Published 3:06 PM EDT Oct 24, 2018
The Oakland Raiders' latest move to send away a marquee name has left several players upset with Jon Gruden and uncertain about the team's future, according to a report from The Athletic.
Multiple players were questioning Gruden’s “accountability,” according to The Athletic, in the wake of Monday's trade that shipped two-time Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2019 first-round draft pick.
“I think many of us realize we won’t be here next year,” one player told The Athletic. “We are just waiting to see if we will be here next week.”
On Wednesday, Gruden stood by the move.
“We’re doing everything we can to win games and certainly build this football team,” Gruden said in a press conference. “Not everybody, I’m sure understands what’s going on, but I just want to say those two things. We’re doing everything we can for the Raiders, for the team today and for the team of the future. And sometimes it’s a tough job.”
Gruden never publicly said the team would not send Cooper away, but he did respond when asked last Sunday about trade rumors by declaring that the receiver would "be a big part of our pass offense."
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The Cooper trade followed a deal Sept. 2 that shipped linebacker Khalil Mack, one of the top defenders in the entire NFL, to the Chicago Bears for first-round selections in 2019 and 2020, a third rounder in 2020 and a sixth-round pick in 2019. The Raiders also sent the Bears a 2020 second-round selection.
“The Mack trade was a real stiff jab,” another 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.”
Gruden added Wednesday that it was not part of his plan to trade cornerstone pieces like Mack and Cooper when he took the job.
Through six games, Mack has terrorized opposing offenses with 20 tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles, one interception, and one touchdown. Oakland, meanwhile, ranks last in the NFL with just seven sacks.
“When what you say and what you do are two different things, there is a problem,” another anonymous player said. “We all have to believe in each other and pull in one direction.”
Though the Raiders are now clearly rebuilding by stockpiling draft picks, the strategy is a significant departure from an offseason in which the team signed multiple veterans, including running back Doug Martin, receiver Jordy Nelson and cornerback Rashaan Melvin.
“You have to wonder if we haven’t been playing for draft picks all along,” another said. “Despite everything the coaches told us at training camp.”
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said the first-round pick was too good of an asset for the team to pass up.
"In this business here, I thought that was invaluable for me," McKenzie said in a news conference. "It was something I felt like I had to do."
On Monday, after the Cooper trade, Gruden told ESPN the Raiders are “not trading anyone else” though McKenzie said in a news conference that no Oakland player on the roster was untouchable, leading to speculation on veterans who could also be shipped before the Oct. 30 deadline.
“Of course I’m concerned about the locker room,” tight end Lee Smith said, according to The Athletic. “I am a leader on this team and I am under contract next year, but more importantly I care about all my teammates. I care about (center) Rodney Hudson, (guard) Gabe Jackson, (quarterback) Derek Carr, (linebacker) Bruce Irvin, all of them. And I know how hard guys work all year. Guys don’t work their ass off year-round because they are worried about the team being good in two or three years, they work hard to win. Now.
“Nobody was happy when we traded Khalil. 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.”
Gruden said he didn't foresee the team making any more trades before the deadline, and "certainly" not one that would move starting quarterback Derek Carr as some had suggested.
In Week 8, the Raiders host the Indianapolis Colts.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.