Mark Schlereth made a career of protecting running backs, but not so much anymore in his post-playing career days.
Over the past several years, the running back position has become radically undervalued across the NFL as teams opt to give veteran backs lucrative contracts, instead opting to use franchise tags and to sign and draft younger and cheaper players.
It would be fair to label Schlereth’s former head coach, Mike Shanahan, not so much the “Godfather” of that philosophy, but rather a “pioneer.” While he employed an eventual Hall of Famer in Terrell Davis, Shanahn saw Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson both rush for over 1,100 yards in place of the injured Pro Bowler.
Shanahan-coached offenses, whether it’s Mike or Kyle, have utilized a running back by committee approach. And even though Kyle currently has the highest-paid running back in the league in his backfield in San Francisco–Christian McCaffrey—he still abides by that philosophy.
And because of that, Schlereth has a particular viewpoint on Jonathan Taylor and the ongoing animosity between running backs and the teams that don’t want to pay them. He said as much during a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show on Thursday.
“Frankly, I don’t have a lot of sympathy,” Schlereth told Eisen. “You know what? You signed a collective bargaining agreement. You gave the franchise tag. You negotiated things like less practice time. And you negotiate stupid stuff. Hey, I’m part of that. I’m guilty. Right, I was a player too. I understand it. You negotiate stupid stuff. They know you’re gonna negotiate stupid stuff. It doesn’t really matter. And that’s your own fault.”
“As far as the running backs having a stupid Zoom meeting and complaining and whining about it. It is what it is, that’s the market. And that’s how market economics work. So, quit complaining about it. I don’t remember any star running backs at the time standing up on their podiums, complaining about how unfair it is that the fullbacks were becoming extinct, as long as they were getting theirs.”
Schlereth continued by saying that he no longer wanted to hear the complaining coming from the running backs.
“It’s the market. Take the money that’s available to you. Go out there and play great,” he said. “You know, whatever. I don’t have any sympathy, empathy, any of the -athy’s. None of the “-athy’s” bother me. I don’t care.”
Clearly, he does care a little bit. Another thing here, Schlereth mentioned during his conversation with Eisen that there is a difference between Terrell Davis and Mike Anderson, and how the former would have rushed for 2,000 yards during the 2000 NFL season if he was healthy.
Schlereth did agree with Eisen’s assertion that running backs should be getting as much money as they can but argued that this is just what the market is.
“The one thing that has proven true over the years is that probably the easiest position in football to come out of college, transition to the NFL and be great, is the running back position,” he said. “We’ve seen this on a consistent basis with guys that are drafted in the second, third, fourth round, becoming stars. It’s the nature of the position right now. And the running back position is just not one that [NFL teams] value as much because other guys can come in for a much cheaper price and have production. And then two, the injury issues…there’s a reason those guys don’t last long term.”