Khalil Mack and Jon Gruden aren’t speaking, which probably isn’t good


Khalil Mack and the Oakland Raiders don’t seem to be in the good place as the team begins training camp.

When your franchise player isn’t happy, that’s usually something that should be fixed. It’s really as simple as that and not much more needs to be said. However, it doesn’t appear that’s the way things are going to work in Oakland under new head coach Jon Gruden.

Since Gruden has arrived, he’s been swapping out new parts for old ones, purging young talent like Cordarrelle Patterson for guys like Jordy Nelson. Some of the players Gruden has let go require a flexible but still aplicable use of the term ‘talent’, but the theme of the offseason has been taking the game back to 1998 and Gruden has made every effort to do that.

While he probably didn’t have a say in it, the fact that the swapping has even effected the radio play-by-play booth isn’t a good look.

Now push is coming to shove.

According to Adam Schefter, Gruden and superstar linebacker Khalil Mack don’t appear to be on speaking terms. Mack apparently hasn’t spoken to Gruden since he was hired and has stayed away from the Raiders, to the point where he’s skipping training camp.

The logical reason for this is Mack wants a new deal. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract and would like to get an extension hammered out before he hits the field and risks injury that lowers his value. This isn’t exclusive to Mack, as Odell Beckham was considering a holdout for a new deal and Aaron Donald appears ready to sit as long as he needs in order to secure a long-term deal.

Unlike those situations, optics play a key role. Pat Shurmur and Sean McVay didn’t spend an offseason purging the team to build a team for an era of football that no longer exists. To his credit, Gruden cited Mack as a reason he wanted to come to Oakland over other suitors, which bodes well for the relationship growing. Perhaps his is Mack using that as leverage to get a new deal out of his new boss.

Either way, it’s bad news for Raiders fans already nervous about what Gruden is going to do with the team. It’s one thing to dump players and make the average age of the roster one of hte oldest in the league, but it’s another thing entirely to not get the face of the franchise on board. Gruden is an offensive coach, so Derek Carr being the forward facing star seems inevitable. Mack, who is the better player, deserves to be that guy and deserves to have a deal that reflects as much.

Whether or not Gruden and the Raiders think that fits their 1998 sensibilities is where the drama will unfold.