Pat Shurmur has spent his career coaching offense. As head coach of the New York Giants, he will call plays and thus figures to spend more time and energy on that side of the ball. Which makes his hiring of James Bettcher as defensive coordinator a critical decision.
Why Bettcher, a 39-year-old who was defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals the past three seasons?
“I’ve known James for a while, and I think he’s a rising star in the profession. He’s played ‑‑ they’ve played outstanding defense in Arizona for a very long time,” Shurmur said on Friday. “He’s a little bit multiple in his scheme, which I think is good. Everyone I’ve talked to, he inspires the player. He’s got a great presence, and we’re really, really fortunate to have him be with us.”
What were the hallmarks of Bettcher’s defenses in Arizona?
“Very hard to score against. They find a way to put pressure on the quarterback. They do a good job in their coverage schemes, and they’ve been good at stopping the run. He’s had a top‑six defense the last three years,” Shurmur said.
Seth Cox of SB Nation’s Cardinals website, Revenge of the Birds, offered this assessment of Bettcher:
The question with James Bettcher has always been, was he ready? There’s been no doubt since he was installed as Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator that he was ready, but there have been problems.
In 2015, taking over for the departed Todd Bowles, Bettcher seemed to hold his own for most of the season, finishing in the top ten in every conceivable defensive category except for passing touchdowns allowed, which they finished 11th. Yet, late in the year, the Seahawks, Packers and finally the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game exposed some of the issues.
Bettcher is a skilled game planner and does a phenomenal job of drawing up a plan to execute on paper. He uses his players in a variety of roles and wants versatility in his players.
He used a base 3-4 in Arizona, but the Cardinals were a multiple front team more than anything, deploying a 4-2, 4-1 and 2-6 looks depending on the game and the situation.
He loves to rotate his down lineman, and then asks his linebackers and defensive backs to play … a lot. If you have the talent, he likes to execute multiple safety/corner looks to disguise coverages and who is blitzing.
Most of all, Bettcher is a smart guy, he’s aggressive, but measured in that aggressiveness.
The biggest issue Bettcher had in Arizona, and something you saw getting better this season, was he is great at game planning, but his struggles can come when the game plan is thrown out the window and he needs to adapt.
Bettcher is a really good, young coach and should help get the Giants back on their winning ways.