Buffalo Bills hire a female assistant coach

Posted Jan 21, 2016

History was made in the NFL overnight, as the Buffalo Bills hired the league’s first-ever full-time female coach.

Or perhaps we should more accurately say that they promoted one. Kathryn Smith had worked in an administrative role for the team last season, but was named as the new quality control coach - special teams on Wednesday night.

This was no token appointment. Smith’s promotion was announced just two days after Vic Carucci had penned a lengthy column for the Buffalo News detailing how special teams had been a “liability” for the Bills in 2015. He noted the rash of penalties given away in that phase, the absence of a consistent return game and the fact that kicker Dan Carpenter had missed six extra points - second-most in the league.

Smith will join special teams co-ordinator Danny Crossman and assistant Eric Smith in seeking to turn this situation around. She replaces Michael Hamlin, whose departure from the team was announced earlier this month. ESPN reports that her duties are “likely to include helping run the special-teams scout team at practice, breaking down film and assisting [Crossman and Smith] on game days.”

Her appointment might be a first, but it has not come out of the blue. Smith has been working in the league for a long time, beginning her NFL career as a game-day/special-events intern with the Jets in 2003, and becoming a college scouting intern in 2005 before being promoted to player-personnel assistant two years after that. Ryan made her an administrative assistant before his final season in New York, and then took her with him to Buffalo in a similar role.

If he did have any reservations about how her gender would affect her new position, then he assuaged them in part by speaking to Bruce Arians. The Cardinals head coach broke new ground in the summer when he hired Jenn Welter to work with his team’s linebackers during training camp - a move that made her the first-ever female coach in the NFL but, unlike Smith, only on a temporary basis.

In a statement, Ryan also noted how the landscape was changing across professional sports in general. “You can see the success some of these young ladies are having in the coaching profession,” he said, “such as the young lady [Becky Hammon] that is an assistant to Coach [Gregg] Popovich at the San Antonio Spurs.”

The NFL is an unforgiving business, in which there is no guarantee of success for anybody but, in relaying Smith’s journey to this point for Syracuse.com, reporter Matthew Fairburn also noted that she had got this far without any easy leg-ups based on family ties.

“Smith, 30, got here by climbing the NFL's proverbial ladder the way anyone else might,” he wrote. “In fact, she did so without any sort of connection to anyone in the league and with a glass ceiling in place because of her gender.”

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- The mayor of Los Angeles would prefer the Chargers to stay put in San Diego.

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