Oakland Raiders legend Phil Villapiano tees off on Amari Cooper

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images /

Oakland Raiders legend Phil Villapiano was recently asked about now-Dallas Cowboys star receiver Amari Cooper, and he didn’t hold back.

Given the fire and passion former Oakland Raiders great Phil Villapiano still has for this team, head coach Jon Gruden might want to consider giving the 69-year-old some pads, a helmet, and get him into a game at some point in the very near future.

After all, given a recent interview with a Las Vegas radio station, it certainly seems like Villapiano can still lay a mean hit – and let’s face it the Raiders can use some serious help with their linebackers group.

The target of Villapiano’s bone rattling hit this time, wasn’t a back coming out of the backfield, or a receiver coming across the middle. No, this time, it was former Raiders first-round draft pick and now Dallas Cowboys star receiver Amari Cooper who took the shot from the fiery former All-Pro.

If you’ve been living under a rock, orbiting the planet, or have been otherwise occupied for the past couple of months – we really couldn’t blame you for not paying attention, given the state of Raiders football lately – but Gruden made the decision to send Cooper to Dallas in exchange for another first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

This is one of those deals that looks as if it could turn out to be a win-win for both clubs. Dallas is getting a playmaking receiver and the Raiders have yet more draft capital to work with as Gruden begins to rebuild after conducting a scorched-earth tear-down this season.

More from Las Vegas Raiders News

There’s no question that Cooper has thrived in Dallas and seems to be an entirely different person now that he isn’t wearing Silver and Black. He’s far more animated and even seemed to throw a wee bit of shade at his former quarterback, Derek Carr.

For the first time since he came out of Alabama, Cooper just looks like he’s having fun.

And why not? He’s seeing a lot more targets and has become a vital piece of the Cowboys offense. He and Dak Prescott seem to be clicking, which makes it easier for Ezekiel Elliott to go off, and the offense as a whole seems to be rolling.

In just five games with Dallas, Cooper has amassed 30 receptions (on 40 targets) for 424 yards and three touchdowns – and oh yeah, the Cowboys are 4-1 since he landed with them, while the Raiders continue to flounder and flail at 2-10 after a surprisingly narrow loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Compare that to the six games he played with the Raiders this season, though.

In those six games, Cooper had just 22 receptions (on 32 targets) for 280 yards and a touchdown. Now, you can point the finger at Carr, Gruden’s playcalling, or a lack of trust between quarterback and receiver, given Cooper’s penchant for dropping the ball. However, it’s clear that he wasn’t the critical piece of the offense Gruden envisioned when he took charge of the Raiders for a second time.

All of that, and the massive deal it was going to take to keep him – or risk the same sort of Khalil Mack standoff that rocked the team this year – and it was clear that Gruden and the Raiders needed to move on from the Alabama product.

light. Also Read. Derek Carr Passes Rich Gannon On All-Time Passing List

And getting a first-rounder in return for him seemed to be a bit of a coup.

For Cooper’s part though, infused with new life and a new energy, we’re discovering that he has something of a personality after all. If it’s not paying a mocking tribute to Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz‘s clumsy free throw shooting, it’s in sounding off to the media, as he’s recently done, taking a very subtle shot at Carr and a not so subtle shot at the Raiders in general.

"“I wasn’t really happy in Oakland or anything like that. (The Raiders) basically said, ‘We could get a guy, who’s going to contribute better than he will, in the first round.’ And I didn’t know how to feel about that.I just always felt like I wasn’t really being used how I felt like I would have used me if I was the coach. So I looked at it from that perspective, not from the perspective that, ‘Oh, they don’t think I’m good enough’ or I’m not good enough.”"

Those sentiments didn’t sit well with Villapiano – to say the least. In an interview with CBS Sports Radio 1140’s “Silver and Black Today” show, the former linebacker let Cooper have it with both barrels, holding nothing back.

"That’s a punk talking. That is a little sissy. If I was still playing and we were playing Dallas next year, that guy would have a problem coming over the middle. He couldn’t. Jack Tatum, myself and George Atkinson would annihilate the guy, talking like that. He’s getting into the Lynn Swann-like type (of) personality."

More from Golden Gate Sports

Oh, but he didn’t stop there. Villapiano not only let Cooper have it with both barrels, he reloaded and gave it to him again, going on to say:

"I wanted (Cooper) off the team last year. He couldn’t catch the ball on third down. I thought it was a great move when Gruden got rid of him this year because he didn’t perform for the Raiders.Not being used properly? Your job is to catch the ball. Catch the ball, jerk. NFL football is black and white. You don’t do your job, you’re out of here. And that’s why Gruden traded him, I think."

If words had an actual physical impact to them, it seems pretty safe to say that Cooper would very likely be in the league’s concussion protocol for the remainder of the season.

The fact of the matter – and something Cooper needs to understand – is that it’s not a case of Gruden and the Raiders thinking they can get somebody who can “contribute better” in the first-round next year. It’s that they can get somebody cheaper.

Cooper sharing an agent with Mack very likely factored heavily into the decision to part ways. Rather than letting the situation linger and fester the way the situation with Mack did, Gruden smartly opted to pull the Band-Aid off quickly and not let it become a distraction next season.

And now, armed with three first-round picks and a warchest of cash that could potentially approach $100 million to spend on free agents, Gruden is in a great position to begin the process of rebuilding this team and filling the many holes that dot this roster.

Had Gruden opted to pay Carr, Mack, and Cooper, the team would have been hamstrung. They’d have had very little cash to spend on positions of need, nor would they have as much draft capital as they have right now.

As much as you hate to see players like Mack and Cooper go, when you’re building a complete roster, one that hopefully doesn’t have the plethora of holes this one does, you need maximum flexibility.

Villapiano was partially right when assessing Gruden’s reason for trading Cooper, but it’s a little more nuanced than that. But the fact does remain that for the past two seasons, Cooper has underperformed and has never quite lived up to the status of a first-round pick. Villapiano wasn’t wrong about that.

Next. Reasons why adding Kareem Hunt is a non-starter. dark

He may fulfill that potential with Dallas, though. And while that may be a bummer for Raiders fans to have to sit back and watch, the team may still yet reap the rewards of that investment.

Just for fun though, the next time the Cowboys are on Oakland’s schedule, Gruden may want to give Villapiano a call and have him suit up for the game.