In a move that defied the rumor mill, Shurmur tapped former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher to be his defensive coordinator, signaling the end of the second tenure of Steve Spagnuolo.
Bettcher met with the Giants Tuesday night in Mobile, Ala. where Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman are attending the Senior Bowl. He was not retained by the Cardinals, who hired Steve Wilks to be their head coach Monday. Bettcher also interviewed for the Cardinals’ head coaching vacancy and the Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator position.
Bettcher, 39, broke into coaching with assistant positions at the collegiate level with stops at Saint Francis (Ind.), Bowling Green, North Carolina, Ball State, and New Hampshire. He entered the NFL in 2012 as an outside linebackers coach with the Indianapolis Colts. Bettcher joined the Cardinals in 2013, also as an outside linebackers coach. He took over as defensive coordinator in 2015 when Todd Bowles departed to become head coach of the New York Jets.
During Bettcher’s three seasons under the retired Bruce Arians (who hoped that Bettcher would take over as head coach), the Cardinals defense was not ranked lower than sixth in the NFL in team defense. In 2017, the Cardinals were sixth overall in team defense with 310.9 yards per game and 14th in points allowed (22.6 per game).
Bettcher ran a blitz heavy 3-4 defense with the Cardinals to remarkable success. The Cardinals had the third best defense in the NFL in yards allowed during Bettcher’s tenure as defensive coordinator, behind only the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. They also had the second-best run defense during that timespan behind only the Carolina Panthers. The Cardinals also ranked third in takeaways and fifth in three-and-out percentage.
The Giants got to see Bettcher’s defense up and close and personal in 2017. The Cardinals handed the Giants a 23-0 shutout on Christmas Eve, allowing 293 total yards and limiting the Giants to 1-of-14 on third down and 1-of-4 on fourth down.
Bettcher takes over a talented but underachieving defense. In 2016, the Giants ranked 10th in total defense (339.7 yards per game) and second to only the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in points allowed (17.8 points per game). Last season, the defense crashed to the bottom ranking 31st in yards allowed (373.2 yards per game) and tied for 27th in points allowed (24.2 points per game).
Bettcher also made headlines when he and his wife, Erica, saved the life a child who was struck by a car and trapped underneath it In Chandler, Ariz. The Bettchers were able to get the boy freed from underneath the vehicle and stabilize him until medical help arrived. The young victim survived the accident.