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Now that Marcus Brady is gone, little stands between Frank Reich and culpability for Colts' struggles

Bill Parcells had a lot of memorable quotes during his Hall of Fame coaching career. One of his most enduring came when he was on his way out the New England Patriots' door in 1997 when he said, "They want you to cook the dinner, least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries. OK?"

Parcells was upset that Patriots team owner Robert Kraft didn't let him have more say over the team's personnel decisions, having shifted away much of that responsibility from Parcells to Bobby Grier when Kraft bought the team in 1994.

Fed up, Parcells left the Patriots for the rival New York Jets, dropping that groceries gem on his way out.

It's not an apples to apples situation, but it was one of the first things that came to mind on hearing Tuesday's news that Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, with the Colts 3-4-1 in a weak AFC South. Why?

While Brady was involved in game-planning week to week — to make it analogous to Parcells, he was helping buy the groceries — he wasn't calling the plays on game day, aka actually cooking the dinners.

Reich is.

Come again?

Professional sports, heck, professional offices period, are full of stories of higher-ups who know their job is in jeopardy targeting a scapegoat to try to take some heat off of them. This example in Indianapolis might be an all-timer, and not in a good way.

Reich is in his fifth season, and while the Colts haven't been a total disaster on his watch, making the playoffs in two of his first four years, they haven't really gotten markedly better either. There are rumblings that he is on the hot seat as the team has struggled in this year's first half.

A big part of why Indianapolis looks stagnant is Reich and general manager Chris Ballard haven't found a quarterback since Andrew Luck's surprise retirement in the 2019 preseason.

That's not Marcus Brady's fault.

There are plenty of problems with the Colts, and former offensive coordinator Marcus Brady (center) isn't to blame for all of them. (AP Photo/John Amis)
There are plenty of problems with the Colts, and former offensive coordinator Marcus Brady (center) isn't to blame for all of them. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Serving as the Colts' quarterbacks coach in 2019 and 2020 before being promoted to coordinator in 2021, one of just four Black OCs in the NFL last year and this, Brady worked with four different starting quarterbacks: Jacoby Brissett in 2019 after Luck retired; the final days of Philip Rivers in 2020; the disaster that was Carson Wentz in 2021; and a so-disappointing-he-got-benched Matt Ryan this year.

What, exactly, was Brady supposed to do with that crew?

And how exactly is Brady the one thrown under the bus for the team's failures when he's helping Reich create the plan of attack for upcoming opponents but then not given the opportunity to call the plays on game days?

For all we know, Brady and Reich could have been assembling gourmet groceries in the meeting rooms Wednesday through Saturday, but then on Sundays, Reich, the only one allowed to cook, was burning the goods.

It wasn't so long ago when Reich was enamored with Brady, a standout at Cal State Northridge who played in the Canadian Football League for seven seasons before beginning his coaching career in the CFL. When Brady was hired to Reich's staff in 2018, it was as assistant quarterbacks coach, and in his first few months with the team he was credited with doing what other staffs had not: fixing Brissett's footwork. Reich has publicly said he wants all of his assistants to have a voice, and had said that Brady brought a lot to the table. He wanted NFL fans to know the name of his up-and-coming coach. Luck, often hailed as one of the more erudite quarterbacks we've seen, praised Brady's "sharp mind."

But a couple of years later, with his own job on the line, Reich fired Brady to try to take the attention away from his own shortcomings.

In a team statement, Reich said in part, "This was an incredibly hard decision, but one I felt needed to be made in the best interest of the team."

No, Frank, you felt it needed to be made in the best interest of you. Pretty much everyone, including Colts fans, sees that firing Brady was a nakedly self-serving move by Reich.

Matt Ryan was sacked 24 times and threw nine picks against nine touchdowns in seven games before getting pulled in favor of second-year QB Sam Ehlinger before Indy's Week 8 game with Washington. No matter how good a coach is with his players in practice and the meeting rooms, what they do in the heat of a game is out of the coach's hands.

And while Ryan was taken down with eye-opening frequency, the Colts haven't been running the ball well either, averaging just 88 yards per game after posting nearly 150 per contest on the ground last season. But the offensive line coach is still employed.

If we're to extrapolate Reich's beliefs based on Tuesday's move, Brady had a hand in all of the offense's shortcomings — an offensive line he doesn't coach, the plays he doesn't call, the end-of-their-career quarterbacks he didn't trade for.

Pitiful.

Funny enough, Brady isn't the first Colts' OC to be so transparently scapegoated. Reich's predecessor, Chuck Pagano, fired Pep Hamilton midway through the 2015 season when Indianapolis was struggling. At least Hamilton was the offensive play-caller.

He also has something else in common with Brady and recently fired Lions defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant that makes it even more eyebrow-raising that they became the first ones fired when their respective head coaches were fighting for survival, but some of y'all don't want to have that discussion right now. Or sometimes ever.

Of course Reich wasn't going to fire himself, but letting Brady take the fall in this particular situation stinks.