July 28, 2015
It is not as if we needed one more reason to praise Bruce Arians and (quietly) root for the Arizona Cardinals, but now we do have another one: The Cardinals have hired the first female coach in NFL history.
Jen Welter has been added to Arizona’s staff as a training camp/preseason intern coaching inside linebackers. And while that’s a long way from wearing the headset on Sundays, this one small step on the field is a huge leap for equality and instantly makes the NFL a bit of a better place.
No, we shouldn’t applaud someone just for being female (though most females qualify, to be sure) and it would be naïve to think the Cardinals are not doing this in some part for the publicity. But, as Arian said himself recently, all any football player wants (besides hitting other football players and drinking diet Dr. Pepper with Tony Dungy) is to learn how to be a better football player. And Arians, who might be the best coach in the NFL and one of the few humans who can really pull off the beret look, would not hire Jen Welter if he wasn’t confident she can teach his players a lot.
Welter has played football and coached football and has the backing of the man in charge. Will that be enough to convince players to listen to her? Can she hold up to the scrutiny? Most NFL coaching interns don’t give interviews or sign autographs.
We are going to find out.
We already know that Becky Hammon is proving to be a successful assistant coach with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, even coaching the team’s summer league team to a title. This is great progress and makes sense in part because women excel at basketball, and hoops is very much a people sport.
But football is, bear with us a moment, a man’s sport through and through. Women play it, yes, but not nearly on the level that men do and it’s impossible to imagine a woman ever playing in the NFL.
Which, of course, should mean absolutely nothing because by our count of the 32 current NFL head coaches only 11 of them actually played in the NFL. And those who did do not include last year’s Super Bowl coaches and two of the best in the business: Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.
So welcome, Jen Welter. Make those guys play. Make us all listen. –TK