First Female NFL Coach

Brigit McDannell ’18
Sports Editor

New York‘s Buffalo Bills made National Football League history Jan. 20. The team named Kathryn Smith as their first female full-time coach. Smith’s job focuses on special teams and quality control.

This past season she worked with Buffalo Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan as his administrative assistant, establishing a strong relationship with him. Speaking to ESPN, Ryan said regarding the new hire, “Kathryn Smith has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff.” Ryan continued, “She certainly deserves this promotion, based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a couple of her outstanding qualities, and I just know she’s going to do a great job serving in the role of Quality Control-Special Teams.”

The 12 years prior to her time with Ryan, Smith worked for the New York Jets. In 2003, she started her professional football career as a special events intern, which gradually turned into a scouting position in 2005. In 2007, she was promoted to a player personnel assistant.

The Bills co-owner Kim Pegula released a statement to The Associated Press, congratulating Smith. Pegula agreed with Ryan, saying that Smith definitely earned the promotion.

“Kathryn has been a part of [Ryan’s] staff for the past seven years and has proven that she does excellent work,” Pegula said. “While we understand the significance of this announcement, it’s important to understand that Kathryn earned this position because she has shown she is qualified, dedicated and puts in the work needed for this role.” Inside linebacker coach for the Arizona Cardinals, Jen Welter, was also very supportive of the hiring decision.

As a special team coach, her duties include film breakdown, tracking tendencies, noticing trends and running scout teams for special teams. Coach Smith replaced Michael Hamlin, who announced a month ago that he would not be returning.

The Bills have promoted gender diversity in the past. In 1986, the Bills hired Linda Bogdan as the NFL’s first female scout. Several other NFL teams have also employed women in prominent roles. Amy Trask was the Raiders’ chief executive officer from 1997 until she resigned in 2013. The Jets promoted longtime executive Jacqueline Davidson to director of football administration last year. She had previously worked as the team’s manager of football administration.

While Smith’s promotion is a positive step towards equal opportunity, hopefully in the future more women will join the coaching ranks of major U.S. professional sports teams.

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