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Wade Phillips defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos celebrates on the stage as the Super Bowl 50 Champion Denver Broncos are honored at a rally on the steps of the Denver City and County Building on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Stokley: Letting Wade Phillips walk a ‘big mistake’ for Broncos

Wade Phillips defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos celebrates on the stage as the Super Bowl 50 Champion Denver Broncos are honored at a rally on the steps of the Denver City and County Building on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

In 2015 and 2016, then Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips cultivated one of the best defenses in the NFL, if not all time.

During those years, the Broncos ranked first and fourth, respectively, in terms of total defensive yards allowed.

Now, Phillips returns to Denver on Sunday as a member of the Los Angeles Rams coaching staff just two seasons removed from being replaced by Joe Woods on the Broncos staff.

And following a 34-point drubbing at the hands of a middling New York Jets offense, “Stokley and Zach” co-host Brandon Stokley said it was a “big mistake” letting Phillips walk.

“You look at this defense, you look at the talent that they have, and they haven’t come close to playing up to their level,” Stokley said. “So, to think that Wade Phillips wouldn’t make a big difference is really, really foolish. He would.

“That was a big mistake letting him walk, and they are paying the price for it.”

Currently, the Broncos sit 27th in the NFL in yards against. By comparison, the Rams rank 10th in the league.

Stokley said he would be more forgiving of Woods and the Denver defense had the talent level drained away with Phillips’ departure, but it has not.

“Now, if this defense didn’t have playmakers or good players over there, then I would say OK, Joe Woods doesn’t have anything to work with,” Stokley said. “… But he does have a lot to work with.”

It’s impossible to know how Phillips would fare with the 2018 Broncos, but Stokley said he believes the unit would be “a lot better” under his tutelage.

“There’s a reason why he’s been so successful. There’s a reason why everywhere he goes he gets the most out of his players. And what we’re seeing right now is not that at all,” Stokley said. “We’re not seeing the defense get the most out of their talent or their players.”

In 20 of 36 seasons as either a head coach or defensive coordinator, Phillips led teams to top-10 defensive outputs in terms of total yards.

Follow digital content producer Johnny Hart on Twitter: @JohnnyHart7.