The Buffalo Bills made NFL history Wednesday with the hiring of Kathryn Smith, the first full-time female assistant coach. Previously an administrative and player personnel assistant with the New York Jets for 12 years, Smith joined the Bills last year as head coach Rex Ryan’s administrative assistant.
Ryan praised Smith’s work over the years and said she will assume the role of quality control coach for special teams, a position that’s often considered among the lowest rung in NFL head coaching circles but is typically a gateway to other coaching jobs.
“Kathryn has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff,” 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 [coach for] special teams.”
Smith will work directly with Bills special teams coordinator Danny Crossman and special teams assistant Eric Smith, and she could help a Buffalo unit that ranked No. 10 in the league in punting return yardage and No. 20 in kickoff return yardage allowed.
Joining the Jets in 2005 as a college scouting intern, Smith rose through the AFC East squad and was promoted in 2007 to player-personnel assistant. Seven years later, she’d serve as Ryan’s assistant in 2014, his last year with the Jets, according to The Buffalo News.
According to Smith's LinkedIn page, she graduated with a degree in sports management and a minor in business in 2007. She was also the student manager of the men’s basketball team and interned with the State University of New York Maritime athletic department.
Ryan also specifically cited Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and his decision to hire Jen Selter as the team’s part-time linebackers coach as a reason for his choice to promote 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,” Ryan said. “You can see the success some of these young ladies are having in the coaching profession, such as the young lady (Becky Hammon) 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.”
Smith was not made available to speak by the Bills, buts he’s expected to address the media following Feb. 7’s Super Bowl.
This is not the first time the Bills have hired a woman for an important team position. In 1986, Buffalo hired Linda Bodgan as the NFL's first female scout.