Arians takes blame, “Bettch took a bullet”

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2016 – 9:52 am

The Cardinals were better defensively against the Buccaneers —’s NextGenStats had them blitzing more than 43 percent of the snaps, highest in the league, against Tampa Bay — and Bruce Arians was happy about that. The Cardinals played a lot of zone the previous week against the Patriots, and Arians wasn’t happy about that. Especially since it was his call.

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said last week the breakdowns “start with me.” But the defense was better in Week 2, Arians said, because “I got out of it.”

“I got too involved in the New England (defensive) gameplan,” Arians said on Sirius XM NFL radio. “That’s not my forte. Bettch took a bullet for playing more zone than we normally play. I had a lot to do with that. It was my mistake. We were playing our style of defense (against Tampa).”

Here’s a guess the Cardinals will stay aggressive defensively. Arians certainly didn’t sound like he’d be delving back too deep into the defensive gameplan anytime soon.

“It’s happened once and it didn’t go too well,” Arians said.


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33 Responses to “Arians takes blame, “Bettch took a bullet””

  1. By 'ZonaFan89 on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    One of the best traits about BA – he trusts his guys to do their job well. He’s a delegator, not a micro-manager. He believes in his guys and he lets them do their thing. I think he realizes that’s the best way to run this team, and I’d definitely say its a reason why this team (players and coaches) have so much confidence. We’re lucky to have a great leader like Coach Arians. Go Cards!!

  2. By clssylssy on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    Obviously, Arians recognized that Bettcher was over his head going up against the best defensive mind in the league Bill Bilichick and this won’t be the last time this happens. The best thing he could do for Bettch is to get him a defensive advisor, like we have on offense in Tom Moore. Most young DC’s would welcome such a unique opportunity to mentor and gain the kind of knowledge that only comes with experience and being in the NFL trenches through the years. Denver got Wade Phillips for a DC and we saw what he did there; have to hand it to John Elway that time!
    I am a firm believer in delegating but there is also such a thing as not throwing someone into a sink or swim situation without continuing education. I dread playing the Jets with our defense that is basically Todd Bowles creation. James Bettcher may have the makings of a DC but hasn’t got the resume just yet and, hopefully won’t have a short lived career because he’s had to learn on the fly.
    It’s good that BA stepped up. In big business, there is a management tree and it’s necessary to micro-manage to a certain degree in order to insure everyone is on the same page least you have chaos and a fragmented mission.
    An advisor is merely a teacher and is not a replacement.

  3. By Darren Urban on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    Clssy —

    RE: Bettcher

    You seem to have missed the point.

  4. By mitchaz on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    It’s big of BA to do the mea culpa on that first game because there has been a carryover on the defensive side of the ball from last year’s Seahawks meltdown and the playoffs that has needed to be addressed.

    While it is certainly BA’s prerogative to make any calls he wishes—he said himself it was his call to go full house blitz on Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary when Bettcher had called a prevent.

    Then, one has to wonder whether BA was involved in the changing of the defense for the Panthers in the NFC Championship game which had the players screaming at each other and bickering with the coaches on the sideline and had ex-players like Lamar Woodley saying how stupid it was to change from what they had been doing all year—as in playing a passive zone styler of defense, rather than keeping the dial on attack mode.

    Now, Bettcher has to figure out why the defense is giving up long drive TDs on the first possession of the second half—clearly whatever is being said at half-time hasn’t been working.

    Bettcher was such a surprising choice for DC—Darren, do you have a sense of what the players and defensive coaches really feel about Bettcher? Does Bettcher have the kind of gravitas that players admire?

    It wouldn’t be all that great of a surprise if the players see Bettcher as BA’s boy and kind of a puppet to him —nor would it be a surprise if the defensive coaches were a tad resentful of him for getting the DC nod when several of them are clearly more qualified.

    What is difficult for me to understand—and maybe Darren you can add some clarity to this question—if the Cardinals are truly “All or Nothing” why did BA take such a risk on Bettcher (2 years as an OLB coach in the NFL and a few years of college LB coach experience, never having been a coordinator at any level), when proven gurus like Dick LeBeau, Wade Phillips and Jim Schwartz were available.

  5. By Darren Urban on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    Mitchaz —

    RE: Bettcher

    Bettcher was the DC-in-waiting for a while before Bowles left.

  6. By Joh Hector on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    I think BA overthought the game plan against the Pats – we’re best when we play our game as we proved it against the Bucs.

  7. By clssylssy on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    Apparently I did and I’m not familiar with the Title of “_____-in-waiting”. In most successful companies, there is a search committee and a process for finding the most qualified person for the job. From other comments, I apparently am not alone in my observation.
    I was just suggesting that perhaps a little education never hurt anybody. But, perhaps you missed my point also.

  8. By Darren Urban on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    Clssy —

    RE: Point

    No, I got your point. You think Bettcher was a bad choice.

    The point of what Arians was saying was specifically that he took the blame for the Cards playing zone/backing off. You then talked all about how Bettcher was overwhelmed — after, at least if you take Arians for what he was saying, Arians said it was his decision to back off.

    As for DC-in-waiting, basically I just mean that was who Arians had in mind before Bowles even got a HC job, should Bowles leave.

  9. By faster on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    typical arians BS.

    if, a big IF, there was a weak point in the superbowl pre match, it was the special team. they can miss as much points as they want in games with 20 points diference, but in a clutch game not so.

    catanzaro and his team (especially the new long snapper) should do some kpushups (or laps at the training ground, or social hours at kindergartens) as punishment 🙂

  10. By Marcelof on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    Should have Cards won that game there’d be no blame on anyone.
    I really don’t if blitzes wouldn’t have turned out worse than what it did. Don’t you agree Patriots came in ready for that? Although being raw, JG is smart and I believe they were waiting for several blitzes and ready to punish us on the right read.

    My thoughts.

  11. By mitchaz on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply


    Bettcher wasn’t even a position coach in Indy—he was a one-year personal assistant to Chuck Pagano.

    Prior to that here is his resume:

    2003-2005: St. Francis – Special Teams Coordinator/Defensive Line
    2006: Bowling Green – Defensive Graduate Assistant
    2007-2009: North Carolina – Defensive Graduate Assistant
    2010: Ball State – Defensive Ends/Special Teams
    2011: New Hampshire – Linebackers/Special Teams Coordinator
    2012: Indianapolis Colts – Special Assistant to the Head Coach

    His 1st year in AZ he was the OLB coach—so with this resume, and one year as an NFL position coach, he was already BA’s “DC in-waiting”?

    The only coordinating he’d ever done was as STs coordinator at St. Francis and UNH.

    This is bizarre, Darren. I know you can’t be critical as an employee of the Cardinals, but man this is genuinely mind-boggling.

  12. By Darren Urban on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    Mitchaz —

    RE: Bettcher

    I didn’t say Bettcher was hired to be the coach-in-waiting. I said he was the one before Bowles left, so obviously he had shown something to Arians and to Bowles, for that matter.

    Here’s what I don’t get: The Cardinals were fifth in NFL total defense last season and seventh in points allowed. In Bowles’ last year as DC, Cards were 24th in total defense and fifth in points allowed.

    No, they didn’t play well in the NFC title game. And they allowed 23 points in the opener. But Bettcher is a terrible DC? I don’t get this sudden outcry. He’s not in his first year as DC.

  13. By shannon robinson on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    The Cards’ Defense is excellent. We can stop the run. We’ll get better on the pass rush and we’re solving the second corner position problem. Coach Bettcher reminds me of a bear – he’s a four by four and he’s grouchy and hard to deal with. I don’t think he cares if people think he’s smart, but I do. After two weeks I really like the way our defense plays – Prediction : Top 5 D all around this year. Don’t forget of course a lot of people didn’t like the Todd Bowles hiring when that came down.

  14. By Scott H on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    OK. And if that is indeed the case, I’m actually glad to hear that! From here, let the Def Coordinator coordinate the defense.

    I think we are all destined to wish for the rest of the season that we could play Week One again. Can only hope now it doesn’t come back to haunt us later.

    For now, let’s just focus on being 2-1.

  15. By Kevin S Mesa on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    Some people just think it’s all about experience.

    Clssylssy often posts about players the same way — favoring players with a long history over younger players, and waxing poetic about the need for leadership and experience.

    Mike Tomlin has been pretty successful as the Steelers’ HEAD coach (not just a coordinator), and how old/experienced was he when he got THAT job? 34? And after only one year in a coordinator role? So, according to the conventional wisdom, he couldn’t possibly have been qualified… and yet, the Steelers did the same with Cowher (hired at 34), Noll (38), and so on.

    I didn’t think the defense played well against NE, but neither did the offense… finishing with only 21 points despite being given a short field twice, mid-300 yards just like the Pats did and about the same # of first downs. And the offense has elder statesmen like Arians and Moore, so why are we ragging on the allegedly inexperienced Bettcher but not ragging on the guys in charge of the offense for the pedestrian performance against the Pats?

  16. By georgiebird on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    BA is the new “Teflon Don”. His hiring as HC is one of the more refreshing things that has happened to the NFL in years. Nice of him to take the bullett.
    I have to think that if Marcus Cooper had played the Pats’ game, the Cards would have probably won.
    So really, only the Cooper for Williams substitution stands in the way of the Cards being 2-0- And not the defensive scheme used by Bettcher in game #1.
    I think the defensive scheme was the right one in the Pats’ game. It is just that we played with only 10 guys on defensive. And then the Cat man got a little jumpy.

  17. By clssylssy on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    And yet, the top three coaches in the NFL are all 60 plus: Bilichick, Carroll and Arians. So, there must be something to be gained by experience.
    And, it’s not that I favor players with long histories over younger players. I believe I have favored a balance, such that the younger players have solid examples to follow which has proven very beneficial in Arizona.
    I have been a fan of Tyrann Mathieu’s since his days at LSU, as well as a number of other young talents not on our team. I think we have an amazing collection of young talents who will have bright careers if not here some place else.
    I don’t dislike Bettcher, I just have felt that he could benefit from some additional help but, if we can get a ring, that’s whats really important!
    Actually, there is an obvious upside to having a younger coach as they usually are healthier and have the potential for building a long running contender team as Tomlin did, and while watching the Steeler game I was actually thinking of what a good HC Todd Haley would make somebody now that he’s been around the NFL block a few times but in his prime.

  18. By Scott H on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    Speaking of the defense…..just when we thought all hope was lost…..we went from the CB position being a disaster after week 1 to having one of our CB’s ( Cooper ) being named Defensive Player of the Week for week 2. How crazy is that???

    But let’s not consider that all our problems are solved. Let’s consider instead that when all three phases of this team play well, they are as good as anyone the NFL can offer. And the pass rush still has not yet played at the level it seems capable of. If we can get that going…..

    BTW, a fun fact for anyone who cares – since the start of the 2015 season, the Cardinals have scored 40-plus points in a game 5X and have returned 5 INT’s for scores during that same period. No other team in the NFL has done either during the same period. I thought that was pretty cool!

    Another number I love right now – 113.5. That would be Carson Palmer’s QB rating.

    And while we’re at it, more wonderful numbers – David Johnson is one of only two RB’s in the NFL after 2 weeks with at least 120 yards rushing AND receiving.

    When Arians says give us another week, he really means it!

  19. By pitt on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    BA is a great head coach but not a defensive coach, neither is Bettcher, With the defensive group the Cards have, they should overwhelm teams. The defense is good but could be way better. Bettcher should go learn to be a DC on a team like the browns or titans and get experience. What the cards need is a real DC not a beginner. A championship team wouldn’t have a DC like Bettcher.
    Cards are a great team but still have some symptoms of the Bill Bidwill days.

  20. By Pitt on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    If you put Mike Tomlin on any other team that doesn’t have Big Ben he would have been your typical 2 year head coach like all the others around the league.
    Some of these coaches like Tomlin and BA where blessed to have been hired as the HC with a team with a roster like the Card and Steelers.
    These coaches walked pretty much into a winning roster. They had to use their wisdom to turn the team to a winning team but the pieces where there.
    It wouldn’t have happened so go so quickly for BA and Bettcher if they would have taken over the browns or Titans. Look at Wiz

  21. By John The Draft Guy on Sep 21, 2016 | Reply

    People, go back to what was said after game 1.

    Immediately, I was pointing out that we were playing way too much zone. It was so obvious that this team was not good at zones.

    Why? Because of Williams. Simple. He can’t man up and they had to go to zone. BA said so himself. He said he had to protect Williams. Thumbs down all you want, he said it.

    What changed? Simple, Williams came out and Cooper came in. With Cooper in there, the cards were able to blitz.

    Sure, take blame if you want BA, but you did what you had to because you have a subpar CB. Bettchler isn’t to blame for going to zone either. They just had to. I said they will be doing it before the game. It’s just not rocket science.

  22. By Lars Nerdstrom on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply

    What no one seems to notice at all, including Darren and everyone else, is that the Cardinals have no pass rush at all. Zero, none. Zilch. Even with constant blitzing. The opponents’ QBs have stood there over and over just surveying the field at leisure. THIS, after a highly-publicized effort to revamp the pass rush.

  23. By Rick on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply

    Offense was too conservative also. Where was no riskit – no biscit?

    IMO, Bruce definitely takes the blame for the NE loss.

  24. By Kevin S Mesa on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply

    Clssylssy —

    I would agree with you that three of the top coaches in the NFL are Belichick, Carroll and Arians and, you’re right, they’re all over 60.

    And that proves nothing. In Arians’ case, you have a guy who, for whatever reason, was never chosen to be a HC before. But, honestly, if the team had opened up its wallet and gotten a QB of Carson Palmer’s caliber a year or two earlier, Whisenhunt would probably still be our coach. Belichick? He’s been immensely successful ever since taking over the job… not a single losing season since his first (which was in his 40’s).

    You know who else is getting up there in years and hasn’t done squat lately? Jeff Fisher. Jim Caldwell is now in his 60’s and basically every year we expect the Lions to do better than they actually do. Meanwhile, guys like Tomlin and Sean Payton have taken their teams to Super Bowls despite their relatively young ages when they took their jobs.

    It stands to reason that successful coaches will keep their jobs and therefore are more likely to still HAVE a job when they are older. That doesn’t mean that age/experience is a major factor in performance of a coach. Same is true of CEO’s, Presidents of the US, etc. Many people are surprised when a CEO is successful in his or her 30’s or 40’s, as if somehow it’s not possible to run a company at that age.

  25. By Kevin S Mesa on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply

    Also, georgiebird is right. If Brandon Williams isn’t out there game 1, we likely win.

    And I’m not knocking Williams — maybe he’ll be fine over time. But the guy played exactly one season at CB in college and then we put him in as our starting CB week 1 against one of the best teams (and coaches) in the league.

  26. By Tradersbrain on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply

    Darren, Thanks for following up on this topic. I for one, was very critical of our DC. After the great win against the Bucs – the best this team has played since last year’s regular season game against the Packers – we can all come down from the ledge.

  27. By TLT fka DTL on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply

    Gotta wonder if outcome might’ve been different if we made better half time adjustment on D strategy … BA got outcoached, cant hate him for that, he’s usually meting out the punishment (like to Dirk) , so lesson learned…

    Go Cards, climb that mountain…

  28. By Dex on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply

    All successful businesses manage by results. The results of the current DC have been desirable so why would you want to change that? We have a guy with minimal experience able to do his job effectively enough to be in the top 10 but we are debating if someone else should be doing it? Also realize that just because someone is looking for a job doesn’t mean they want to work for you. There may have been other D-Cords available but what if they scheme they use doesn’t match what the this organizations is trying to do, or they want more control then they should have? Have confidence in Mike and the rest of the gang to make these decisions because they know what they are doing. The Cardinals have a new culture and it is a winning one enjoy the great team you have AZ, we have been waiting a long time!

  29. By Dr. G. on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply

    Hey Darren… Your response in past years to my inquiry about handing the D to the DC and trusting the auto pilot was, “”yeah, pretty much.”” (Seems obvious)

    In that BA is in reality also the OC, ((but not in name)), do you see that he reviews in “serious detail” all the defensive plays? You wrote that he said he shoulda stayed out of it vs the Pats. ((I’m just curious who may help Boettcher with constructive critique.)) It seems that BA’s time can’t do it all.

    Great articles on Cooper and DJohnson. Despite an error occasionally, these two guys are lopsided in the winning category. I like the attention given to DJ…this may deflect slight attention away from Fitz, Floyd & JaronB if only for a moment, and then, Boom! A TD or big gain! Lovin’ the Cards… 5 🏈🏈🏈🏈🏈s

  30. By Darren Urban on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply

    Dr. G —

    RE: Defense/Arians

    I don’t know if he reviews the defense in a minute kind of way. The Cardinals do have a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball with Kevin Ross and Nick Rapone and Tom Pratt, not to mention guys like Brentson Buckner and Larry Foote.

  31. By mitchaz on Sep 22, 2016 | Reply


    I never said Bettcher was terrible. My bewilderment is directed more toward BA than Bettcher. Fact is there were some stellar DC candidates available—and yes, BA said he wanted to stay in house in order to keep Tood Bowles’ version of the 34 intact.

    You offered stats that would indicate that Bettcher improved on Bowles’ performance in 2014. However, in 2014 Honey Badger was not quite himself, by his own admission and the Cardinals’ offense did not have a running game to speak of. It meant that the defense was on the field for more longer stretches than it was in 2015. Plus, Palmer and Stanton went down.

    Do you think Bettcher’s defense resembles Bowles’?

    I do not see it.

    The blitzing schemes under Bettcher are predictable and easy to prepare for.

    The pre-snap confusion and running around suggests that butcher isn’t getting the calls in fast enough.

    Bettcher is playing way more zone and zone/man combos.

    He even went to a three man rush a few times in key situations last year and predictably got burned.

    But he did have a healthy Honey Badger and he makes a profound difference.

    Honey Badger or not, Bowles used to own the first 5-10 minutes of the second half. His half-time adjustments were the most astute we have seen in decades.

    So—if BA really wanted to keep the status quo with Bowles’ version of the defense—are we really seeing that?

    What concerns me the most is how any relatively inexperienced DC can match up with the best OCs in the NFL—the ones we see repeatedly in the playoffs.

    I hope Bettcher can do the job and that we are set for years to come—but the confusion I keep seeing on defense, especially with BA feeling like he has to meddle with it, makes me question—that and the meltdown in Carolina when the Cardinals needed the defense to step up more than ever.

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