Jon Gruden was out of the NFL for a long time, but he still is smart enough to understand that Khalil Mack’s holdout is a distraction for his team.
If the Oakland Raiders are going to be successful in 2018, they will need Khalil Mack to have a big season. Unfortunately, he’s still holding out of camp for a new contract. Jon Gruden claims the All-Pro defender’s absence isn’t having much of an effect on his team.
That is complete and utter nonsense. A talent of Mack’s magnitude has a huge impact on everything his teammates do during the preseason. Aside from the schematic flexibility he provides the Raiders defensive coaches, there’s a certain emotional lift present when you’re playing alongside such a prodigious talent.
Gruden certainly knows that. There’s zero reason to believe he actually believes it when he says he doesn’t think that Mack’s holdout “has been a distraction” for his team. Certainly, the head coach wishes Mack’s absence wasn’t the dominant story of the Raiders’ preseason, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is.
In fairness to Gruden, there isn’t much upside to admitting publicly that your star player’s absence is weighing on your team’s collective psyche. If Mack’s holdout extends into the regular season, he’ll challenge his roster to win in spite of his absence. That might not be overly likely, but it’s the philosophy Gruden will have to take with his team.
Behind the scenes, Gruden should be pushing Reggie McKenzie and the rest of Oakland’s front office to get Mack in camp as soon as possible. It’s not an exaggeration to say that his first season back in the NFL could depend on the team’s ability to lock down their star defender with a new deal.
Gruden is free to practice his attempts at mind control on his players, but no fans should buy into his nonsense about Mack. He understands the profound impact the disruptive defender’s holdout is having on the entire organization. His claims that it’s not distracting his players are nothing more than wishful thinking.