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Women coaches for NFL's Washington and Cleveland teams could change course of football history

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While you were busy shopping or losing your fantasy football championship, you may not have heard about one of the most significant moments in recent NFL history.

Because their staffs were depleted by COVID, both the Washington and Cleveland franchises turned to female assistants to serve as running back coaches. Cleveland to Callie Brownson and Washington to Jennifer King.

It's the first time two women coached positional groups in league history, according to Troy Vincent, the NFL's head of football operations. The Washington Football Team said King was the first Black female position coach.

And notice that as they coached, the Earth wasn't flung deep into the solar system. Thanos didn't appear with infinity stones in hand. The games went on. The league went on.

It's possible that some years from now we may look back on this moment as a transformational one. The ugly circumstances of a pandemic created a beautiful opportunity not just for Brownson and King but other women in the future. A future woman head coach may point to this moment as an inspirational one.

The moment wasn't just historically significant. It was also a data point. People like me, and others, have maintained for some time that gender is truly irrelevant when it comes to coaching football.

Callie Brownson coached running backs in the Cleveland Browns' game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Callie Brownson coached running backs in the Cleveland Browns' game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

That may sound radical to some people but it's not. NFL coaching, like all coaching, is about knowledge and the ability to teach. While there are undoubtedly players who wouldn't want a female coach, I can tell you, with certainty, most wouldn't care.

If you think playing in the NFL is some sort of prerequisite to coaching in the league, well, some of the NFL's best ever coaches never played in the NFL. The greatest to ever do it, Bill Belichick, didn't. He played football at Wesleyan University. Bill Walsh, one of the great innovators, never played in the NFL.

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Neither did Vince Lombardi, Pete Carroll, Mike Tomlin or Andy Reid. Few of the NFL's best young coaches like Sean McVay did, either. The vast majority of NFL players are coached by men who never played in the league.

The only difference between male and female coaches in the NFL is anatomy. There's no difference in brainpower, creativity, work ethic or any of the valuable skills it takes to run a unit or team.

In fact, the work ethic of female coaches in the NFL is probably unmatched since they undoubtedly must swim against a torrential current of misogyny. No, not every team has rampant sexism, but you can bet many do. The Washington Football Team has been a sewer system.

Before this week Brownson was the only woman in NFL history who had served as a position coach. In 2020 Brownson, the team's chief of staff, filled in for a coach after the birth of his child. She'd fill in two other occasions that year because of COVID.

Washington Football Team assistant coach Jennifer King during a game against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 29, 2021, in Landover, Md.
Washington Football Team assistant coach Jennifer King during a game against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 29, 2021, in Landover, Md.

As for King, she discovered football the same way many of her male counterparts did.

“I fell in love with football at a super young age – like four or five years old, started watching football with my dad and just going to high school games on Friday night,” King said earlier this week on “On Her Turf,” an NBC program highlighting women in sports. “I just fell in love with it. I was fortunate enough to start playing tackle football around 22, and played for many years as a quarterback.”

She added: “Being the first black female full-time NFL coach is super special to me, and it’s very important for me to do a good job and just to be a good role model and a symbol of representation. I think it’s important to have diversity in football as it’s important to have diversity everywhere. There’s so many different points of view and backgrounds, and people bring different ideas to the table that are important. It was interesting to see so many playoff teams last season had women involved on their staff.”

It's ironic the devastation of a pandemic led to a historic opportunity, but these are strange times.

They are also historic. They are also a sign of the future.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Callie Brownson, Jennifer King could change course of NFL history