Pat Shurmur wasted no time making what very well could be his most important hire as head coach of the New York Giants. On his first full day on the job, Shurmur reportedly hired James Bettcher to be the team’s defensive coordinator.
Bettcher, let by Monday new Arizona Cardinals’ head coach Steve Wilks after three highly successful seasons as that team’s defensive coordinator, also interviewed on Tuesday with the Tennessee Titans.
In each of Bettcher’s three seasons leading Arizona’s defense, the Cardinals ranked in the top six in the NFL.
Bettcher, 39, is considered to be a rising star in the NFL coaching ranks. This from his former boss in Arizona, Bruce Arians:
“I look at names that people are throwing out right now [as head coaching candidates],” says Arians, “and I’m shocked that James isn’t amongst them. He is extremely bright, high energy, an excellent communicator. When I first met him at Indianapolis, I knew he was going to be a star.”
Bettcher’s hiring also means that Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator the past three years and interim head coach for the final four games of the Giants’ 2017 season, will not be retained.
Bettcher coached the linebackers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 and joined the Cardinals in 2013. He became the team’s defensive coordinator in 2015 when Todd Bowles became head coach of the New York Jets.
The Cardinals played a base 3-4 under Bettcher, but as illustrated by our Dan Pizzuta they used a variety of looks to create confusion. Pizzuta referred to it as “controlled chaos.”
The more I think about James Bettcher as DC for the Giants, the more fun I think it would be. Adapts scheme to players, won't be tied to a 3-4 base. There is no "base," there's barely positions. Defense is aggressive and disciplined. It's controlled chaos.— Dan Pizzuta (@DanPizzuta) January 23, 2018
3rd&8 vs SEA. Cardinals show blitz, rush 4, but not the four that would be expected. Defenders in coverage drop back to the first down marker, there's nowhere to go. pic.twitter.com/2ZX6Z23LL0— Dan Pizzuta (@DanPizzuta) January 23, 2018
Per ESPN, the Cardinals more than all but one other NFL team over the past three seasons.
Here is more about Bettcher:
Bettcher’s players praise his passion and personality, but where they really perk up is in extolling his schematic prowess. More than anything, players want coaches who put them in the best tactical position to succeed; motivation and team chemistry follow naturally from there.
“In the NFL, every coach knows football. But there are different degrees,” says Cardinals edge defender Chandler Jones, who this season led the league in sacks (17) and tackles for loss (28). “At first [Bettcher’s] coaching style was different for me. I wasn’t used to such an aggressive defense and so much blitzing. I thought, ‘This is tough. Teams are seeing us blitz and they’re getting rid of the ball quickly.’ Back when I was in New England, we wouldn’t blitz and quarterbacks would hold the ball more.”
But over time, Jones realized something. “Yeah, the ball might be getting out faster, but [Bettcher] is getting me more one-on-one matchups. He knows his X’s and O’s. He knows. He knows how to formulate and contort the defense so that his best players can get the best matchups possible. He really knows how to highlight players.”
Here is a little more on Bettcher’s Arizona defense, which utilized hybrid players capable of playing multiple spots:
Possessing personnel like such on the defensive side is vital to the success of a unit’s blitz packages. When defenders can shuffle around and align from multiple spots, it’s incredibly difficult for an offense to decipher exactly where the pressure points are. Hybrid players further unlocks the level of flexibility a unit can operate with and prevent mismatches.
It remains to be seen how many players the Giants currently have who fit that description, or how many they can bring in. Bettcher’s hire, though, certainly should change the way the Giants play defense.