Jon Gruden should be the frontrunner for NFL Coach of the Year. What other candidate has single-handedly improved not one, but two franchises so much in just one season? All jokes aside, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper have both their teams in the hunt for the playoffs after the Bears and Cowboys each scored a victory on Thanksgiving day. Needless to say, both teams and their fans are very thankful for Gruden.
While Mack had a relatively quiet day against the Lions, his impact on the Bears defense is indisputable. Despite missing two games due to an ankle injury, the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year has recorded 8.0 sacks and 5 forced fumbles on the year. He is the unquestioned leader of the best front-seven in the league, and has put himself in position to win the coveted award for the second time.
When Gruden and the Raiders traded Mack to Chicago in exchange for two first round picks, they did so with the expectation the Bears would once again finish the year with one of the worst records. Things haven’t gone as Gruden envisioned. Just over two months later, as Mack and the Bears defense have Chicago sitting atop the NFC North with an the 8-3 record after a big win over the Lions on Thanksgiving day.
Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper has had a similar impact on his new team. The fourth-year receiver had himself a turkey day with 8 receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns leading the Cowboys to a 31-23 victory over the Redskins.
After totaling just 280 receiving yards and one touchdown in his first six games of the season with the Silver & Black, Cooper has blossomed in Dallas recording 255 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the past four games. He leads the Cowboys in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns since joining the team during the week 8 bye.
Dallas was 3-4 when Cooper arrived and have been 3-1 since. The combined record of the Bears and Cowboys with Mack and Cooper is 11-4. Meanwhile, with little in the way of game-changing talent remaining, the Raiders sit at 2-8 and among the bottom dwellers of the NFL.
With the Raiders formers top talents playing this well and the draft picks from those teams getting lower and lower, it’s Gruden who looks like the turkey and the Bears and Cowboys couldn’t be more thankful.