The Bears were crowned instant winners of the Khalil Mack trade when they acquired the future Hall of Fame pass-rusher from the Oakland Raiders for multiple first-round picks (and more) prior to the start of last season. In fact, the Raiders became the butt of all football jokes for their blasphemous approach to Mack and for doing the unthinkable: trading the league's best sack artist.
But is the joke really on the Bears?
Sure, Chicago enjoyed a pretty miraculous ride in 2018, one the came a Cody Parkey kick away from advancing to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. But it's been a steady decline since then. Midway through the 2019 season, the Bears are 3-5 while the Raiders, after defeating the Chargers in Week 11's Thursday Night Football, stand at 5-4.
If you watched the game Thursday night, you witnessed this year's likely offensive rookie of the year, Josh Jacobs, seal the win for Oakland on an 18-yard touchdown run. Jacobs, who's now run for 811 yards and seven touchdowns, was the player the Raiders picked with the selection the Bears sent to Oakland for Mack.
Jacobs' season is impressive by any measure, especially for a rookie. But compare his stats to the Bears' ground game, and it becomes even more shocking just how much value Oakland got in that trade. Jacobs has more yards, yards per carry, yards after contact and rushing touchdowns than the entire Bears offense.
Oakland has it's building block on offense thanks to the Mack deal.
Meanwhile, the Bears' offense is struggling to find its identity. It doesn't appear like the roster has a franchise quarterback and with no first-round pick in 2020 (it, too, was sent to the Raiders), where will it find one? In fact, Oakland may end up securing that franchise quarterback (if they aren't sold on Derek Carr) with the Bears' first-round pick this April. At this rate, it could end up being a top-five selection. It will be a vicious slap in the face to general manager Ryan Pace if the Mack trade backfires like that.
Hindsight is 20/20 and it's easy to say now, after 1 1/2 seasons, that maybe the Bears got the short end of the Mack deal. But it's still too soon to say. What if the Raiders select a complete bust in the 2020 draft and Mack leads the league in sacks en route to a Bears' Super Bowl run next year? Neither scenario is outside the realm of possibility. Chicago's roster is that close; it just needs a quarterback.
Consider this, too: The Bears were lauded for robbing the Raiders of a second-round pick on top of Mack when the deal was announced. But how does that second-rounder look now? Instead of being one of the first 10 picks on Day 2, the Raiders are trending toward a competitive December that could (even if it's a longshot) see them qualify for a wild card spot. If that happens, the Bears will go from acquiring a pick that was supposed to be in the top 40 to something much later in the second round. That hurts.
Next season will decide the real winner of this trade. But eight games into 2019, the Raiders are slowly flipping the narrative and looking like they could come out on top.
Are the Raiders getting the last laugh on the Khalil Mack trade? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago