James Bettcher

Coaching Notes: Kitchens, 49ers, Bucs

Freddie Kitchens will see his role expand in New York. The Giants are promoting the former Browns HC from tight ends coach to senior offensive assistant, according to ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan (on Twitter). Earlier this month, we heard the Giants may be eyeing more responsibility for Kitchens. Derek Dooley, who received interest from other teams, will take over as the Giants’ tight ends coach, Raanan adds. Previously the Mizzou offensive coordinator, Dooley joined Joe Judge‘s staff last year. The Giants used Kitchens as their interim play-caller while Jason Garrett battled COVID-19 last season and will lean on him more in 2021.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • To replace Antwaan Randle El on their coaching staff, the Buccaneers will also turn to a recently retired quarterback. Thad Lewis will rise from intern to offensive assistant on Bruce Arians‘ staff, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Randle El left to become the Lions’ wide receivers coach. Lewis bounced around the NFL for nearly eight years; he was most recently with the Ravens in 2017.
  • A day after hiring Jay Valai as cornerbacks coach, the Eagles will lose him. Alabama will instead hire Valai, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg (on Twitter). Announced as one of the Eagles’ hires earlier this week, Valai will join former Texans HC Bill O’Brien at Alabama. Valai will replace Karl Scott as the Crimson Tide’s cornerbacks coach. Scott joined the Vikings’ staff this week.
  • Hired recently after a one-year stint as Lions DC, Cory Undlin will serve as the 49ers‘ secondary coach and defensive passing-game specialist. Fellow former DC James Bettcher will be a senior defensive assistant and the team’s run-game overseer on that side of the ball. The 49ers are promoting Darryl Tapp to assistant defensive line coach and hiring former wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and Klay Kubiak as quality control assistants. Klay is one of Gary Kubiak‘s sons. Even after Gary’s retirement, there are still three Kubiaks in the NFL — Klay and brothers Klint (the new Vikings OC) and Klein (a Cowboys scout). Hankerson also has a history with Kyle Shanahan, having played with Washington from 2011-13.
  • The Bengals hired Justin Hill as running backs coach. Hill will come to Cincinnati from the college ranks, having spent the past six seasons as Tulsa’s running backs coach. This will be his first NFL job. The Bengals are also promoting former NFL wideout Troy Walters to receivers coach. Walters served as Cincy’s assistant wideouts coach last season, working under Bob Bicknell.
  • Robert Saleh made an interesting hire recently. The new Jets HC added Steve Scarnecchia as his chief of staff, per Brian Costello of the New York Daily News. The son of longtime Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Steve spent the past six years as the Falcons’ assistant to the head coach. Steve Scarnecchia was part of both the Patriots’ Spygate scandal, working in the team’s video department from 2001-04, and was the Broncos staffer whose filming of a 49ers walkthrough in 2010 led to Josh McDaniels‘ firing in Denver. The younger Scarnecchia will accompany new Jets DC Jeff Ulbrich in moving from Atlanta to New York.

49ers To Hire James Bettcher

Former Cardinals and Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher interviewed for the Bears’ DC gig this week, but he will instead head back to the NFC West.

The 49ers will hire Bettcher to work in a senior defensive assistant-type capacity, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Like the Bears, the 49ers filled their defensive coordinator position from within. DeMeco Ryans will replace Robert Saleh, but he will now have a veteran defensive play-caller on staff.

Bettcher, 42, led the Cardinals’ defense from 2015-17, overseeing top-10 defenses before and after Chandler Jones‘ arrival. Bettcher’s Giants units did not fare as well, leading to the experienced assistant taking the 2020 season off. But he will be back in the mix for a talented 49ers unit next season.

Following Todd Bowles becoming the Jets’ head coach in 2015, the Cards promoted Bettcher from outside linebackers coach to DC. The team went 13-3 that season, setting a record for most wins in franchise history. Bettcher’s three-Pro Bowler unit ranked in the top 10 in points and yards. Arizona’s Jones-led 2016 and ’17 defenses were also top 10 in yards. Bettcher’s most recent Giants defense, however, ranked 30th in points allowed.

Ryans has been with the 49ers since 2017, rising quickly from the quality control level to a DC role. He and Bettcher will attempt to replace Saleh, who coaxed quality play from the past two San Francisco defenses — doing so last year despite rampant injury issues.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Interview James Bettcher For DC Job

After sitting out this season, James Bettcher is drawing interest for a potential third defensive coordinator job. The Bears are interviewing the former Cardinals and Giants DC on Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Chicago lost two-year DC Chuck Pagano to retirement and has assembled a short list of replacement options in the days since. Bettcher joins internal candidates Jay Rodgers (D-line) and Sean Desai (safeties) and Colts DBs coach Jonathan Gannon.

The Giants employed Bettcher as their defensive play-caller from 2018-19. His most recent defense ranked 30th in scoring. Bettcher, however, would oversee a more talented unit in Chicago. In Arizona, Bettcher fared better. The veteran assistant was 3-for-3 in helming top-10 total defenses with the Cardinals. Even before Chandler Jones‘ 2016 arrival, the Cards ranked in the top 10 in both yards and points defensively in their 13-3 2015 season. Before his five-year run in Arizona — as a position coach and then the Cards’ DC — Bettcher coached under Pagano with the 2012 Colts.

Bettcher used a 3-4 defense as his base look in both New York and Arizona. The Bears deployed this alignment in base sets under Pagano and Vic Fangio over the past six seasons. Chicago’s defense has ranked as a top-10 DVOA crew since 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.