INDIANAPOLIS — Catherine Raîche didn't even need to be asked about how her last year has gone to begin discussing how much change she's experienced in life since joining the Browns.
"I know I've been with the Browns for almost a year now," she said before taking questions from local media at the NFL combine. "It was a year of firsts for me for many reasons."
Those firsts included taking a job with the Browns as the Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Football Operations and becoming the highest-ranked female team personnel executive in NFL history. Raîche previously worked with the Eagles as the Assistant GM and VP of Football Operations. Now, she and Browns Executive Vice President and GM Andrew Berry work with the senior strategy group in deciding all player transactions.
In August, Raîche also welcomed the birth of her first child, Zavier. She was on maternity leave until Week 10, but she still found herself watching film when he was sleeping and trying to stay in-tune with team operations.
"I was so responsive initially still on work stuff that Andrew almost kicked me out of one of our (messaging) threads to make sure I took some time," she said with a laugh. "It was a good perspective for me. I definitely wanted to stay connected but also take the time to be present at home, as well. Find balance there, I would say."
Assistant General Manager & Vice President of Football Operations Catherine Raiche at the 2023 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 1, 2023.
Life has settled down now for Raîche, who is one more career step away from becoming a GM in the NFL and could become the first female GM in NFL history.
That career started in Canada. Raîche, who was born in Montreal, Quebec, began working for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League as a coordinator of football administration in 2015 and became their assistant GM in 2017. She then made stops with the Toronto Argonauts as director of football administration from 2018-19 and the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL in 2020.
Raîche joined the Eagles in 2019 as a football operations coordinator. Her boss?
"One of the great things about Andrew is if you do a good job, he is going to keep giving some stuff to you, trusts you and empowers you," she said, "which really allowed me to grow super quickly and learn a ton."
Three years after arriving in Philadelphia, Raîche became their VP of football operations, a role she held for two seasons until Berry reached out to her again. Berry had her in mind when his former VP of football operations, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, left the Browns to become the GM of the Vikings. Within a few months, Raîche was again calling Berry her boss.
"I think we work really, really well together," Raîche said. "I learn a ton from him, and I think we can also complement each other in certain areas. I like to see my job as how I can make Andrew look good and how I can take things off his plate so he can focus on all of the strategic decisions and things that he has going on.
"I do think our personalities match really well, both as friends and as coworkers."
Since then, Raîche has been a vital piece of Berry's front office crew.
"Quite honestly, Cat is one of the most talented front office executives I have ever had the pleasure of working with," Berry said. "There is really nothing that she cannot do. She can evaluate. She can manage. She can lead. She is really strong in contract management. Super smart. Super strategic. Honestly, I looked at it as an opportunity to add someone who I view as a rock star in the front office."
All of those traits have helped Raîche navigate through two full-time jobs — a crucial executive for an NFL franchise and a mother, and the "firsts" haven't stopped occurring for the latter role, either.
"It's my first time leaving him for more than two days," she said. "So another big first here."
Another big "first" could be coming soon, too, if she takes the next step up the executive ranks and becomes an NFL GM. She'll be ready for it when the opportunity comes, but she knows it'll only happen if she continues to find success in Cleveland.
"What comes and what opportunity comes, I'm excited for it, too," she said. "Quite frankly, I've never really thought about my next job. I've always focused on the one I currently have, and that is what has led me to great opportunities on and on throughout my career. Definitely excited for what's up for us this season."