James Bettcher

Coaching Notes: McDaniels, Cowboys, Rhule

Two years ago, Josh McDaniels had assistants ready to follow him to the Colts. Multiple staffers did so, even though the Patriots assistant backed out of the agreement. This time around, McDaniels looks to have a staff lined up again. McDaniels is now “very much ready” to leave New England, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, adding that the longtime Patriots play-caller has Redskins OC Kevin O’Connell and Colts defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon set to be key players on his staff (should McDaniels accept a job if offered). The Redskins are interested in retaining O’Connell, their offensive coordinator this season, but his NFL years began as a quarterback under McDaniels during the latter’s first stint as Patriots OC. Gannon joined the Colts’ staff in 2018. Like McDaniels, Gannon is a Cleveland-area native. He was a scout with the Rams during McDaniels’ one season in St. Louis.

McDaniels is the frontrunner for the Browns job. He will interview with the Panthers on Tuesday, the Giants on Wednesday and the Browns on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Here is the latest from the coaching carousel:

  • Matt Rhule had issues with the Jets attempting to overrule him on staff decisions, but Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes the Giants would not do the same. The Giants would let Rhule select his assistants, and the Baylor HC is believed to have candidates in place to follow him to New York if hired. Former Giants assistant and current Lions QBs coach Sean Ryan and Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow are believed to be Rhule’s coordinator choices should he land either the Giants’ or Panthers’ HC jobs, Vacchiano reports. Ryan, 47, held a key role with the Texans from 2017-18 but was with the Giants for nine years, including in 2012, when Rhule was on staff. Snow, 64, has been Rhule’s DC at Temple and Baylor. He coached with the Lions from 2005-08.
  • Had the Jets hired Rhule last year, Jets management would have insisted Gregg Williams be attached as defensive coordinator, per Vacchiano. Previous GM Mike Maccagnan also had an issue with Ryan bringing brought aboard as OC. Ryan ended up in Detroit instead.
  • As for Giants incumbent defensive coordinator James Bettcher, the front office was not exactly pleased with his game management nor were Giants brass happy with the entire defensive staff, Vacchiano adds. Lacking in talent and depth at linebacker and cornerback, the Giants ranked 31st in pass-defense DVOA. Bettcher’s better-stocked defensive front, however, produced the No. 7 run-defense DVOA figure.
  • Not only is Mike McCarthy a fan of 30-year-old Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Jerry Jones spoke of his desire to keep the young coordinator on staff in each of the Cowboys’ interviews, Breer notes. The Cowboys promoted Moore to OC last year, and Dak Prescott had by far his best season as a passer under the former Dallas quarterback’s guidance.
  • The Falcons will not retain passing-game coordinator/defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, according to The Athletic’s Jason Butt (on Twitter). Henderson has been with the Falcons since 2016. Additionally, the Falcons interviewed Joe Whitt for their secondary coach position, Butt notes. Whitt spent the 2007 season as Atlanta’s assistant DBs coach before being on Green Bay’s staff for the next 10 seasons. He coached the Browns’ DBs under Freddie Kitchens.

Pat Shurmur Likely Won’t Be Fired In 2019; Latest On James Bettcher, Dave Gettleman

Although the Giants suffered an embarrassing loss to the Jets on Sunday, head coach Pat Shurmur will not be fired before the end of the 2019 season, as Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv writes. Furthermore, team ownership is not going to force Shurmur to make any changes to his staff, which means that DC James Bettcher is safe as well.

That does not mean, however, that both men will be with the Giants in 2020. New York is 2-9, and while the club’s roster has some major holes, Shurmur’s play-calling has come into question during his two-year tenure with Big Blue (though as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Shurmur has no intention of giving up play-calling duties). Shurmur has also come under fire for his in-game decision-making.

Meanwhile, Bettcher is in charge of the league’s 26th-ranked defense, but he has very little talent at his disposal. As Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com observes, Bettcher is operating without a quality pass rusher, middle linebacker, or cornerback, which has greatly limited the aggressive approach that he is known for. Raanan, like Vacchiano, believes that Bettcher will at least survive through the remainder of 2019, though if he is to be evaluated solely on the performance of his unit over the final seven games, he may not get another shot in New York. But Vacchiano says team brass recognizes the difficult position that Bettcher has been put in, and if the club’s rookies and younger players show signs of life down the home stretch, he could be retained for next year.

Shurmur could also get a third season in New York thanks to his work with rookie QB Daniel Jones. Though Jones has struggled with turnovers, he otherwise looks the part of a franchise signal-caller, and the Giants certainly don’t want to do anything to hinder Jones’ development. If that means keeping Shurmur around for another season, then so be it.

Likewise, GM Dave Gettleman could be on the hot seat, but his selection of Jones — which was heavily criticized in the offseason — may be what saves him. But Raanan says that ownership will think long and hard about Gettleman’s future with the team this offseason, and as of right now, there are doubts as to whether he is the right man to restore the Giants to competitiveness.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Notes: McAdoo, McIntosh, Beal, Bettcher

Ben McAdoo has been fairly quiet ever since he was fired by the Giants midway through last season. Not anymore. McAdoo opened up in a recent interview with Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, dishing on a number of topics related to his old team. McAdoo talked about how excited he is for the Giants and how much he likes the vision being implemented by new GM Dave Gettleman. He even said he thinks the Giants are going to win the NFC East in 2018.

The most notable part of McAdoo’s interview may be his comments on offensive tackle Ereck Flowers. McAdoo was blunt in talking about Flowers’ shortcomings, and didn’t sound too hopeful for the fourth-year player. Selected ninth overall in 2015, Flowers has been a major bust at left tackle, and the Giants are experimenting with him at right tackle this offseason. McAdoo doesn’t think it’ll make a difference. “He can’t bend, you got to be able to bend” he said of his former player, adding “you can run around him on that side just like you can on the other side.” It’s somewhat refreshing to hear a coach speak that openly, but it likely won’t help him in his search for another coaching gig.

Here’s more from New York:

  • Giants fifth round pick R.J. McIntosh is the only player drafted outside the first two rounds who has yet to sign his rookie deal. A thyroid issue may be holding up McIntosh’s contract, but a deal should get done soon, a source told Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com.
  • Dunleavy thinks recently drafted cornerback Sam Beal “might not be able to make an impact until the second half of his rookie season” even if he impresses the team. Dunleavy notes that the Supplemental Draft pick is “16 practices and three months of preparation behind the other rookies” so it will take him a while to catch up.
  • Defensive coordinator James Bettcher will be a “hot candidate” for head coaching vacancies in 2019 if the Giants defense “has a bounce-back year”, according to Dunleavy. He also thinks defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo is a future coordinator in the league who teams will soon begin to take notice of.

NFC West Notes: Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks

New Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks offered James Bettcher the opportunity to stay on as the team’s defensive coordinator, but Bettcher ultimately decided to move on, according to Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link). Bettcher, who interviewed for the Arizona head coaching job, accepted the Giants’ DC job late last night, so he’ll now go to work under new New York head coach Pat Shurmur. The Cardinals, meanwhile, lured former Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb to the desert in order to become the club’s next defensive coordinator, although it doesn’t sound as though Arizona will change much of Bettcher’s scheme.

Here’s more from the NFC West, with a focus on staff notes:

  • Wilks has made another addition to the Cardinals‘ coaching staff, as former Giants safeties coach Dave Merritt — New York’s longest-tenured coach — will become Arizona’s secondary coach, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Merritt, 46, had been with the Giants since 2004, and enjoyed a short stint with the crosstown Jets prior to joining the G-Men. He’ll now serve under Holcomb, and will have the opportunity to coach one of the league’s best corners in Patrick Peterson. Finding another defensive back to play opposite Peterson will represent Merritt’s most significant challenge in 2018.
  • Former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians released a statement praising the hire of Wilks, but did allow that he preferred other candidates for the position, reports Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com“We built a strong Cardinals legacy over the last 5 years,” said Arians. “I wish Steve Wilks the best of luck. I’m disappointed that [James Bettcher or Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong] didn’t get the Cardinals position. They are both ready. I truly believe they will be an asset to any football organization. Trust. Loyalty. Respect.” Armstrong, who like Bettcher was an official Arians recommendation, interviewed with Arizona twice before the club chose Wilks.
  • The Rams have hired former UCLA offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch as a senior offensive assistant, the team announced today. Fisch, who also served as the Bruins’ interim head coach following the firing of Jim Mora Jr., has served in both served in both the collegiate and pro ranks over the past 20 years. In the NFL, Fisch was the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator from 2013-14, and has also worked for the Texans, Ravens, Broncos, and Seahawks, mostly as a quarterbacks or wide receivers coach. He interviewed for the Falcons’ quarterbacks coach job earlier this year.
  • The Seahawks are making yet another change to their defensive staff, as defensive line coach Dwaine Board will not return to the club in 2018, reports Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Board is a longtime NFL coach, as he first entered the league in 1990 with the 49ers. He’s made other stops in Oakland and Cleveland, and started his second stint with Seattle in 2015.

Giants Hire James Bettcher As DC

The Giants have hired James Bettcher as their new defensive coordinator, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The former Cardinals DC also had an offer on the table from the Titans, but he turned them down. James Bettcher (vertical)

Bettcher was with the Cardinals since 2013 and spent the last three as DC. He was up for the Cardinals’ head coaching vacancy this offseason and even had the endorsement of Bruce Arians, but the gig ultimately went to Steve Wilks. Predictably, he had interest from multiple teams as a DC and he garnered two offers on the same day.

The Giants’ high-priced defense underperformed in 2017, finishing second to last in yards allowed and in the bottom third of DVOA. The Cardinals, meanwhile, allowed the sixth fewest yards in the league to opposing teams and had the fourth-best in DVOA in the NFL.

Bettcher’s arrival means that Steve Spagnuolo, the previous defensive coordinator and the Giants’ interim head coach for the final four games of the season, is out. At one point in time, it was thought that new head coach Pat Shurmur might keep Spags on board, but he’s opting to start fresh.

It’s not clear where the Titans and Mike Vrabel will go from here, but Packers cornerbacks coach Darren Perry has been mentioned as candidate for the DC vacancy.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans, Giants To Meet With James Bettcher

Former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher is scheduled to meet with the Titans and Giants on Tuesday for their vacant DC jobs, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Bettcher is a top candidate for both positions, Rapoport adds. James Bettcher (vertical)

Bettcher was up for the Cardinals’ head coaching vacancy this year, but that job wound up going to ex-Panthers DC Steve Wilks. Wilks is bringing in old friend Al Holcomb to lead the defense, meaning that Bettcher is available. Although he did not get to run the show in Arizona, Bettcher is a hot DC candidate.

The Giants and Titans both have new head coaches this offseason in Pat Shurmur and Mike Vrabel at the helm, respectively. The Giants’ next DC figures to have a great deal of authority given Shurmur’s focus on offense. However, the job might not be quite the same in Tennessee. Vrabel previously served as the Texans’ DC and he intimated in his introductory press conference that he will be calling the plays. It’s not clear if that will suit someone like Bettcher who has spent the last three years as Arizona’s defensive play caller and was close to becoming their HC.

Former Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio is viewed as frontrunner for the Giants’ DC gig, though it’s possible that incumbent Steve Spagnuolo could keep his job. Bettcher now becomes the third known candidate for the Giants’ opening and the first for the Titans job.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Cardinals, Lions, Packers

New Cardinals hire Steve Wilks will be bringing in some of new faces to the coaching staff. One of the biggest changes will be at defensive coordinator as he appears to be poised to bring his former Panthers colleague Al Holcomb to lead the defense. This means that former defensive coordinator James Bettcher will be on the way out, according to Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).

Jurecki does make sure to note that Bettcher will “land on his feet” with another organization that he’s actively looking for other opportunities around the league. These next few weeks will be a quick change for Bettcher, who was in the final group to be considered for the Cardinals vacant head coaching job.

Here’s more coaching stories to follow:

  • While Wilks will be making multiple changes to the Cardinals coaching staff, that doesn’t mean that there’s going to be a complete overhaul. The new first-time head coach is likely to keep some members from Bruce Arians‘ staff on board for next season, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). While many new coaches like to make their imprint on the organization through bringing in new coaches onto the team, there’s also something to be said for trying to keep some of the same voices that players have been hearing from throughout the past few years.
  • The Lions will be letting go of their quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan, sources tell Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). As I noted before, it’s not unusual for new head coaches to turnover their staff, but Breer adds that this move is a little surprising because Callahan is well-regarded around the league and will have a number of teams looking to bring him in for 2018. It’s been rumored that he could be a potential candidate for the Titans vacant offensive coordinator gig.
  • Meanwhile, the Seahawks have made a decision on who their next quarterbacks coach will be. The team has officially promoted Dave Canales from wide receivers coach to working with Seattle’s signal callers next year, a source tells Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link). Canales has been on Pete Carroll‘s staff since 2010 and was previously promoted to the WR coach position back in 2015. Although, this move doesn’t necessarily signal that the Seahawks will move on from former QB coach Carl Smith. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times hears that Smith could be shifted to a different role (Twitter link).
  • The Packers have added a new coach from the college ranks. Mike McCarthy has hired Ryan Downward from Bowling Green to help work on the team’s defensive staff. Downward worked as Bowling Green’s safeties coach for the past two seasons and previously worked for new Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine back when he coached in Cleveland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals Rumors: Munchak, Wilks, Caldwell

The Cardinals are the only NFL team looking for a new head coach that either hasn’t already made a hire or does not have a clear-cut front-runner for the position. Indeed, many coaches around the league have “trepidation” about the Arizona gig, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Among the factors concerning potential contenders are the Cardinals’ lack of a solution at quarterback and the increasingly difficult path to contention in the NFC West. Additionally, Arizona prefers to keep the majority of its defensive staff in place, meaning a new head coach might not get the opportunity to hire his own coaches, as La Canfora writes in a separate piece. The immediate outlook for the Cardinals isn’t very positive, meaning ownership could make “sweeping changes” again in just a few years.

Here’s more on the Cardinals:

  • Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak withdrew from Arizona’s coaching hunt last week, but La Canfora reports (via Twitter) that Munchak would have been the favorite for the club’s head coaching position had he not pulled out. Munchak cited family concerns when explaining why he decided to remain in Pittsburgh, but there was at least some thought the Steelers could promote the NFL Hall of Famer to offensive coordinator after ex-OC Todd Haley‘s contract expired. Instead, Pittsburgh tabbed incumbent quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner for the role, meaning Munchak will return for a fifth season as the team’s OL coach. Munchak, 57, has previous head coaching experience, as he posted a 22-26 record with the Titans from 2011-13.
  • Among the candidates who are still in contention for the Arizona job, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has reportedly made a “very strong impression” on Cardinals ownership during the search process, tweets La Canfora. Wilks, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, and Eagles quarterbacks John DeFilippo all have or will receive second interviews. Incumbent DC James Bettcher, meanwhile, won’t require a second meeting given his familiarity with Arizona’s decision-makers.
  • While the Cardinals’ search is still ongoing, candidates have already started to formulate hypothetical coaching staffs. Flores for instance, would likely install former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator were he to land the Arizona gig, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Bettcher, meanwhile, is eyeing former Broncos play-caller Mike McCoy for OC and ex-Colts head coach Chuck Pagano for DC, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • We touched on Haley earlier, and the former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator says he would have interest in taking over OC duties for the Cardinals, per Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (Twitter link). Haley, of course, has worked in Arizona before as the club’s offensive coordinator from 2007-08. Also a potential candidate for vacant OC jobs in both New York and Cleveland, Haley will likely need to wait until the Cardinals settle on their next head coach before taking any serious looks at a reunion in the desert.

NFC Notes: Vikings, Cards, Packers, 49ers

For the first time all season, the Vikings will have all three of their quarterbacks healthy when they host New Orleans on Sunday. Even with the return of Sam Bradford and the health of Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum “is the guy” reports Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.

This should come as no surprise, as Keenum has been among the league’s top signal-callers since taking over for Bradford early in the season. The question, however, will be if the team wants to have all three suit up on Sunday. Florio’s sources say that won’t be determined until right before kickoff. Florio thinks untimely concussion evaluations could play into the decision.

Regardless of the decision, Keenum will have as long a leash as possible as the starter. The sixth-year quarterback enjoyed a breakout campaign, throwing for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns while posting a stellar 98.3 passer rating. It is unknown at this time if Bradford will leapfrog Bridgewater for the backup role.

Here is more from around the NFC:

  • Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is the perfect candidate for the Cardinals head-coaching vacancy, AZ Central’s Dan Bickley writes. Bickley notes Shurmur’s ability to get the most out of his quarterback as the underlying factor. He also thinks the hiring of Shurmur would ensure the return of Larry Fitzgerald. The hiring, however, would go in opposition to former head coach Bruce Arians’ wishes that defensive coordinator James Bettcher get the job.
  • Packers head coach Mike McCarthy reportedly met with team president and CEO Mark Murphy and expressed concerns Russ Ball wouldn’t be aggressive in free agency, USA Today’s Pete Dougherty reports. The meeting in theory caused Murphy to not promote Ball to general manager after Ted Thompson left the spot. Dougherty has doubts that the meeting had any impact on the situation. He also laid out another theory that Murphy preferred Brian Gutekunst all along for the job.
  • There is confidence on both sides that the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo will strike a deal, NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco writes. If the sides don’t reach an agreement, it’s almost a guarantee that the quarterback will be franchised. After leading the Niners to wins in each of his first five starts, Jimmy G is a safe bet to be the QB in San Francisco for a long time.

Coaching Rumors: Daboll, Bettcher, Bears

Several potential head coaching candidates have identified Alabama offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as a possible play-calling addition, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). The 42-year-old Daboll, fresh off a National Championship, has served as an NFL OC with the Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs. He also spent two stints in New England, coaching wide receivers and tight ends under Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels.

Here’s the latest on the 2018 hiring cycle:

  • In-limbo Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher could be in consideration for a role with the Bears, reports Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (Twitter link), who reports Chicago’s brass would like to meet with Bettcher. One of nine candidates to replace Bruce Arians in Arizona, Bettcher could be without a job if the Cardinals go in a different direction. It’s unclear exactly what title Bettcher would hold with the Bears, especially since Chicago is expected to retain incumbent DC Vic Fangio.
  • The Bears are forging a reunion with Harry Hiestand, whom they’ve hired as their new offensive line coach, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Hiestand, 59, previously served as the Bears’ OL coach form 2005-09 before moving onto the Titans and Notre Dame, with whom he’s spent the past six seasons. Multiple teams were reportedly pursuing Hiestand, per Greg Gabriel of Pro Football Weekly (Twitter link), and the longtime coach had no intention of remaining in South Bend. In Chicago, Hiestand will work with an offensive line that ranked in the bottom half of the league in both adjusted sack rate and adjusted line yards.
  • Hiestand isn’t the only staff change the Bears made today, as they’ve also hired Charles London as their next running backs coach, tweets Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. London has spent time in Chicago before, as he was a offensive quality control coach for the club from 2007-09. After a brief stint with the Titans, London followed Bill O’Brien to Penn State and then to the Texans, where he coached for the past four years.
  • Offensive line coach Frank Pollack has been fired by the Cowboys, per Marvez (Twitter links). It’s a stunning move in some regard, especially since the Dallas offensive line was viewed as an especially dominant unit as recently as 2016. But injuries and ineffective play led to the club’s front five struggling last season, leading to Pollard’s dismissal. Elsewhere in Dallas, assistant special teams coach Keith O’Quinn is expected to be reassigned, either as the Cowboys’ primary ST coach or as the club’s tight ends coach, per Marvez.