James Bettcher

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.

Coaching Notes: Spagnuolo, Bettcher, McDaniels

The coaching carousel is in full swing. Here are six stories regarding coaching staffs across the NFL:

  • The Giants have interviewed their interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo for the full-time job, the team announced today. Spagnuolo is considered a longshot to land the position given that new general manager Dave Gettlemen would probably like to bring in his own guy. But, the former Rams head coach still had his shot to impress the Giants executives today. New York has six more candidates they’re planning on interviewing in the days to come. Check out who by using our 2018 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.
  • The Cardinals also used most of the day to interview an internal head coach candidate, defensive coordinator James Bettcher, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Bettcher had the first chance to make his case as the team has another seven coaches they would like to talk to about their vacant head coach position.
  • The Colts will speak with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels tonight about their head coach vacancy, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). McDaniels is getting head coaching interest from many different teams because of his offensive knowledge. Indianapolis could be looking for a more offensive-minded coach to pair with quarterback Andrew Luck. Although they have requested interviews with coaches on both sides of the ball, including: Matt Nagy (Chiefs), Kris Richard (Seahawks), Mike Vrabel (Texans) and Steve Wilks (Panthers).
  • La Canfora does also note that the bad weather in the Boston area could affect potential interviews regarding McDaniels and fellow Patriots coach Matt Patricia. The team has to be back home to prepare for their divisional round opponent, which could push back a few potential interviews for both New England coordinators.
  • The Packers have a offensive coordinator vacancy after reassigning Edgar Bennett to another position earlier today. Three names who the team could show interest in to replace Bennett are former Green Bay coaches Ben McAdoo and Joe Philbin, along with current offensive line coach James Campen, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • The Broncos have hired Sean Kugler to be the team’s offensive line coach for 2018, reports Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). While Kugler is a new face to the coaching staff, the team did decide to keep both of their coordinators and fire three other coaches on Monday.

NFC West Notes: Cards, Bettcher, Seahawks

While the Cardinals will interview incumbent defensive coordinator James Bettcher as they seek to replace head coach Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin is unlikely to be granted a meeting, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Unlike Bettcher, Goodwin has actually interviewed for other NFL vacancies in the past, as he met with the Buccaneers, Bills, Jaguars, and Rams since 2016. Bettcher, meanwhile, will meet with Arizona’s decision-makers on Wednesday, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • Veteran defensive lineman Michael Bennett said he is committed to continuing his career in 2018 and hopes he’ll remain with the Seahawks, tweets Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Bennett, 32, is signed for three more years at affordable rates, and Seattle would only create ~$2MM by releasing him this offseason. Additionally, Bennett graded as the No. 38 edge defender among 108 qualifiers a season ago, per Pro Football Focus, meaning he’s more than worth his salary. Seattle may be without Cliff Avril (retirement) and Sheldon Richardson (free agency) in 2018, making Bennett’s presence all the more crucial.
  • The Seahawks have already begun exploring kicker upgrades, and former Jaguar Jason Myers is among the options on Seattle’s radar, per Condotta (Twitter link). Given that the Seahawks are narrowing in on street free agents (players who were cut before the 2017 regular season concluded), their options are certainly limited. But Myers, who was released by Jacksonville in October, could represent improvement over incumbent Blair Walsh, who missed eight field goals last year. Myers, meanwhile, owns a career field goal percentage of 81%.
  • Tight end Jermaine Gresham suffered a torn Achilles in the Cardinals‘ regular season finale, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com (Twitter link). Given the timeline of Gresham’s injury, he may not be ready to start the 2018 campaign. But Arizona would incur $2MM in dead money by releasing Gresham, who inked a four-year extension last spring. Gresham, 29, managed only 33 receptions and 322 yards last year, his third consecutive season with fewer than 400 yards receiving.

Cardinals To Interview DC James Bettcher

The Cardinals will interview defensive coordinator James Bettcher for their head coaching position, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) hears. Bettcher is getting first crack at interviewing for the vacancy and it could take place as soon as tomorrow, Rapoport adds. James Bettcher (vertical)

[RELATED: Bruce Arians Announces Retirement]

The Cardinals’ decision to put Bettcher up at bat first could be an indication that he is a leading candidate to replace Bruce Arians. He might not be the biggest name out there, but he is familiar with the organization after spending the last four seasons in Arizona. He’s spent the last three years as the DC in Arizona and the team has finished no worse than sixth in total defense.

It’s not immediately clear whether offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin will also receive consideration for the job.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Panthers, E. Sanders, Cards, Bills

With Josh Norman out of Carolina thanks to a contract dispute and defensive tackle Kawann Short now angling for a big-money deal, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman fired a warning shot at player agents Wednesday. “I’d like to think agents have figured out they can’t scare me; they can’t squeeze me. I’m not going to panic. It’s a waste of time,” he defiantly told Black & Blue Review (Twitter link).

More from around the NFL:

  • Given the high-paying extensions awarded to Fletcher Cox, Keenan Allen and Brandon Marshall within the last week, Conor Orr of NFL.com highlighted other notable players who could cash in this summer. Up next might be the Broncos’ Emmanuel Sanders, whom multiple league sources expect to become the next wideout to land an extension, per Orr.
  • After spending last season in Arizona, free agent linebacker LaMarr Woodley tore into Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher in May, referring to the coach as “dumb.” Woodley doubled down on that today, albeit in a less trenchant way, telling NFL Media’s R&B Podcast, “I just felt like the defensive coordinator didn’t listen to his players” (via Jeremy Cluff of the Arizona Republic). Woodley added that all-time great defensive mind Dick LeBeau, who coached Woodley for years in Pittsburgh, listens to his players and makes in-game adjustments based on their input.
  • Bills legend Jim Kelly opined last week that Rex Ryan is coaching for his job in Year 2 with the franchise, saying the team has to break its league-worst 16-season playoff drought for Ryan to return in 2017. Ryan responded Tuesday, telling reporters (including Mike Rodak of ESPN.com), “I think if you ask Jim, Jim knows I’m a hell of a coach and a good coach for this team and this community. I think he would tell you that. I hope he would.” In typical confident fashion, Ryan also stated that he “expects to win big-time” this season, per Rodak. Under Ryan last season, the Bills fell from 9-7 to 8-8 and unexpectedly saw their defensive performance decline precipitously.
  • Today’s biggest story: The Ravens released offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, whom the Giants are now pursuing. PFR’s Dallas Robinson tried to find a fit for the 29-year-old, listing eight teams (including the Giants) that could sign him.

West Notes: Woodley, P. Lynch, Cards, Raiders

Free agent linebacker Lamarr Woodley offered scathing reviews of two of his former defensive coordinators, the Cardinals’ James Bettcher and ex-Raiders assistant Jason Tarver (now with San Francisco), on the latest edition of his podcast (per Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic).

“In Oakland, we had a dumb defensive coordinator and in Arizona, we had a dumb defensive coordinator,” he said.

Woodley didn’t mention either Bettcher or Tarver by name, but given that he only spent one year with both teams, it’s clear he was referring to them.

He continued, “They thought we were like Madden players. They’d draw something up and on paper it looked good, but the players still have to go out there and run it. Those guys didn’t really listen to their players. They wanted to do it their way and their way only.”

Woodley also ripped into Bettcher for his game plan in the Cardinals’ 49-15 loss to Carolina in the NFC championship.

“It wasn’t because we had bad players. No, our defensive coordinator he didn’t have the common sense to talk to his players to make the adjustments. Because he just wanted to do things his way those are the results we got, bottom line,” he said.

Woodley didn’t play in the title round (or any Cardinals game beyond Nov. 22) because he was on injured reserve. The 31-year-old appeared in just 16 contests over the previous two seasons with the Raiders and Cardinals, combining for 15 tackles and a sack. Woodley was a far more productive player from 2007-13 in Pittsburgh, with which he piled up 58 sacks.

And now the latest from the AFC West:

  • Quarterback Mark Sanchez might not be at the Broncos’ helm for long if first-rounder Paxton Lynch forces the team’s hand, which is something general manager John Elway believes the ex-Memphis standout is capable of doing. “We think he’s going to be ready quicker than a lot of people think,” Elway told Denver Sports 760 (link via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). On why the Broncos decided to trade up in the first round for the 6-foot-7 Lynch, Elway said, “He’s a young guy with tremendous athletic ability, he’s got the strong arm, can make all the throws, he’s smart, and he’s a guy that can fit into this offense real well.”
  • While Elway sees the Lynch era approaching, Troy Renck of the Denver Post cautions that patience is in order. As Renck writes, Lynch hasn’t played in a pro-style offense since his freshman year at Memphis – which is the last time he was even in a huddle – and his play calls there were far less complicated than they will be in Denver. Moreover, the Broncos would be unwise to rush Lynch into the lineup to serve as a game manager, Renck opines. The club should instead wait until the 22-year-old is truly ready and let him take advantage of his strengths, namely his big arm and elusiveness.
  • Raiders defensive end Mario Edwards has been given medical clearance to resume his career, he announced Friday on Instagram (via Marc Sessler of NFL.com). A serious neck injury brought a premature end to Edwards’ rookie campaign after he had started in 10 of 14 appearances and tallied three forced fumbles and two sacks. For his work last season, the second-rounder from Florida State ranked an impressive 32nd out of 110 qualifying edge defenders at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Cardinals Promote James Bettcher To DC

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.

Cards To Name New DC After Super Bowl

While most teams hiring new defensive coordinators this offseason are making a change due to disappointing 2014 campaigns, that’s not the case in Arizona. Former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who was named Assistant of the Year by the PFWA, had such a strong season that it buoyed him into a head coaching job with the Jets. Now that they have to tab a replacement for Bowles, the Cardinals will try to maintain the status quo as much as possible, and will promote an internal candidate to DC next week, head coach Bruce Arians confirmed today in an appearance on ESPN’s NFL Insiders (link via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com).

“The defensive coordinator will come off our staff,” Arians said. “It’ll be one of the young guys. And we’ll bring in some guys to help him. We’ll wait until the Super Bowl is over but we’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to go.”

The Cardinals’ in-house options include James Bettcher, Brentson Buckner, Kevin Ross, Nick Rapone, and Tom Pratt, and while Arians didn’t specify which of those coaches would be promoted to defensive coordinator, it sounds like he has someone in mind. As Urban writes, the fact that the head coach referred to “one of the young guys” indicates that Bettcher, a highly regarded assistant who currently coaches the team’s outside linebackers, could be the Cards’ man.

As for the guys who will be brought in to “help” the new coordinator, one candidate for such a role was Dick LeBeau, but as we heard over the weekend, he won’t be reconnecting with Arians in Arizona after all. In fact, Gil Brandt of NFL.com tweets that it now appears that LeBeau will join the Titans, though that’s not official yet.