As the Oakland Raiders have quickly become the NFL’s worst team in coach Jon Gruden’s first season, owner Mark Davis hasn’t had much to say.
Davis gave his first known interview in months with ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez after the Raiders lost 20-6 to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, and he took the blame for the team’s putrid 1-8 record, saying “the buck stops with me.”
“Where this team is right now is my fault,” Davis told Gutierrez.
Davis spoke on many subjects, but the most interesting was the Khalil Mack trade. He said the controversial trade of Mack to the Chicago Bears wasn’t Gruden’s fault.
“Jon wanted him,” Davis said, according to ESPN.
Mark Davis said Jon Gruden not to blame for Khalil Mack trade
Davis said after the Raiders gave Derek Carr a five-year, $125 million extension in June of 2017, they offered Mack an extension that would have made him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. Mack and his agent Joel Segal wanted to wait.
Then Gruden was hired, and Davis said he spoke to Mack right away. That was the last time they talked. Segal made a contract proposal to the Raiders at the combine in February that “was not going to happen, was not doable for us,” and the lines of communication were cut off according to Davis.
“From that point on, [Mack] would not talk to anyone in our organization,” Davis said. “Not Reggie [McKenzie, Oakland’s general manager], not Jon, not anybody.”
Davis said he expected Mack to play the final year of his rookie contract, but then he heard from players who knew Mack that he was going to hold out.
“At that point, I said, ‘F it. The guy hasn’t talked to anybody. We’ve got to do something,'” Davis told Gutierrez.
Davis said he doesn’t have bad feelings toward Mack, but he wishes Mack would have at least talked to Gruden, McKenzie and played this season. It turned out well for Mack, who got a six-year, $141 million deal and is a key part of the Bears, who are in first place in the NFC North.
Davis said “to blame Jon, for Khalil Mack not being here, is absolutely not the truth.”
“Everybody thinks that Jon’s the one who wanted to get rid of him. Jon wanted him badly. Why wouldn’t you want this guy?” Davis told ESPN. “Reggie wanted him badly. And I wanted him badly, too. But, if in fact we were going to give the type of money that we were going to give to him, and we had Derek on that type of a [contract], how were we going to go ahead and build this football team, with all the holes that we had?”
Davis happy with Gruden
Davis hit on many other topics with Gutierrez. He said Carr “is the franchise quarterback right now” and excused his struggles by saying he’s playing behind an injured offensive line and throwing to receivers like Jordy Nelson and Seth Roberts who are “not putting the fear of God in anybody.”
He talked about the uncertainty of 2019. The Raiders don’t have a lease to play anywhere next season. Davis said he has a completed lease ready for the Oakland City Council to sign, and he wants to be in Oakland next season because he “can’t turn on the fans.”
Gutierrez ended his illuminating piece with the topic everyone is curious about: How does Davis feel about Gruden now? Davis gave Gruden a 10-year, $100 million contract, and his team has turned into the punchline of the league.
“I understood it was going to be a lot of work, but Jon has a 10-year contract,” Davis told Gutierrez. “I know how hard Jon Gruden works. I know how much he wants to win. And how much days like today are killing him.
“Having Jon Gruden here was the endgame for me. Jon’s going to be the stability here. Jon’s going nowhere. That’s just the way it is.”
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