the third quarter of its Week 3 tilt at U.S. Bank Stadium. Frustration seemed to come to a head for Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict, as the 28-year-old appeared to try to punch Vikings players at the end of a Dalvin Cook run. 

Burfict has a lengthy history of NFL discipline for on-field incidents. He spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals and was fined or suspended 13 times from 2012 through 2018. In March, For The Win calculated that the linebacker incurred around $4.12 million in fines on top of the 10 games he missed.

[RELATED: Gap between Raiders, Chiefs will widen if KC lands Ramsey]

Coach Jon Gruden has counted on Burfict as one of the team's leaders during the linebacker's first season with the Raiders. Burfict was named a team captain before the season started, and he reportedly served as a voice of reason in former Raiders receiver Antonio Brown's practice-field confrontation with general manager Mike Mayock. 

Whether or not Burfict gets a call from Park Avenue for additional discipline remains to be seen, but Sunday's apparent punch probably wasn't what the team had in mind when Burfict became a captain.