By: Kayla Mortellaro
TEMPE, Ariz.— Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher is the subject of this edition of Cards Camp Spotlight on The Blitz with Rich Gray heard weekdays at 2:15 p.m.
The question is, who is James Bettcher? Bettcher is just 37-years-old and is getting his first crack at being a defensive coordinator in the NFL.
Bettcher first got his coaching start as a defensive assistant with Chuck Pagano, who was the defensive coordinator at the University of North Carolina. Bettcher later joined Pagano in Indianapolis, but mainly worked under Bruce Arians who served as the interim head coach in 2012. After the successful 2012 season for the Colts, Arians was hired to be the head coach of the Cardinals, and Bettcher decided to follow Arians to Arizona. For two seasons with the Redbirds, Bettcher served as the outside linebackers coach under former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Bettcher was promoted to be the defensive coordinator on February 4, 2015, after Bowles announced his departure to take the head coaching position with the Jets.
Bettcher’s experience as a play-caller is limited, but he thinks having learned under Bowles will help him this season. Plus, he is getting a lot of practice reps as a signal caller because of the style of training camp Arians runs.
“I’ve been really fortunate, number one. I’ve worked for a lot of phenomenal defensive coaches, Todd [Bowles] being one of them,” Bettcher said Tuesday after practice. “And I work for the best head coach in the National Football League, who, as you can see today, everyday, he’s putting me in a situation I’m calling games in practice. And we are playing real football, we’re not just scripting periods. We’re calling games and preparing. So I got to take the approach to get myself ready in those situations, evaluate those situations, then you watch film and call games.”
Bettcher thinks the change to being the signal caller and the man in charge of devising personnel packages will be a smooth transition because of the people he is surrounded by.
“With the vets that we have here, with the coaches that I have on the defensive staff, the transition has been smooth for me personally,” Bettcher said. “I can’t thank those guys enough because they are all in. We all have one common goal and that is to be playing in February. When we approach it in the meeting room, we aren’t worried about that date that is way out there, we are about the day and the meeting. We come to practice and are worried about the practice, the rep. We are taking that small mentality of one step at a time.”
Bettcher knows that Bowles left big shoes for him to fill. In Bowles’ two seasons with the Cardinals, he was named the 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year and the team finished the season as the 13th ranked team in stopping the run. A big key for Bettcher to being successful as the new defensive coordinator is having a healthy Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
“I’m excited for both of them [Peterson and Mathieu] because they both feel great and they are healthy, number one,” Bettcher said. “They worked their butt off this off-season, this summer. You watch Ty, he’s just a phenomenal guy on and off the field. He attacks life with a passion. The same way you see him play is the same guy you have off the field. We are fortunate to have him. Patrick is the same way. He’s a really good leader for this team and for this defense. That room is a really good room, you go in that room and those guys are close. They care about each other. They don’t just care about how they play, they care about how the guy next to him plays and that’s important.”
With all the veteran leadership, the coaching staff support and a good defensive foundation; Bettcher has all the right tools to be successful as the new Cardinals defensive coordinator.
The Blitz with Rich Gray can be heard weekdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. with the Cards Camp Spotlight every day at 2:15 p.m.