The Buffalo Bills' hiring of Kathryn Smith as the special teams quality control coach on Rex Ryan's staff has made national news over the last 24 hours, owing to the fact that she's the first full-time, female assistant coach in NFL history.
While the move is certainly a historic one when it comes to the culture of the NFL and the role of women in it, there's a more practical angle to explore: what, exactly, will Smith's role be next season? Never before have Bills fans been so interested in the job responsibilities of a quality control coach, and the team has revealed some specifics about what Smith's role has been in previous years, and what it will be moving forward.
First, ESPN's Mike Rodak has a quote from Ryan (cultivated from this video), who says that Smith will be "doing all the computer stuff, doing all the drawings, all that type of stuff." This has been a common practice for quality control coaches of all backgrounds since the position was invented in the early 1990s (which you can read all about in this excellent New York Times article from 2009).
In an article that includes Smith's first public comments since accepting the position, which you should definitely make time to read, we also learn that at present, Smith's primary responsibility is to watch and break down film of the special teams units of the Bills' 2016 opponents. This, again, is a totally common thing for a quality control coach to do.
Finally, Ryan divulged that Smith will play a lead role in preparing the Bills' scout teams during practices, with a focus on preparing the team's starting special teams units for their next opponent. This, along with the advanced scouting, will be Smith's role insofar as standard coaching responsibilities go. And, as is the case for a quality control assistant, she'll work grueling hours and do whatever else is asked of her, as well.
Quality control coaches are a necessary part of the coaching staff, even as they're entry-level coaches. Smith's unique to the field in that she has a different background coming into the position, but from the sounds of it, she'll be doing everything that any other quality control coach in the league would do.
Five current NFL head coaches - Dan Quinn in Atlanta, Ron Rivera in Carolina, Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, Ben McAdoo of the New York Giants, and Doug Pederson in Philadelphia - held quality control jobs early in their professional coaching careers. More head coaches held nebulous titles like "defensive assistant" or, in the case of Bill Belichick, "special assistant," while dozens of other coordinators and position coaches league-wide hailed from the quality control pool. That's what makes Smith's entry into the quality control realm so fascinating: her background is highly unique as she takes the job, and her story is really just beginning.