What if Jon Gruden ISN’T a blooming idiot?
What if, despite the myriad headlines lampooning Mr. 3:17 a.m. for dealing Khalil Mack to the Bears (plus a whole lot more), Gruden is actually walking an “I really don’t give a shit what everyone thinks…” path blazed by Bill Belichick?
Set aside for a minute the fact Antonio Brown acted like an overtired 3-year-old in an effort to get out of Pittsburgh.
And set aside that, not only did it work, he also got a raise for doing it.
And set aside the real reason there’s bitterness over what Brown did: the fact 99 percent of us couldn’t do the same thing at our jobs.
And set aside the fact that, even among the one percent that could, most would be too embarrassed to act that way as an adult.
I’ll give you a second.
Gruden just added arguably the best wide receiver in football who is coming off a 104-catch, 1,297-yard, 15-touchdown season in which he was trying to get himself fired. He (and GM Mike Mayock), traded Amari Cooper and his expiring contract to the Cowboys in exchange for a first-round pick, upgraded with Brown for less than what Cooper may cost and gave up a picks in the third and fifth rounds to do it.
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He got Brown on a deal that — while fat — is comparable to Sammy Watkins' deal and will soon be outpaced by somebody like, well, Amari Cooper.
He got a player who will be supremely motivated to make the Steelers look bad by being on his best behavior in Oakland (we’ll see how long that lasts).
And he got a player who can conceivably make his 28-year-old quarterback Derek Carr — who’s in the third year of a five-year, $125M deal — a more potent player.
Gruden — in the second year of a 10-year deal — has the luxury of security. His job is to make the Raiders better and going and getting the best player — warts and all — is the very definition of that.
When the Patriots added Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth and (potentially, it seems) Michael Bennett, Belichick was able to do that because he had the job security to make those moves and the belief that, if they didn’t work out, he’d deal with that when the time came.
Get the best players. Worry less about what “might happen down the road.”
What about Khalil Mack? Good question. That move has a whiff of Belichick to it as well. Mack was an absolute force for the Bears in 2018. He is going to be a defensive cornerstone for them for years. Gruden got predictably pummeled in the short-term.
But what did adding Mack do for the Bears? He got them to the playoffs — which is further than the Raiders went — but in reality, Chicago got to play one more game than Oakland. Neither team was going to the Super Bowl in 2018 and now the Raiders have Chicago’s first-round picks in each of the next two seasons in addition to Dallas’ this year and their own.
Oakland has to do something with those picks (the Belichickian move would be to turn some of them into more picks), but the foundation is now there.
The overarching conversation right now is whether Brown shooting his way out of Pittsburgh was the “right” thing to do and we will all work on that chew toy for the next few days. We’ll hear all about business and bottom lines and issue our moral judgments.
Meanwhile, the easily-mocked Gruden edges a little closer to maybe — if things break right — having the last laugh.
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