Yes, you can. The proof is Marcus Brady.
On Jan. 25, Brady ’06 (Finance) was promoted to offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts, becoming just one of four Black offensive coordinators in the National Football League out of its 32 teams.
This is the same Marcus Brady who became the record-setting and last starting quarterback of the CSUN football program, after other universities passed him over.
This is the same Brady who went on to play professionally, despite being cut in his lone NFL tryout. And this is the same Brady who took a 15-year route through Canada to finally land a job in the NFL.
“For me, it was just continue to grind. Don’t be discouraged by your current situation. Set a goal. Have a plan. And then do what it takes to continue that path,” Brady said. “My path obviously wasn’t easy. But I say to anybody trying to pursue a career that feels like they have less chance: ‘You just have to stay with it and keep working harder.’”
Brady spent the past three seasons with the Colts — first as their assistant quarterbacks coach and then two years as quarterbacks coach. But his star had been rising, particularly after the 2020 season, when the Colts made the postseason and finished with their best regular-season record since 2014.
Brady’s promotion on Jan. 25 made headlines as the NFL continues to work toward progress in the race-gap between leadership and player personnel.
According to a study by Arizona State University’s Global Sport Institute, between 2009-19, there were never more than four offensive coordinators of color in any season. Yet about 70% of the league’s players are Black.
It was just a week ago that Super Bowl LV featured — for the first time — two teams with Black offensive coordinators: the Buccaneers’ Byron Leftwich and Chiefs’ Eric Bienemy. Brady recognizes the cultural and historical significance of his hire and what Leftwich and Bienemy represent.
“It’s an inspiration to others, to other young Black men,” Brady said. “I received so many text messages congratulating me [on being promoted] from so many people and from a lot of different coaches, a lot of younger coaches who are inspired. Hopefully, I’ll go out and have success and continue inspiring them, and hopefully they get those opportunities as well.”
One of those text messages was from Bienemy. Another was from Doug Williams — the first Black quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory in 1988.
Brady has long bucked trends.
He was a star quarterback at San Diego’s Morse High School during a time when opportunities for Black players at the position were viewed as vastly unequal.
“Big schools didn’t want me to play quarterback. They’d say, ‘Oh, you’re an athlete, you need to play receiver,’” Brady recalled. “I’m like, ‘No, I’m a passing quarterback.’ And so that was discouraging. I felt that I was not getting a fair opportunity coming up.”
At CSUN, he received the opportunity and excelled. He set CSUN all-time records in passing yardage and touchdowns, and NCAA Division I-AA records in completions and attempts over a four-year career (1998-2001). He also earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, and to this day, Brady said he still leans on that education to analyze statistics to better inform his decision making on the football field.
Brady went to training camp with the Green Bay Packers in 2002, but he was cut before the season. In an effort to continue his career and find a way back to the NFL, he went north to the Canadian Football League (CFL). He served primarily as a backup quarterback from 2002-08. After the 2008 season, he became a free agent. He sought a starting quarterback job, but at 28 years old, he was offered a coaching position with the Montreal Alouettes.
“I had to make a decision. I knew it was an important one. But obviously, I still wanted to play,” Brady said. “But I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Brady coached in the CFL from 2009-17, rising from receivers coach to offensive coordinator and coaching teams that won three Grey Cups — the league’s championship.
NFL teams generally hire coaches from rival organizations and university coaching staffs. The Colts, however, hired Brady from the CFL to be their assistant quarterbacks coach in 2018.
Three seasons later, he has earned the most prominent role of his professional career.
The late Yahoo! Sports writer Terez Paylor quoted Colts General Manager Chris Ballard in December as saying of Brady: “He’s got a very sharp mind, the quarterback room respects him, he works and he’s got a great demeanor in terms of calmness. There’s never any panic with Marcus. He’s always the same; even though the heart may be beating harder underneath, he never shows it.”
Said Brady: “It’s really about the people you know, people that you work with. Hopefully, you’ve done a good enough job in your current position that when there are other opportunities and people speak about you, they speak highly of you — and that’s kind of what happened.”
The offensive coordinator position in the NFL is a stepping stone to head coach. Brady isn’t thinking about that at the moment. His aspirations, he said, are: “Just win some games, and hopefully win a Super Bowl.”