Callie Brownson doles out advice, relishes the 'wow moments' at NFL's Women's Careers in Football Forum

The Browns’ Chief of Staff spoke on a panel along with three other women who recently broke into coaching in the NFL

Callie Brownson made history on multiple occasions throughout her first season with the Browns, and she's excited to see more and more women do the same across the league for years to come.

Brownson, the Browns' Chief of Staff, was part of a panel discussion Wednesday to kick off the fifth annual Women's Careers in Football Forum and was an active listener for the rest of it, as a number of NFL owners, general managers, head coaches and more addressed the group of 40 women who are looking to network and build relationships in the areas of coaching, scouting and football operations.

"Today was one of those days where when the day is over, you're driving in your car and you're just reeling," Brownson said in a Wednesday interview on the "Spain and Fitz" ESPN radio show. "It was so impactful on so many levels.

"It was an incredible day through and through."

Browns Managing and Principal Partner Dee Haslam was among the speakers Wednesday, offering advice and fielding questions on how women can best position themselves for a career in football. Browns Executive VP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry was slated to speak Thursday.

Brownson joined Washington Football Team assistant running backs coach Jennifer King, Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and Rams analyst Kassandra Garcia for a panel discussion that was moderated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his wife, Jane Skinner Goodell. Earlier this season, Brownson and King were at the center of a historic moment for the NFL when they participated in the league's first game that featured female coaches on both teams and a female official (Sarah Thomas).

At one point during the discussion, Brownson passed along the advice she received from her longtime mentor, former NFL executive Charley Casserly. 

"What can I do today to help us win?" Brownson said. "Ask yourself that every morning, how can I go above and beyond, maybe even take on a new task, maybe improve something we've been doing for a while that could use improvement. Constantly evaluating and auditing the system to find out how can I help us get better every day."

Brownson's done just that throughout a coaching career that began at the high school level and included a stint at Dartmouth College before she landed her first NFL opportunity with the Bills in 2019. This past season, Brownson became the first woman to serve as an acting gameday position coach when she filled in for TEs coach Drew Petzing — who stayed home for the birth of his first child — for the Browns' Week 12 victory over the Jaguars. Brownson also led the team's wide receivers for the Browns' playoff-clinching victory over the Steelers in Week 17, filling in for Chad O'Shea, and was back with the tight ends for Cleveland's Wild Card victory over the Steelers, when Petzing and a number of other Cleveland assistants were sidelined because of positive COVID-19 tests. 

Since 2017, the forum — which is typically held in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine but is virtual this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic — has helped develop a more diverse talent pipeline for the NFL and other football organizations. It's helped pave the way for 118 opportunities for women over the past four years, according to the NFL, and has continued to grow with more and more teams getting involved.

"You're starting to see a lot more interest," Brownson said. "Obviously there's a lot more women involved now than there were five years ago, but now you're starting to see some teams who were like, 'We'll see,' who are now engaged in the forum and looking and actively seeking female candidates for some of these roles. That's a total difference.

"Five years ago when all of this started, it really started as a way to encourage women to get more involved and to educate themselves and grow in the sport. Now, it's a candidate pool. To be a participant in this forum makes you a potential candidate for a hire, and that's amazing."

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