The Buffalo Bills helped Kathryn Smith make history Wednesday, when the team announced her hiring as a special teams quality control coach. That makes Smith the first woman to become a full-time coach in the NFL.
“Kathryn Smith has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff,” Bills Coach Rex Ryan said in a statement. “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.”
In 2015, the Arizona Cardinals made Jen Welter the first woman to hold a coaching position in the NFL, but that was a multi-week internship during the preseason. The year before that, the San Antonio Spurs made Becky Hammon the first full-time coach in any of the U.S.’s major professional leagues.
Whereas Welter was a veteran football player who got her first coaching experience with men in the Indoor Football League, Smith has been an employee with NFL teams since 2003. From the Bills’ press release:
Smith, who will enter her 14th year in the NFL next season, joins the Bills coaching ranks after spending 2015 as the team’s administrative assistant to the head coach.
Prior to joining the Bills in 2015, Smith spent 12 seasons working for the New York Jets. Smith originally began her career in 2003 as a Jets gameday/special events intern. She became a college scouting intern in 2005 before being promoted to player personnel assistant in 2007 and going on to be named assistant to the head coach in 2014.
“I consulted with [Cardinals Coach] 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,” Ryan said. “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.”