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Bruce Arians: Pressure and variety highlight James Bettcher's schemes

Posted Feb 6, 2018

Bruce Arians chatted with Giants.com to discuss his former defensive coordinator James Bettcher, now the Giants' DC:


The only time Bruce Arians clicked over on the headset when his Cardinals were on defense was to say one thing – “blitz everybody.”

Everything else was up to James Bettcher.

New Giants head coach Pat Shurmur recently hired the former Arizona defensive coordinator to serve in the same capacity on his staff. The reason? In three seasons running a defense, the Cardinals finished fifth, second and sixth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game.

“That’s all because of Betts,” Arians said on Tuesday’s edition of Big Blue Kickoff Live on Giants.com.

Sure, the defensive coaches would ask Arians, who retired as head coach at the end of the season, some questions like, “How tough is this?” or “What about that?”

Being a coach who climbed the ladder on offense, Arians would respond, “Oh [expletive], that’s going to be really hard. So that’s my input.”

So that’s what the Giants are getting.

Bettcher joined Arians’ staff in 2013 as outside linebackers coach. He was promoted to coordinator when Todd Bowles left to become the head coach of the Jets in 2015. Bettcher went on to lead the Cardinals to top-five finishes in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.

In 2016, the Cardinals led the NFL with 48 sacks, the third-highest total in team history. Arizona had two players (Markus Golden-12.5, Chandler Jones-11) with double-digit sacks in a single season for just the third time in team history.

If you had to label his base defense 3-4 or 4-3, it would be the former. But “multiple” is a better definition.

“The biggest thing is you start with pressure,” Arians said. “He’s going to go after people. He’s going to put pressure on the quarterback in all situations. Very, very hard to run the ball against this defense, having gone against it myself for five years [in practice]. So it’s going to be pressure. It depends a lot on the corners – how much man-to-man versus zone because we played both but we had drafted our guys to play man-to-man and not let a quarterback dink and dunk us.

“So, yeah, I think there’s going to be a lot of pressure. He can switch. Even in the base front, our 3-4 becomes a 4-3 a lot of times easily, and that’s the hard thing. They have so many multiple fronts that he can play and utilize that personnel they have up there.”

Despite their 3-13 record last season, Arians believes the Giants still have personnel that can translate well under Bettcher. That starts with two-time Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, whom Arians described as a “bigger, stronger” Tyrann Mathieu. The key is having a safety that offenses don’t know if he’s playing man, zone, middle of the field or blitzing.

“I think the pieces are there to be multiple,” Arians said. “You don’t have to sit back and just say, hey, we’re this or that. That’s the beauty of Betts’ defense. You really don’t know what you’re getting week to week.”

The adaptability certainly drew Shurmur to Bettcher. Arians said he spoke a few times with Shurmur and re-emphasized how much he thinks of his former coordinator. Like Bettcher, Shurmur is known for getting the most out of his personnel.

“I think his forte is he [fits] an offense for his personnel,” Arians said of Shurmur. “And that’s really good coaching. You don’t just have a system and run your system. I’ve got these players; how the heck can I get them guys scoring points? And that’s what Pat does. He took each one of those quarterbacks [in Minnesota] and he fit and tailored the offense to them, lost his running back and kept on going. That’s a tell-tale sign of a hell of an offensive coach.” Add in one hell of a defensive coach, and what do you get?

“I think with Pat running that offense and Betts running the defense,” Arians said, “the Giants are going to be somebody to deal with quickly next year.”