Raiders coach Jon Gruden continued to clear house when he traded wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cowboys on Monday. It comes after Gruden controversially dealt their most dominant defensive player, and perhaps the most imposing in the entire league, Khalil Mack, to the Bears before the season started. The Raiders, who are 1-5 coming off their bye week, weren't pleased with Monday's trade, but it's Gruden's guile when it comes to personnel matters that really ruffled their feathers, according to the The Athletic.
"When what you say and what you do are two different things, there is a problem," one anonymous player said. "We all have to believe in each other and pull in one direction."
Gruden told the media eight days ago that he wasn't shopping Cooper, one of the top targets in the game today. And he said over the offseason and into training camp that Amari would be "the centerpiece of the offense." Talk is cheap and now Gruden has an "accountability" issue with his team.
Not only is Gruden saying one thing and doing another, but his players aren't privy to the team's machinations. Cooper was pulled from practice on Monday, and later that same day Gruden spoke to ESPN about how excited he was to have five first-round picks the next two seasons, after getting a first-rounder for Cooper. But the players never heard a word from Gruden about the trade, and had to hustle over to their phones to see the news. How do the players trust their coach after that?
Gruden told his team that they weren't trying to tank, despite dealing their best offensive and defensive player before half the season wrapped, and the anonymous players who spoke to The Athletic aren't staying quiet.
"You have to wonder if we haven’t been playing for draft picks all along," one player said. "Despite everything the coaches told us at training camp." Another alluded to Khalil's trade before moving on to Amari as a sort of one-two combo that's robbed the team of their confidence. "The Mack trade was a real stiff jab," the player said. "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."
Technically speaking, Gruden and co. claimed the Cowboys came to them with the first-round offer, and that's why they pulled the trigger; they weren't actively seeking a trade, but the minutiae of the deal isn't going to sate an increasingly angry football team.
Tight end Lee Smith appeared to understand the long-term plan of the coach and called out the anonymous teammates who griped to The Athletic. "Nobody was happy when we traded Khalil," he said. "And nobody is happy that we traded Amari. 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."
"And he has been clear about his open-door policy. If guys have a problem with this trade, they can go sit in his office and tell him," Smith added.
However, Lee's teammates who aren't under contract next season have more pressing matters than Gruden's long-term plan. "I think many of us realize we won’t be here next year," one of the disgruntled players said. "We are just waiting to see if we will be here next week."