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Amari Cooper situation shows Jon Gruden is running a clown show

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Multiple media reports prior to Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks in London indicated that the Oakland Raiders were open to trading former Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper.

While Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has since denied said speculation, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that Cooper is indeed on the market ahead of the Oct. 30 trade deadline.

The one caveat? Oakland is said to be looking for a first-round pick in return for the struggling pass catcher. At the very least, that’s what Rapoport reported on Monday.

Gruden must be living in his own little fantasy world if this is what the Raiders’ first-year head coach and de facto general manager is asking for Cooper. It’s a fantasy world that includes underperforming Raiders players apparently looking like solid platinum to opposing teams.

Prior to leaving Sunday’s game with an injury, the 24-year-old Cooper caught zero passes on one target. Through the first six games of the season, the former Alabama standout has hauled in less than 47 percent of his 32 targets for just 280 yards. Last season saw Cooper record a 50 percent catch rate with less than 700 receiving yards.

Yes, that’s less than 1,000 receiving yards since the start of the 2017 season with a sub 50 percent catch rate.

Sure he put up two 1,000-yard seasons to start his career, but Cooper has remained plagued by drops since entering the NFL. He ranks in the top three in that category since the start of the 2015 season.

We’re not entirely too sure what Gruden’s thinking is here. He might not be a fan of Cooper. That’s fine. It’s something that led to the departure of former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack in a trade that has made Gruden look bad at every turn.

But in an attempt to put his imprint on the Raiders’ roster, Gruden is alienating the fan base. In the process, he’s fielding a laughable roster of struggling youngsters and tapped-out veterans.

Gruden benched young cornerback Gareon Conley and big-ticket free agent signing Rashaan Melvin for over-the-hill veterans Leon Hall and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to start Sunday’s game against Seattle. The end result was a humiliating 27-3 loss in London.

In Gruden’s fantasy world, this made perfect sense. Why go with a second-year former first-round pick as a starter when you can rely on players the Ben McAdoo-led Giants and Chip Kelly’s 49ers had previously given up on?

This certainly isn’t what the Raiders’ brass had in mind when they signed Gruden to a 10-year contract following the 2017 season.

As it relates to Cooper, there’s absolutely no reason to believe any team would bite on giving up a first-round pick for the struggling talent. That’s not how it works in today’s NFL. And while Gruden himself might be stuck in the early 2000s, it’s rather clear the league has passed him by.

At 1-5 on the season and having been outscored by 11 points per game, the Raiders are a complete mess on the field.

Now that there’s no guarantee the team will be in Oakland beyond the 2019 season before an eventual move to Las Vegas in 2020, things are only going to get uglier from here. That’s only going to be magnified if Gruden isn’t taken seriously by other NFL front offices.┬áReportedly demanding a first-round pick for Cooper isn’t going to help matters in this regard.

And it has Gruden on the verge of destroying a once-proud orgnization in less than a calendar year at the helm. The only hope here is that Gruden ditches his clown car in fantasy land for some sort of transportation back to the real world.

Short of that happening, the Raiders will be nothing more than a laughingstock in the larger confines of the NFL for the foreseeable future.