WEDNESDAY, 2:11pm: The Cardinals have officially named Bettcher the team’s new defensive coordinator, per a team release. The team also confirmed Sanders’ hiring as a linebackers coach, and promoted Mike Chiurco to a defensive assistant/assistant DBs coach role.
SUNDAY, 1:58pm: The Cardinals are set to promote outside linebackers coach James Bettcher to defensive coordinator, according to Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports 910 (Twitter link). Bettcher will replace Todd Bowles, who was hired as the Jets’ head coach. Per Jurecki, the club will officially announce the Bettcher’s hiring tomorrow, and will also hire Bob Sanders as a linebackers coach.
We heard last week that Arizona would likely promote a new DC from within following the Super Bowl, meaning that Cardinals coaches Brentson Buckner, Kevin Ross, Nick Rapone, and Tom Pratt were viewed as candidates alongside Bettcher. Head coach Bruce Arians & Co. ultimately settled on the 36-year-old Bettcher, who’s been on the Cards’ coaching staff since 2013. A longtime college coach, Bettcher served as the special teams coordinator at New Hampshire in 2011 before acting as a special assistant to Chuck Pagano, Arians, and the Colts in 2012. Last year, Bettcher contributed to an Arizona defense that played extremely well (7th in DVOA) despite numerous injuries; as OLB coach, Bettcher coaxed impressive performances out of veterans like John Abraham and little-known players such as Sam Acho.
Bettcher will oversee a Cardinals defensive unit that could see significant change in 2015. Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Tommy Kelly, and Acho are all free agents, and Arizona might not have the cap space needed to retain them. Veteran linebackers Abraham and Larry Foote are also impending FAs, and both could strongly consider retirement. Given the club’s financial restraints, it will likely have to rely on under-the-radar veteran signings, as well as developing draft picks, to maintain its success next season.
In addition to internal candidates, the Cardinals also had flirtations with two veteran defensive coaches before settling on Bettcher. The club had discussions with ex-Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau, and nearly hired him as either a LB coach or a senior defensive assistant, but those negotiations ultimately fell through. Arizona also reportedly had interest in former Falcons DC Mike Nolan, but he instead took a position on the Chargers’ staff.
Per Jurecki, Sanders will be hired “as one of the LB coaches,” so it’s possible he’ll be brought in to directly replace Bettcher. The 61-year-old Sanders, not to be confused with the former Colts safety of the same name, served in the college ranks from 1978-2001. He acted as the Packers’ DC from 2006-08, and most recently was the Raiders’ LBs coach from 2013-14.