Rex Ryan took a big step towards to bringing more women into the NFL after the Buffalo Bills announced Wednesday that they hired Kathryn Smith as a "special teams quality control coach."
While the title sounds very specific — but at the same time vague — the hire does make Smith the first-ever full-time female NFL assistant coach in the league and turns feet-loving Ryan into a special footnote in sports history.
“Kathryn Smith has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff,” Ryan said in a statement released by the team. “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.”
.@buffalobills HC Rex Ryan on naming Kathryn Smith the first female full-time coach in @NFL history pic.twitter.com/w95ph4DOXo— Buffalo Bills PR (@BuffaloBillsPR) January 21, 2016
Smith started her career with the Jets, joining the organization in 2003 as a game day and special events intern. She became a college scouting intern in 2005, a player personnel assistant in 2007 and assistant to the head coach in 2014. She followed Ryan to Buffalo in 2015 after the Jets fired him.
The NFL has already seen women break down gender barriers after the Cardinals hired Jen Welter as an assistant coaching intern for training camp last year. Welter was believed to be the first female coach in NFL history, but Smith will become the first full-time NFL coach.
“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,” Ryan said in the statement. “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.”
Ryan was referring to Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon.
One big step for women and one new pair of tiny feet for Rex.