The Raiders' second trade of a former first-round draft pick this season was a big blow to the locker room. And after the team dealt wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cowboys on Monday, players reportedly are questioning coach Jon Gruden more and more.
“When what you say and what you do are two different things, there is a problem,” an anonymous Raiders player told The Athletic on Tuesday. “We all have to believe in each other and pull in one direction.”
Cooper's trade to the Cowboys was another example to the players that what Gruden says and what he does might be two different things. Just over one week after denying reports he would trade Cooper, the wide receiver was sent to Dallas. And throughout the offseason, Gruden said he envisioned Cooper as the 'focal point' of the Raiders' offense.
When Cooper was traded Monday, he was taken off the Raiders' practice field, but Gruden didn't address the players, leaving them confused by the scene. Instead, the coach went to his past workplace and informed ESPN of the trade.
The Raiders are 1-5. They traded Khalil Mack to the Bears right before the season and now Cooper to the Cowboys. And yet, Gruden has continued to say the team isn't tanking.
“You have to wonder if we haven’t been playing for draft picks all along,” another anonymous player told The Athletic. “Despite everything the coaches told us at training camp.”
The Mack trade obviously hurt. But it seems the players are taking the Cooper deal even harder.
“The Mack trade was a real stiff jab,” another said to The Athletic. “But the Cooper one was like a knockout punch, especially because we had just walked back in the door from the bye. We didn’t want to believe it was coming, and Coach said we weren’t going to trade him.”
One player willing to speak on the record was veteran tight end Lee Smith, who didn't hold back.
“Nobody was happy when we traded Khalil. And nobody is happy that we traded Amari," Smith said. "How could you be? You never ever want to trade elite, homegrown talent. But Coach Gruden is thinking long term.
"It’s no secret that he got a 10-year contract. And having five first-rounders in the next two years is pretty good."
As rumors of even more Raiders on the trading block swirl, can Gruden regain control of the locker room? It doesn't sound like it will be an easy task.