“They are who we thought they were.”
So declared the late, great Dennis Green, who was a Black head coach who survived in the National Football League for just over a dozen years. Green, who led the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals, was not a man who minced words.
Of course, this quote wasn’t about the NFL more generally, but it certainly seems to fit today.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady based on his team’s poor offensive output. The problem is that Brady — who is Black — doesn’t even call the plays for the Colts. Who does? Reich himself. In common terms, this is what we call scapegoating.
This firing has hit a nerve in the Black community. It is part and parcel of the longstanding tendency to blame Black faces for white problems. Tragically, Brady is in very good company.
Now I don’t know everything there is to know about professional football, but there seems to be plenty of blame to go around for this abysmal season, and it appears that the Indianapolis Colts have decided to make Marcus Brady the fall guy for a lot of people who quite frankly aren’t doing their jobs well at all.
But the offensive line coach gets to keep his job, even though ours is ranked 26th in the league. Same thing with the quarterbacks coach, who has managed to “coach” a quarterback to lead the league in turnovers, interceptions and fumbles. Yet, he keeps his job.
Most importantly, the head coach, who actually calls the plays and has the Colts ranked 30th in points scored, is keeping his job. Maybe there is an implied “for now,” but I won’t speculate. I only deal in the now. Yeah, that looks like accountability. Or not. Same script, different day.
Can’t we all agree to end racism — beyond making that phrase a trendy one to put on jerseys?
A Washington Post analysis found that even when Black coaches win, they lose. The Post found that Black coaches in the NFL are twice as likely to be fired even when they have a record of .500 or better.
The NFL has repeatedly shown us that they aren’t solely focused on talent. Despite that about 60% of the players in the NFL are African American, only three of the current 32 head coaches (9%) are African American. It has been like this for a while. Art Shell was named the head coach of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1989.
The NFL is yet another example as to how there is no such thing as a real meritocracy. It’s small “p” politics and what coaching tree you come from. Reportedly, Jim Irsay did not fire Marcus Brady. Coach Reich and General Manager Chris Ballard did. They are engaging in business as usual.
The Colts also should get credit for hiring Tony Dungy. He got seven years, and the Colts got a 76% win/loss record and a Super Bowl. We can’t forget about that. The Colts also have done some good in being community partners. Owner Jim Irsay’s leadership on mental health is important and a top concern in our community.
Hopefully, the colts can become who we know they can be.
Robert Shegog is president and CEO of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper.