Rex Ryan himself calls it a thankless job -- one that requires long hours -- but is quick to add it is a role that Kathryn Smith has rightly earned with the Bills.
It has a been a whirlwind 24-hours for the Bills newest coach and the organization that hired the first full-time female coach in league history. Ryan told reporters on Friday Smith never expressed a desire to fill the spot on the coaching staff until he inquired about it.
The hire is one of many "trail blazing" moves the franchise has made.
In 1969 with Buffalo, James Harris became the first African American to start at QB in the NFL in a season opener. The Bills also had the first female scout, Linda Bogdan, the daughter of late owner Ralph Wilson, who joined the organization in 1986.
For Ryan, the decision to hire Smith wasn't about breaking down barriers, but about giving an opportunity to a hard-worker who earned it.
"You elevate in this business based on your performance and with Kathryn or anybody else that is how you move along in this business. She works extremely well with everybody and I think that is a key thing in coaching. And then, how she grows from this point professionally that is going to be up to her."
Ryan even gave an example of how prepared and ready Smith is to take over full-time on his staff.
"I am having a meeting with Dennis Thurman one day and we are going over some game plan things and I remember this, I don’t remember the opponent specifically but they had three guys kind of unique pressure that I had saw and this is like two years prior, and Kathryn goes well Rex we can get that up, we will call it up on their sacks and all that. And I am like no it wasn’t a sack. So I left it at that, this opponent was playing somebody else," Ryan said.
"I go out to practice, I come back in off the practice field and she has this thing drawn up, already drawn up and put it on my TV screen, the play, and she goes I believe this is the play you were referring too. And I came back in and I am like oh my goodness, and it was."
There has been criticism of the hire, notably from Cleveland radio personality Kevin Kiley, who said the men on the team wouldn't respect Smith because she's a woman.
"If you can help a player that is all they are interested in," Ryan said when asked about the remarks. "Also that you care about them and you want them to do well, I think those are traits players will look up too and respect regardless of how the person looks."
Smith was not made available to reporters. Ryan said his new coach was all ready hard at work preparing for next season.
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