While college football fans wait to see if Vanderbilt Commodores’ kicker Sarah Fuller will make history as the first woman to play in a Power Five conference game, the NFL will be making some history of its own on Sunday when Cleveland Browns Chief of Staff Callie Brownson is set to become the first female positional coach in NFL history when the team takes on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Brownson will be taking the spot of tight ends coach, which is open as current TE coach Drew Petzing is missing the road trip to be with his wife, who gave birth to their first child on Saturday morning. The NFL requires that teams announce when a member of the coaching staff misses a game for any reason and must announce the name of any replacement coach in these situations, hence the news breaking today.
The move is a long time coming for Brownson, who played eight seasons for the D.C. Divas of the Women’s Football Alliance, won two gold medals with Team USA at the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championships, broke into the NFL as a coaching intern with the Buffalo Bills in 2019, and finally became Browns’ Chief of Staff under head coach Kevin Stefanski in January. Here’s what he said about Brownson at the time:
“It’s very involved in every aspect of a football operation,” Stefanski said. “Callie is uniquely situated where she can go interact with football ops or PR or the locker room or the equipment room. She’s really the liaison to the rest of the building for me. I’m going to lean on her heavily and already have.
“I think she’s a go-getter. She’s self-motivated. She’s going to put all of her energy into this gig. What’s exciting for me is ultimately I want to develop young coaches. She’s someone that has worked on the offensive side of the ball, worked on special teams, has a great knowledge of the game and I want to let her expand that knowledge and develop her as a head coach.”
Now she’ll get a chance to expand that knowledge in a very on-field way.
It’s a shame that it takes a global pandemic and a season pocked with cancelations, postponements, and so many Covid-related issues for women like Fuller and Brownson to get their shots, but sometimes you take the opportunities for progress however you can get it.