The Bears interviewed James Bettcher for their vacant defensive coordinator role on Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday.
Bettcher, 42, spent the 2020 season out of football. He has had experience in a defensive coordinator role in the past, serving in that capacity for both the Cardinals and Giants.
There are already existing ties between Bettcher and the Bears organization, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune pointed out on Jan. 13 that Bettcher had spent some time this past season doing consultant work for the Bears in his time off from the league. He and head coach Matt Nagy have a common friend in Bettcher’s former Cardinals mentor Todd Bowles, and it has been speculated that the two are in good standing with each other.
Bettcher’s defensive scheme is noted for being aggressive and complex. Rooted in a 3-4 base like the one the Bears currently employ, Bettcher relies heavily on man coverage—primarily in the press variety—while utilizing Cover 1 in the secondary. He is also known for being an aggressive blitzer, as made evident through his time in both Arizona and New York. He has seen some criticism for being strict with his cornerback alignments, as Janoris Jenkins voiced displeasure with his not being moved around to cover top targets when Bettcher was his defensive coordinator in 2018.
It was during his time with the Giants that Bettcher saw his fair share of struggles, as the Giants were ranked as a bottom-10 defense by DVOA according to Football Outsiders in both 2018 and 2019, the two seasons he served as their defensive coordinator. His three years with Arizona was a much more productive tenure for him, though, as his units placed second in the NFL in DVOA in 2015 and 2016, while finishing 12th in 2017.
The Bears find themselves looking for a new defensive coordinator after the retirement of Chuck Pagano, who held the position for the past two seasons. Bettcher has been repeatedly mentioned as a top external candidate for the job, should Chicago choose to go outside of the organization for the hire.