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Jen Welter: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

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The NFL may be the most watched sport in the country, but in some ways they always seem to be a step behind.

They were behind baseball in integration, they were behind baseball in having a CBA and now they are behind the NBA when it comes to having a female coach.

That’s right; the Arizona Cardinals this year will have the first female coach in NFL history. Now don’t go thinking she will be walking the sidelines during the games, because sorry folks, that ain’t happening. But Jen Welter will be there for all of training camp and the preseason. She is one of six interns the Cardinals hired to help with the mass amounts of personnel teams have until the final roster is set.

Welter was not hired as some favor to someone, and Michael Bidwell is no Charlie Finley, so it is not a publicity stunt. She was a member of the Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Professional Football League, and even won the championship in 2004. Of course she got paid a whopping $12 for that, and she still has the check to prove it.

Head Coach Bruce Arians had no qualms about putting a woman on his staff as long as she “proves she can make players better”. During the hiring process, Arians also got a call from Welter’s head coach with the Texas Revolution, Devin Wyman. He told Arians all about Welter, which piqued the Cardinals Head Man’s curiosity. So Arians had Welter attend an OTA and it was there that Arians told her he would try and get her on staff.

Will it be an uphill battle for Welter? I would say so. If Becky Hammon thought the NBA was a macho world, then Welter ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Football is about machismo and being a “man”. So as talented as Welter is, and I am sure she could coach circles around me, I am not so sure how much success she will have in Arizona. Of course second guessing Bruce Arians is probably not such a great idea.

Now the question comes, is Welter the kind of person who will be able to open doors for other women who may want to coach in the NFL someday? I mean in the basketball, it is almost as much of a women’s sport as it is a men’s. If you don’t believe me, ask the people in Knoxville or Storrs. But football really is a man’s domain. Female football leagues are few and far between, and the ones that do exist have to resort to gimmicks (I am looking at you Lingerie Football League) in order to have any viewership at all.

So I am not so sure that doors will swing wide-open now for women in the NFL, but I am not so sure they need to. Yes, there will be a handful of women who really want to coach at the NFL level, and Jen Welter is without a doubt a trailblazer for those women. But sad to say in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it will have the kind of impact that it would in other male dominated arenas.

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