The Chicago Bears cooked up top-10 defenses in each of the last two seasons under Chuck Pagano, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. And while Chicago’s defense is still loaded with stars, the unit saw Pagano ride off into the sunset and into retirement. So for the second time since becoming a head coach, Matt Nagy is looking for a defensive coordinator. Over the following days, we’re taking a closer look at some rumored candidates, their coaching history, what they bring to the table, their general desirability, and more.
Name, Current Team, Current Position
James Bettcher, Coaching Free Agent
• New York Giants (Defensive Coordinator, 2018-19)
• Arizona Cardinals (Defensive Coordinator, 2015-17)
• Indianapolis Colts (Outside Linebackers, 2012)
• New Hampshire (Linebackers/Special Teams, 2011)
• Ball State (Special Teams/Defensive Ends, 2010)
• North Carolina (Defensive Assistant/Graduate Assistant, 2007-09)
• Bowling Green (Graduate Assistant, 2006)
• Saint Francis, Ind. (Special Teams Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach, 2004-05)
Bettcher’s emergence as a candidate sprung up when it was reported that he interviewed for the position earlier in the week. This isn’t the first time Bettcher has had his hat in the ring for the Bears’ defensive coordinator gig. When Vic Fangio’s return in 2018 was up-in-the-air, Bettcher was considered a possible replacement option. Fangio returned to the Bears, while Bettcher moved on to run the Giants’ defense. It didn’t end well for Bettcher, whose tenure in New York lasted just two years. But after spending 2020 on the sidelines, it is evident he wants back into the game in some capacity.
ESPN’s Jordan Raanan reports Bettcher spent time re-evaluating his scheme during his year sabbatical. And in doing so, Bettcher reached out to consult Matt Nagy, Chuck Pagano, and others. So, at minimum, Bettcher is familiar with the Bears head coach and his defense. That Bettcher also linked up with Bucs Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles and boned up on college defensive schemes could bode well for his candidacy. Coaching defense in the NFL is an adapt-or-die world.
They Said It …
“Lives and dies by the blitz. You need to have good personnel, especially in the back end.”
Ah, yes. The words of a personnel executive speaking anonymously to Raanan in his Bettcher profile. For what it’s worth, Bettcher’s defenses in Arizona were in the top-10 in blitz percentage in each of his first three years. In other words, if you’re one of those fans who wished the Bears blitzed more, I think Bettcher is your guy. And to be totally honest, I’ve been wanting more pressure created by blitzing every now and again. So I can’t imagine I’m the only one who wants some risk-taking from Chicago’s defense.
To be clear, I’m unsure if Bettcher is what the Bears need. But his profile is interesting enough to earn a deeper look.