Buffalo Bills Hire Kathryn Smith As An Asst. Coach, Making Her The 1st Full-Time Female NFL Coach


We know you all cheered along with us when Jen Welter was hired as the assistant coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals football teach during their preseason. The former collegiate football player who holds a PhD in psychology sent shockwaves (in a good way!) around the country mid-2015, signalling a new generation of women in professional sports, and breaking down gender segregation at the highest level.

That is until the Buffalo Bills they had one-upped the Cardinals (once again, in a good way!). They have just announced Kathryn Smith as their assistant coach, who becomes the first female to hold a full-time coaching position in the NFL!

She will serve as their special teams quality control coach who has an extensive background in competitive sports. The Dewitt, NY native was involved in swimming, lacrosse and and bowling during her school years, while also helping her father keep statistics for the school’s football team. Kathryn went on to major in sports management, and was a team manager for the Red Storm men’s basketball team while studying at St. John’s in Syracuse.

In the pro-football world, her resume just gets more impressive. Kathryn has spent the last 12 years working for the New York Jets, first as an intern, then a personnel assistant, and finally assistant to the head coach in 2014, according to the Washington Post. Can’t say this woman doesn’t have dedication or commitment!

That head coach, Rex Ryan, is now the head coach of the Bills and brought Kathryn with him when he switched teams. The coach had nothing but praise for Kathryn, which the Buffalo Bills’ PR department tweeted out to all their followers:

“She deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a couple of her outstanding qualities…Kathryn has been working in a football administrative role and assisted the coaches for years. She has proven that she’s ready for the next step so I’m excited and proud for her with this opportunity,” he said.


He also went on to acknowledge the growing presence of women in not just football (he paid homage to the Cardinals’ coach Bruce Arians for hiring Jen Welter), but in other professional leagues such as the NBA, where Becky Hammon made history by becoming the first female coach, working for the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach during regular season, but who also led the Spurs to become the 2015 Summer Season champions as head coach, proving her worth in salt.

“I consulted with Bruce Arians on this since he was really the first NFL head coach to make this kind of a 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 (Greg) Popovich at the San Antonio Spurs, and realize how exciting this is for women like Kathryn Smith as well as the Bills organization,” he wrote.

We suppose we can forgive his grammatical errors and not knowing Becky Hammon or Jen Welter by name because at least he is on the right side of history when it comes to breaking gender barriers in professional sports.

In an article about the Bills hiring Kathryn Smith for Sportsgrid.com, writer David Gonos says the hiring of a woman was well overdue, but not only for female empowerment reasons.

“Many would say this was long overdue because of female empowerment, the fact that women can do everything a man can do, girl power, etc. I’m not going to contest any of that, mainly because I’m not sexist, but also because I’m not a huge idiot asking for a bunch of angry tweets. My argument that hiring a female coach in the NFL is long overdue is because there have been plenty of non-football players finding their way on coaching staffs across the league – they’ve just always been men that didn’t play the sport at a competitive level,” he pointed out.


We have to agree with his perspective, because this shows gender should not be a determining factor at all, merit should be and clearly that is being scrutinized in an objective way by the sports writer.

“I’m completely fine with the argument that any coach that never played a full-contact sport at a high level is a questionable hire at best, but not because they have male or female genitalia. I believe Kathryn Smith has a chance to be very successful in her stint with the Bills – and I commend Buffalo for making this hire. But I do condemn the Bills and the other 31 NFL teams for taking so long, while also hiring male coaches with the same limited playing experience,” he said.

The fact that we are now at a place in history where we are becoming used to the idea of women being part of previously male-dominated arenas is a good thing, and we hope it continues.

“While being the ‘Quality Control Coach for Special Teams’ doesn’t sound like a job that needed much NFL game-play experience, it’s still going where other females haven’t gone before, and we’re glad to see that,” concluded David.

For the record, a quality control coach is an entry-level NFL coaching position, with some on-field work but mostly opponent-specific game prep often done weeks before a game. In her new role, Kathryn will be required to watch videos, analyze the opposition’s tactics and style, and report this to the head coach.

It goes without saying that we believe she will be brilliant in this role, and just like women such as Jen Welter and Becky Hammon, will be yet another woman opening the gates a bit wider, allowing more girls and women to come behind her.

Watch Sports Illustrated’s NFL editor Melissa Jacobs break down Kathryn’s new role and the significance of it on Sports Illustrated Now’s web show:

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