On Sept. 1, 2018, this reporter had the audacity to patiently suggest via Twitter that maybe the Bears overpaid for Khalil Mack and that maybe, just maybe, Raiders coach Jon Gruden wasn’t the biggest dunderhead in the history of the National Football League.
You can imagine how that went over.
Patience? Twitter? A blockbuster trade involving a great All-Pro pass rusher in his late 20s on one side and a minimum two-year wait to assess Oakland’s full return on the other?
Let’s just say the cyberland pitchfork posse that rode in from down south was not receptive to that long-term train of thought.
Fourteen months later, the Raiders are winning the Mack trade.
It’s not over. Mack is still young enough to return as an All-Pro force on a playoff team in 2020 and beyond. And four possible picks remain in 2020 with Oakland getting choices in the first and third rounds while the Bears get a second-rounder and a conditional fifth-rounder.
The Bears were crushing this trade all through 2018. Right up to that double-doinker field goal miss that turned a 12-4 season into a one-and-done playoff exit at home.
Mack earned his third All-Pro first-team nod with 12 sacks. The Raiders, meanwhile, had a league-low 13 sacks while going 4-12.
But my, oh my, how things have changed in 2019 as the Raiders (6-4) hold the AFC’s sixth playoff seed while the Bears (4-6) are all but finished as the 10th-best team in the NFC.
Let us count the ways things have changed …
• The Raiders used the Bears’ 2019 first-round pick on running back Josh Jacobs (right). All he’s done is completely change the Raiders’ offense while rushing for 923 yards, fourth-best in the NFL, and breaking Marcus Allen’s franchise rookie record for 100-yard games (four). Meanwhile, the Bears’ 29th-ranked rushing attack is a big reason Mitch Trubisky’s career has done a 180 to the dark side.
• Speaking of young Mitch, Bears fans are crying out for a new quarterback. After trading up in 2017, ignoring Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson and selecting Trubisky No. 2 overall, the Bears might need to take another draft-day swing at a quarterback. Unfortunately for them, their free-falling first-round pick — 13th overall heading into Week 12 — sits in Gruden’s back pocket. So, yeah, it’s possible that Chucky could make the playoffs and still get a top-10 pick via Chicago. Meanwhile, Da Bears muddle on with a quarterback who lost again last week while averaging less than 5 yards per pass attempt for a league-high fourth time.
• The Raiders used the Bears’ sixth-round pick this year as part of a deal that snowballed into a total of five trades during the draft. When it was over, four players can be connected to that sixth-rounder. Three of them have played for the Raiders this season: cornerback Trayvon Mullen, a second-rounder who has four starts and one interception; cornerback Isaiah Johnson, a fourth-rounder who has played in the past two games; and tight end Foster Moreau, a fourth-rounder who has played 10 games with seven starts and four touchdown catches.
• The Bears made Mack the highest-paid defender in NFL history with a six-year, $140 million deal with $90 million guaranteed. The Raiders used the money they didn’t spend on Mack to sign Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown and extend the contracts of center Rodney Hudson and tight end Darren Waller. With one of the NFL’s best lines, the Raiders dominated Mack in a win over the Bears in London earlier this season.
• The Raiders found a pass rush without Mack. Journeyman Benson Mayowa (7 ½ sacks) and rookie fourth-round draft pick Maxx Crosby (6½) both have more sacks than Mack (5 ½). Against the Bengals last Sunday, Crosby had four sacks to set a franchise rookie record and become just the fourth rookie with at least four sacks in one game since sacks became an official stat in 1982. As a rookie, Mack had four sacks for the entire season.
Again, the final verdict on this trade is not in. But its trending toward Chucky not being quite the dunderhead he appeared to be back on Sept. 1, 2018.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org