Kathryn Smith and the Buffalo Bills have made history. The Bills hired Smith on Wednesday as a special teams quality control coach, making her the NFL’s first full-time female coach in the history of the sport, according to a report from ESPN. This is a groundbreaking announcement for the entire sports world that has slowly adapted women into roles once only intended for the opposite sex. Bills head coach Rex Ryan has been at the forefront of Smith’s development and is excited for the opportunity to promote her yet again.
“Kathryn Smith has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff. 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.”
As alluded to in Ryan’s statement, Kathryn Smith is not an administrative rookie in the NFL. She was originally hired by the New York Jets as a game day/special events intern in 2003. Smith served in other various roles during her ascent, including a college scouting intern and player personnel assistant. Smith was on staff for Ryan’s entire six-year tenure with the Jets and then shifted to Buffalo as an administrative assistant to the head coach when Ryan took the job with the Bills. All told, Kathryn Smith has worked in the NFL for 13 years. The Bills took to Twitter to share in their precedent-setting move.
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) January 21, 2016
Kathryn Smith joins a select few who have come before her and tried to pave the way for women in sports. The San Antonio Spurs hired Becky Hammon in August 2014 as a full-time assistant coach, and Jen Welter joined the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff during training camp last summer. Ryan highlighted those moves, as well, in his statement regarding Smith.
“I consulted with Bruce Arians on this since he was really the first NFL head coach to make this kind of move when he hired a female linebackers coach through the summer. You can see the success some of these young ladies are having in the coaching profession, such as the young lady that is an assistant to Coach (Gregg) Popovich at the San Antonio Spurs, and realize how exciting this is for women like Kathryn Smith as well as the Bills organization.”
Kathryn Smith will replace Michael Hamlin as the special teams quality control coach for Buffalo. However, this is not the first unprecedented move for the Bills organization. Linda Bogdan, daughter of former Bills’ owner Ralph Wilson, became the league’s first female scout when she was hired in 1986. The Raiders, Dolphins, Jets, Bengals, Chargers, and 49ers all employ women in prominent front-office positions, so Kathryn Smith’s hiring could pave the way for more women to become coaches in the National Football League.
Kathryn Smith will work with special teams coordinator Danny Crossman and special teams assistant Eric Smith to try to help improve a Bills unit that finished 16th in the league overall. That is down from 2014 when they finished second overall, but there are a lot of positives to take away from this past season. The Bills’ special team unit ranked first in kickoff coverage and tied for first by forcing four turnovers on special teams. It remains to be seen what tangibles Kathryn Smith will bring to the game of football, but she’s certainly aware of the spotlight this move creates, further creating a sense of urgency to be successful.
[Photo by AP]