James Bettcher enters his fourth season with the Cardinals and second as defensive coordinator after he was promoted on 2/4/15. He spent his first two seasons with the Cardinals coaching outside linebackers after originally joining the staff on 2/5/13. The 38-year old Bettcher is in his fifth season in the NFL after coaching the Colts outside linebackers in 2012.
During Bettcher’s first season as defensive coordinator in 2015, the Cardinals finished the year with the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense. The unit ranked second in the NFL with 33 total takeaways and tied Kansas City for the league lead with six defensive TDs. Arizona also ranked sixth in run defense (91.3 ypg) and seventh in points allowed per game (19.6) last season. CB Patrick Peterson, S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Calais Campbell were all selected to the Pro Bowl while Peterson and Mathieu were both named first-team All-Pro. Arizona ranked sixth in run defense (91.3 ypg) and seventh in points allowed per game (19.6).
As outside linebackers coach in 2014, Bettcher tutored OLB Alex Okafor who had a team-leading eight sacks in just 13 games. Arizona’s defense allowed just 18.7 points per game, the fifth lowest average in the league, while allowing 20 points or fewer in an NFL-high 13 games. The Cardinals defense allowed just 299 points, the first time the team has allowed fewer than 300 points in a season since 1994 (267).
In his first season in Arizona in 2013, Bettcher helped a Cardinals defense that had 47 sacks, the third-highest total in franchise history, while also finishing with the NFL’s sixth-ranked overall defense and the league’s top-ranked run defense (84.4 yards per game). The Cardinals allowed the fewest rushing yards in team history for a 16-game season (1,351). OLB John Abraham was selected to his fifth career Pro Bowl, and first as a linebacker, after he led the team with 11.5 sacks in 2013, the most sacks by a linebacker in a single-season in team history.
In 2012, Bettcher worked as the special assistant to Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and 2012 NFL Coach of the Year Bruce Arians, who served as interim head coach for 12 games while Pagano was receiving treatment for leukemia. Bettcher worked with the Colts outside linebackers, helping Robert Mathis earn a selection to his first Pro Bowl at OLB and his fifth selection overall. The Colts improved from 2-14 in 2011 to 11-5 in 2012, tied for the third-largest turnaround in NFL history and earned a Wild Card berth in the AFC playoffs.
Prior to joining the Colts, Bettcher spent nine years in the college coaching ranks. In 2011, he served as linebackers coach/special teams coordinator at New Hampshire, and he coached the NCAA FCS leading tackler and 2011 Buck Buchanan Award Winner (FCS National Defensive Player of the Year) Matt Evans. He also helped the Wildcats rank in the top 20 nationally in both punt return and punt coverage.
Bettcher coached defensive ends and special teams at Ball State in 2010, where he helped tutor Robert Eddins who led the team in sacks and earned All-MAC honors. From 2007-2009, Bettcher worked as a defensive assistant/defensive graduate assistant at the University of North Carolina, coaching linebackers and special teams and helped the 2009 team finish sixth in the nation in overall defense. At UNC, Bettcher worked with future NFL Pro Bowler Robert Quinn in addition to linebackers Bruce Carter and Quinton Coples. In 2006, he was a defensive graduate assistant at Bowling Green State University, working with the secondary and special teams units.
His coaching career began at his alma mater, the University of St. Francis (IN) from 2003-05 as special teams coordinator and defensive line coach. He also worked with the strength and conditioning staff and was the head track coach in 2003-04. During his stint at St. Francis, the Cougars made three trips to the NAIA playoffs, including two national championship game appearances.
During his playing career at St. Francis as an offensive lineman, Bettcher was a three-time NAIA All-America Scholar, a three-time Mid-States Football Association Scholar, a two-time NAIA Coaches All-America choice and a two-time Don Hansen’s All-America selection. He earned all-conference honors three times and was the recipient of the Silver Helmet Award for leadership, coachability and performance on the field in 2002. Bettcher was also a five-time track All-America choice for the Cougars, where he placed second in the shot put at the 2001 NAIA Championships.
Bettcher, a native of Lakeville, IN, was inducted into the University of St. Francis Hall of Fame in 2012. He and his wife, Erica, have a son, Colton and a daughter, Addison.