Former Denver Broncos Lineman Mark Schlereth Says Teddy Bridgewater’s Embarrassing Tackle Attempt Shows That the Organization’s Problems Start at the Top: ‘Poop Runs Downhill’
Riding high after one of the most shocking upsets of the season, the Denver Broncos put up a stinker the very next week. Emblematic of the team’s effort in Week 10 was Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater making no attempt to tackle a defender streaking in for a game-defining touchdown. Former NFL player Mark Schlereth, who won two Super Bowls with the Broncos, says Bridgewater’s effort signifies a larger organizational problem.
The Philadelphia Eagles beat down the Denver Broncos in Week 10
After a stunning 30-16 upset over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9, the Denver Broncos were at 5-4 and in a prime position for not just an AFC playoff spot but an AFC West title as well.
The next step on their road to the postseason was a home game against the 3-6 Philadelphia Eagles.
The game should have put the Broncos in the national spotlight, and it did, but for all the wrong reasons. The team gave a lackluster effort and lost to the Eagles in an even worse fashion than it beat Cowboys the week before, 30-13.
The hallmark moment from the game was when Eagles cornerback Darius Slay picked up a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown as the third quarter expired. During the runback, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater — in prime position to make the tackle — sidestepped the defender and gave him a clear path to the end zone.
The play itself was bad because it turned a tight 20-13 ballgame into a 27-13 contest, effectively ending the game.
The effort was obviously bad, but critics differed on whether it was the right decision by Bridgewater. Some pundits, like FS1’s Colin Cowherd, said QBs should get out of the way and not make tackles to protect themselves.
However, others, even former NFL QBs, disagreed. Seventeen-year NFL signal-caller Rich Gannon tweeted, “Teddy Bridgewater no tackle attempt as bad as I’ve ever seen. He will have some explaining to do to his teammates, coaches and the Bronco fans.”
Three-time Super Bowl-winning offensive lineman and former Denver Bronco Mark Schlereth came down on the side that it was a horrible effort by the QB. That said, he doesn’t completely blame Bridgewater. He says the problem is organization-wide, not just on the field.
Former Bronco Mark Schlereth believes the franchise has a culture problem
Mark Schlereth played 12 seasons in the NFL, six with the now-Washington Football Team and six with the Denver Broncos. He’s now a sports talk radio host in Denver and a color commentator for FOX Sports.
On Wednesday, he joined the Rich Eisen Show to discuss various NFL topics, including his former team’s uninspired loss to the Eagles.
When talk turned to the Teddy Bridgewater tackle attempt (or lack thereof), he noted wide receiver Courtland Sutton — another team captain — pulled a similar move a few weeks prior. The wideout walked off the field immediately following an interception without chasing the defensive player at all.
Schlereth then shared an analogy from his younger years that summed up what he believes the problem is. It’s that there is no culture of accountability in the Denver Broncos organization these days:
I worked as a plumber’s apprentice one summer when I was probably 17 years old. And I’m working, and this guy says to me, “Hey man, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about plumbing,” and I basically have a shovel and I’m digging a ditch down to this septic tank … and he says, basically, and I’ll clean this up for the radio, “Poop flows downhill.” … From an organizational standpoint, if your owner or your head coach doesn’t establish and live a culture every single day, it’s going to filter down to the players. … If you don’t hold people accountable at the very top of the organization, how do you expect the people underneath you to hold themselves accountable? And it’s unfortunate because that’s not the Denver Broncos that I played for, and it’s upsetting.Mark Schlereth on the Denver Broncos’ culture
This is a direct shot at head coach Vic Fangio, president of football operations (and Schlereth’s former QB) John Elway, and the estate of late owner Pat Bowlen that currently owns the team.
The team hosts the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11
Despite the lopsided loss that sent the Denver Broncos down to last place in the AFC West, the team is still in position to grab a playoff spot or even win its division.
The AFC West, which many thought was one of the best divisions in football coming into the 2021 season, is incredibly competitive, albeit mediocre so far. Even after their highly-publicized struggles, the Kansas City Chiefs are in first place at 6-4, while the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders are just a half-game behind at 5-4.
This means the 5-5 Broncos — who have five divisional games in their seven remaining contests — are in the mix to take the AFC West crown.
This divisional Royal Rumble starts this weekend as the Broncos host the Chargers. LA is not in a good space itself, having lost three of its last four and only squeaking by the Eagles during that stretch by a field goal.
Like the Broncos, the Chargers have their own problems. As well as QB Justin Herbert is playing this season, his pass protection isn’t very good, and his receivers, while productive, drop too many balls. LA’s defense isn’t great either. The unit ranks 19th in points allowed.
Sunday’s game seems like it could determine which of these teams hangs around and fights for a playoff spot and which team packs it in and starts thinking about 2022.
However, given the mediocrity of the AFC West and the glut of divisional games to go, it could just as easily be a game the loser can rebound from or the winner could tail off after.
Football fans, your 2021 AFC West.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference