The Cardinals have long been at the NFL’s cutting edge when it comes to diversity. On Monday, the franchise tore through a wall that many thought never would budge.
Dr. Jen Welter has joined the team as a training-camp intern, working with inside linebackers for the next six weeks. Though short-term in duration, the assignment could spark permanent change in the manner in which football at every level views the involvement of women as coaches.
Because Welter is the first, the move could be viewed as a potential distraction. And football coaches ordinarily loathe distractions. But Cardinals coach Bruce Arians doesn’t see it that way.
“This is not going to be a distraction,” Arians told Peter King of TheMMQB.com. “It’s going to be a benefit to our team.”
It will be a benefit because Dr. Welter brings to the table not only football knowledge and experience but advanced degrees in psychology.
“I don’t think the players care, as long as they are being coached to get better,” Arians said. “With her background as a player, a coach and a psychologist, I think our players will realize she can help them. She has a ton of energy and intelligence. We’re looking forward to having her on the staff.”
The move hardly means that the NFL will see an immediate influx of female coaches, in large part because the potential supply is currently very, very small. This gesture from the Cardinals and Arians will prompt more women to regard coaching football as a viable career path at lower levels of the sport, just as the promotion of Sarah Thomas to the NFL level will lead more women into football officiating.
“I think it’s time,” Arians said. “I am not afraid to step out and be different. Jen is a quality coach. She has earned this.”
Because of that, more women will realize that jobs like that are available to be earned. And they’ll begin the process of earning them.