Callie Brownson, the chief of staff for the Cleveland Browns, became the first woman to be a position coach for an NFL team in Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That means Brownson is the highest-ranking female coach in league history, according to Sam Rapoport, the NFL’s senior director of diversity, equality and inclusion.
Brownson was made the interim tight ends coach for the game after coach Drew Petzing was unable to travel. His wife, Louisa, gave birth to the couple’s first child Saturday morning, according to the Cleveland Browns.
Before the game in Jacksonville, Brownson appeared to respond on Twitter to the announcement, saying, “I’m just, thankful.”
One of her players, tight end Austin Hooper, scored a touchdown in the game and helped lift the Browns to win 27-25 over the Jaguars.
“I never wanted to be the first,” Brownson told the Huffington Post in September 2018, when she became made history as the first female assistant coach for Dartmouth and a Division 1 football team. “I just wanted to live in a time when it was possible.”
It’s been a historic time for women in football. Just this past weekend, Sarah Fuller made history as the first woman to play in a Power 5 college football game.
In 2019, Sarah Thomas became the first woman to officiate an NFL playoff game.
Recent historic accomplishments by women in the NFL, and the frequency of them, aren’t a coincidence.
Rapoport likened it to a snowball effect started by the NFL’s Women’s Careers in Football Forum, first held in 2017. That initiative, held this year during the NFL scouting combine, has created a talent pipeline connecting women working in college football with leaders in professional and collegiate football.
Bronson attended the forum in 2017 and went on to work with the New York Jets in scouting. She was then hired as a coaching intern with the Buffalo Bills, according to a Cleveland Browns news release.
“I think without question we are going to see (a female general manager) and head coach. It’s just a matter of when, it’s just a matter of that pipeline,” Rapoport said. “That person, that woman, is ready.”
In 2016, the NFL announced changes to its Rooney Rule, which mandates that all teams must interview at least one minority candidate for head coach and senior coach positions. The changes require teams to interview minority candidates for additional positions, in addition to female candidates for senior-level job positions.