Aside from Director of Coaching Operations Laura Young, who are some of the other women in key roles with the New York Giants — some of them non-traditional for women in the league?
Let’s meet a few of them.
Offensive Quality Control Coach
Angela Baker is in her first season as an offensive quality control coach for the Giants. That, though, does not mean that football — or coaching — are new to Baker.
Baker is a seven-time All-American for the Pittsburgh Passion in the Women’s Football Alliance, a full-contact pro league. She played quarterback and then transitioned to wide receiver. Baker is also a two-time gold medalist (2017 and 2022) representing the U.S. in the IFAF Women’s World Football Championship. She won two league titles with the Passion and was Offensive Player of the Year in 2016.
Baker did a coaching internship with the Cleveland Browns in 2020 and was the kickers, punters and defensive quality control coach for the Division III University of Redlands in 2021.
Looking for an athletic outlet, Baker tried out for the Passion while in college.
“From there just kind of fell in love with the game, learning a lot of the schematics and the ins and outs and everything and all the depth that came with tackle football versus just the flag I had played growing up, started to really engulf my mind,” Baker said. “And when I was in college, I was writing plays and studying that instead of studying what I was studying in college. It did, it consumed my mind. And it intrigued me and before I knew it I was just obsessed, obsessed with learning and playing and just figuring it out little by little.”
Baker credited women like Jennifer King (the first woman to coach in the NFL, now with the Washington Commanders), Callie Brownson (chief of staff, assistant wide receivers coach with the Cleveland Browns), and Lori Locust (assistant defensive line coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) with inspiring her to pursue coaching.
“I thought that my only chance of being around football was going to be to play,” Baker said.
What does a quality control coach do?
“We do a lot of the behind the scenes stuff. We break down a lot of film, we input a lot of data, we create practice plans along with (Director of Coaching Operations) Laura Young; she does a lot of that to help us with it. And we kind of do anything else that the staff needs. Anytime a position coach needs something in a cut-up or creating something for the players they’ll come to us,” Baker said. “I also have a hand in working with tight ends — a lot of quality control coaches have an assistant responsibility, if you will, to a position coach. So I’m fortunate to work with Andy Bischoff and get to learn a little bit from him. But a lot of our work is the behind the scenes stuff, just to kind of help the rest of the coaches and make their job a little bit less on a daily basis.”
Baker describes the Giants as a “comfortable” working environment.
“It just feels like it’s comfortable here. Everybody in the building is extremely supportive of the women in all of these positions; you don’t see anybody rolling eyes or disheveled or bothered in any sort of way,” Baker said. “It’s embraced, from the players to the administration to the ownership. Nobody looks at you differently because you’re a female in those positions; they rely on you the same as they would anybody else. And just in working with Brian Daboll hand-in-hand, the way he relies on LY (Laura Young), and the way he speaks to me is just completely normal. There’s no differences for them.”
Baker said Daboll and GM Joe Schoen are “incredible” to work for.
“I think both of them, one of my favorite things about them — and I’ve said this in the past — is they just want the people to succeed,” Baker said. “They obviously want the people to be successful, and that helps within the organization. But I‘ve sat and had conversations with Dabes just about my path and ways to help me and things like that. He’s not only looking at me as a worker; he’s looking at me as a person.
“I feel like they’re big, with the players, with the staff, with the coaches, with everybody and just developing people in general and creating those personal relationships. And I think that’s shown across the building. There’s a lot more cohesion and a little bit more of a family atmosphere because of the way that they are.”
Football Data & Innovation Coordinator
Courtney Kennedy joined the Giants as a football data analyst in 2019 after serving an internship with the organization.
At the time, Kennedy was only the second analytics person working for the Giants — Director of Football Data and Innovation Ty Siam has been part of the organization since 2015. That has now grown into a seven or eight-person Data and Innovation Group.
“It’s definitely grown over the last couple of years,” Kennedy said. “It’s been really exciting to be a part of that growth.”
Kennedy was promoted this year to the coordinator role.
“Football analytics in general has been expanding across the league. So it’s been exciting to kind of see us take that and utilize it a little bit more in this organization,” Kennedy said. “I think Joe and Dabes have both done a tremendous job of taking some of taking the skill sets that we have and the resources that we can provide and implementing it into their daily processes. At the end of the day, we’re there to help them and make their jobs easier and better — help them do what they’re the best at doing.”
Kennedy trained pre-professionally as a ballet dancer at The Rock School in Philadelphia, something she said is “very similar” to pro sports and gives her a perspective on the dedication to their craft it takes an NFL player to be his best.
“Actually, people don’t realize that. We had kids coming from all over the world to train in my dance school,” Kennedy said. “So it was definitely a high-level environment as well.”
Kennedy has a degree from Duke in economics, and has always used that to work in sports. Before joining the Giants, she did internships with the Tampa Bay Rays and the NBA league office.
“Growing up sports was always a really important part of my life — just something that I was always interested in, whether it was playing sports as a kid or going to big sporting events with my family, just something that we all still do. It’s like a family bonding thing to this day,” she said. “It was just something that I really loved and really enjoyed following. When I got to college, I did econ, not necessarily because I wanted to go into anything with the economy, but I liked how the degree gave me the skill sets to apply to a wide variety of fields.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to go into at first. I think I had a conversation with my mom where she was like, ‘Well, what do you like to do?’ And I was like, ‘I like sports.’ And so I was able to get some really cool internship opportunities at the Tampa Bay Rays and in the NBA league office during the summers with my college experience. And it was just a tremendous opportunity with both of those organizations, and just really showed me that I can take my love for sports and some of my technical skill sets and kind of combine them together. And you can make a career out of it.”
College Area Scout - Midlands
Hannah Burnett is the first woman scout in Giants’ franchise history, a role she has held since 2020. Burnett is part of the college scouting department as the team’s Midlands area scout. She is responsible for the state of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri.
Three current Giants — 2021 fourth-round pick Elerson Smith, 2021 sixth-round pick Rodarius Williams, and 2022 fourth-round pick Dane Belton — hail from schools Burnett is responsible for.
Burnett worked previously as a scouting assistant for the Atlanta Falcons and a player personnel assistant in the NFL league office. Her NFL introduction came as an intern for the Buffalo Bills between her junior and senior years of college.
Burnett was a star athlete in her own right, an All-American lacrosse player and three-time all-county player in both lacrosse and soccer at Huntington (NY) High School. Playing Division I lacrosse at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Burnett set a school record for points in a women’s lacrosse game with 10.
While lacrosse obviously isn’t football, Burnett said being a high-level athlete gave her the “foundation” to become a scout.
“Being an athlete you understand what some of our critical factors look like, like you understand what athleticism looks like speed, you know, initial quickness, all those little things, you have a basis of understanding,” Burnett said. “Also things like watching film, which is my whole entire life. I learned how to do that, obviously different sport, but you’ve just established that type of foundation and that has helped me so much throughout my career.”
In her third season with the Giants, Burnett said her biggest challenge was simply believing she could do the job.
“I think that in everything that you do in in this profession, a woman or man or whatever it is, I think that, the biggest thing that you have is your reputation. And obviously, being a woman, I think that there are challenges with it,” she said. “But at the same time, the biggest challenge for me was being able to kind of look myself in the mirror and be like, ‘Hey, you belong,’ and just being confident in myself and what I’m saying and what I’m doing.”
“After having done it now for three years, and getting into the groove of things, you definitely start to feel more comfortable, just having that confidence in yourself. With that comes people having confidence in you and establishing credibility in that draft room and amongst your peers, amongst other scouts, amongst your own scouts. And, yeah, it’s definitely a process, but I’ve been very lucky. The guys and girls in this organization have been unbelievable. They’ve been very, very supportive.”
Being the first woman in a scouting role for the Giants, the team she grew up watching, is special for Burnett.
“Obviously growing up in New York, growing up in that state, it’s really awesome to be able to work for the home team,” she said. “That means a lot and I take a lot of pride in being a New Yorker and this organization, obviously, the history that we have is unbelievable. It’s definitely an honor to be able to do that, for this organization in particular.”
Director of Player Engagement
Ashley Lynn became the first woman in the NFL to be named Director of Player Engagement when the Giants promoted her to that role in 2021. She is currently still the only woman serving in that capacity.
What is ‘Player Engagement’? The NFL defines it as “a four-pillar approach to supporting NFL players and their families during their NFL experience and beyond: Continuing Education, Financial Literacy, Professional Development, and Personal Development.”
Lynn defines it as “a little bit of everything.”
‘Everything’ starts with transitioning rookies into the NFL.
“I think a lot of people forget that these guys don’t know where they’re going. All of a sudden, I’m a New York Giant and the next day, I’m flown out to New Jersey, a place I’ve never been before, when I live in Ohio,” Lynn said. “So I think that transition is very difficult for most people, and they don’t realize how young they are. You’re 20 years old, moving across the country for your first job, so I think — I’d like to say that I help them transition into that role.”
From there, among other things, she helps players understand Giants culture, learn to handle finances, and prepare for and transition to life after football.
“Player engagement is beyond the X’s and O’s. It’s about building better men, not just helping them out on the field,” Lynn said. “We really want a full, better guy in the end and that’s probably the best part for me just because I’m able to see the growth from the rookie kid turning into someone else.”
Lynn has been around the NFL much of her life. Her father, Johnnie Lynn, was an NFL defensive back for the New York Jets and was an assistant coach with the Giants from 1997-2003.
Lynn was hired as part of the Giants’ player engagement group in 2007.
“I was 23 years old, I was the same age as as the players that I was working with. I think that they [ownership] knew that I’d been around the game a long time and I’ve experienced a lot of things that they experienced, the players have experienced. So that trust is huge, Lynn said. “I will say that I was put in this position because of this organization. From ownership on down it’s always about the whole person. So I think that that is a big part of this family business that the Maras and the Tisches have created.”
How is it that out of 32 NFL teams she is the only woman in the lead player engagement role?
“I do think there’s an element of women not knowing this position and knowing that it’s something that’s achievable. So I think that that’s a part of maybe why women aren’t here,” Lynn said. “There’s also the element of the locker room, and what can you do in and out of the locker room. I think that’s such a small part that discourages people from having this position. I think there’s 1,000 different ways — I can sit with you at the table, we can have conversations over the phone, so many different ways to engage with these guys and create better relationships. That should not discourage someone.”
Dr. Lani Lawrence
Director of Wellness and Clinical Services, Player Engagement
Dr. Lani Lawrence is a clinical and sport psychologist who was been in her role with the Giants since July of 2020.
Head coach Brian Daboll often talks about the resilience of a Giants’ team that has been beating teams considered to be more talented, and doing so while trailing at some point in every game.
Here is what Daboll said earlier in the season about the team’s resilience, and about Lawrence’s role in that mindset:
“It’s something we’ve preached since Day 1, since we’ve been here: coaches, people in the building: This league is hard. It’s not always going to be perfect. There will be a lot of people down on you. And you might be down on yourself, wish you could do better. But you keep on getting back up. You keep on swinging, keep on competing, regardless of the score or the situation of the game,” Daboll said. “And that’s not easy to do, right? That’s not easy to do when you’re down. If you sit on the bench and start bitching and complaining, that’s easy to do. It’s hard to stick with it and get ready to play the next series and not worry about if you just got beat on a pass or if you got sacked. You’ve got to flush it pretty quick. Dr. Lani (Lawrence) does a great job – our team psychologist – of talking to the team. And I think our guys, each week we get a little bit better. We know we’re a long way away. (It’s the) early part of the season. But we just try to compete and do the best job we can.”
Nick Gates, back on the active roster after the gruesome 2021 leg fracture that required seven surgeries, admitted a few weeks ago that he had sometimes wondered if all of the rehab required to return to the NFL was worthwhile. He also revealed that Lawrence had helped him through.
“Those thoughts – I feel like any injury you have, it doesn’t matter if it’s this or something else – those thoughts are just natural,” Gates said. “I talked to Dr. Lani, our sports psychologist a little bit, and she was like, ‘Yeah, that’s normal. That’s part of an injury and part of the process of healing and moving forward.’”
Gates and Daboll both went further in comments about Lawrence while speaking to the New York Post last month.
“I was asking her, ‘Are the thoughts in my head normal?’ and she’s like, ‘It’s totally normal to have flashbacks of the incident,’ ” Gates told The Post. “She teaches you ways to cope with what’s going on in your head, manage your thoughts and go about the day-to-day. A big part of meditation is being centered and bringing yourself back to the moment where you are.”
“Everything we do here is to try to help the players be the best versions of themselves, whether that’s nutrition, sports science or video,” Daboll said before Friday’s practice. “When she talks, the players listen. I might say to her, ‘What do you think we need based on how things are going this week?’ She’s out at practice and she has a good pulse [of the team].”
There was also this about Lawrence in the piece done by Ryan Dunleavy of the NY Post:
A couple well-traveled veterans said most, if not all, other teams they played for had a psychologist on staff, but Lawrence is more present and involved with the Giants than the norm.
“With the way society is now, it’s a bigger picture than just football players,” Gates said. “Society overall is more accepting of the mental health side of things than it was in the 1980s. When she says, ‘We’ve got five minutes. Let’s sit here and do meditation and relax,’ you can feel the energy in the room switch. It’s a calming thing.”
Lawrence was not available to be interviewed for this story.
Here are a couple of quotes from Lawrence’s Twitter account and a link to a 2021 podcast she appeared on:
“Everyone should have a goal in mind, and I want everyone to be high achieving, but the journey to get to that goal is probably going to look a lot different to what you’re expecting.”
“If you can take your mental, physical, emotional energy and focus it and pinpoint it on getting the most out of that day and then you can stack those days up, you start building the steps that you need towards success.”