Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher
April 4, 2018
Opening Statement: I'd like to first say it's an honor to work for the New York Football Giants. I get goose bumps standing here talking to you right now about having the chance to work for this franchise and this organization -- best ownership in the National Football League, great general manager, a head coach that I have so much respect for and who is going to get us going in the right direction. We've got a staff full of coaches on defense that I jumped at the chance to have to work with some of these guys. You can probably hear it in my voice, I'm pretty excited about it and really look forward to next week to getting in and getting to work with our players and that's really what it's about. I know we're going to talk about scheme; we're going to talk about whether we're a 3-4 or a 4-3 or what we're going to look like on defense. I'll just tell you this, what it's about, it's about playing relentless. The game is about playing hard, the game is about playing physical and the game is about playing smart. Those are things that our guys are going to do whether we're bringing five, bringing six, bringing four, dropping eight, whatever we're doing, whatever the field position is, down and distance, all that stuff. The thing our fans are going to see, you're going to see a defense that is going to run around, play hard, play fast, play smart, play physical and that's what playing defense is about. I've been really fortunate and blessed that I've worked around some really, really good football coaches and had a chance to learn from those guys and I've been around some really good football players. I had a chance to learn from those players as well, and hanging your hat on scheme, you don't win that way. You hang your hat on the things that mean the most and those things are, again, being relentless, playing hard, playing smart and playing physical in the game. I'm excited to get to work on Monday with our guys when we get in here and start laying our foundation for this coming season.
Q: So are you saying that your scheme is going to be some of everything?
A: I think it will be. Really, what you do in the offseason is you start to determine who you are because, right now, if you ask me who we are on defense, I have no clue. We're going to get to work day one and we're going to stack a great meeting on Monday and we're going to do some instillation of scheme and we're going to start to build our foundation for who we're going to be as a defense and then as we get through OTAs, we're going to be a little closer to determining who we are, and then as we get through training camp, by the end of training camp, we'll know who we are as a defense and what that looks like. Whether it's a five, six-man pressure team or whether it's a four-man rush team playing coverage -- whatever those things look like, that's what we need to be in terms of scheme.
Q: How do you coach that relentlessness?
A: Number one, it's about what the players believe and what I mean by that is I can talk until I'm blue in the face about playing hard, playing fast, playing smart, playing physical. But in our room, the accountability our players hold to each other, that's what will determine whether we play hard, whether we play smart or whether we play physical. That was something that was really exciting about coming here, is the core group of players we have here and guys that you've seen on tape running around, striking people, playing hard and playing smart. So how do you coach it? You get your core players in the room to believe in it and then from there it's the ownership factor.
Q: It seems like that from the personnel moves that you guys have made that at least the base of your defense is going to look like a 3-4. Is that something that has to be declared or decided?
A: I think each and every down we might look different on defense. But again, I'll tell you what -- I can't tell you today who we're going to be on defense and really what we're going to look like until we get through training camp, until we get into meetings, until we actually get on the field, until we don't just play some basketball on grass in the offseason program. Until we get to training camp and we have helmets and pads on and we're striking and separating and playing off of blocks and what we're really going to look like. But yeah, there are certainly some 3-4 principles if that's a term we want to use. There are certainly some 4-3 principles if that's a term you want to use. At the end of the day, it's about playing hard with a relentless mindset, playing fast, playing physical and being a smart football team.
Q: What does Alec Ogletree bring to the team in terms of playing relentless?
A: Yeah, I saw him up close and personal in Arizona during our time there. Did him when he came out in the draft and was a guy that was always, we always thought he was a smart player, we always thought he was a guy you could see during a course of a game that was leading other players on the field and they had a bunch of talent on that defense and for you to be a guy that is leading a defense that's that talented says something about you and your character. You watch his play and I'm not just talking about his ability to make tackles or run down things on the sideline, I'm talking about his play, his mindset, his physicality at which he plays the game, how hard and passionate he plays the game. Those were some of the first things that jumped off the charts for me when we had a chance to get him here. Certainly excited about him as a leader and a guy that is going to bring a ton of energy to our room.
Q: What have you seen from Olivier Vernon and his potential as an outside linebacker?
A: OV is going to be a guy -- I've had Chandler Jones, Marcus Golden, shoot even when you talk about older players, a John Abraham, a Dwight Freeney that's played in this system who have been 4-3 if you want to classify them as 4-3 defensive ends playing in this same system. Guys that have had a ton of success, guys that have been double-digit sack guys in this system. His versatility, his ability to rush from different angles. We've all seen him drop in space and flip his hips and do some of those things. If you went and looked at our tape in Arizona and you saw Chandler Jones, we didn't make our money in Arizona on defense with Chandler Jones dropping and playing in space a bunch. It's things that you do as great changeups, things that you do to allow you to attack offenses in different ways, and I think that's how he'll fit in.
Q: You're not committed to exactly what you're going to do with this team, but you do know what guys have done in the past. Is this going to be a big change for a lot of guys based on what they've previously done in their careers?
A: No, I don't think so. I think if you're a three technique, a defensive tackle, and you line up over a guard and your job is to get off the ball and strike the guy in the V of the neck and press and separate and win in your gap, that's what you do if you're a 4-3 defensive tackle or a 3-4 defensive tackle. That job doesn't change and that job description won't change for our guys. (Damon) "Snacks" (Harrison) up front, a guy that can play off of blocks, can occupy space, can command double teams, can change, really the line scrimmage -- he's going to do those same kind of things in this scheme, that's not going to change for him.
Q: Does Landon Collins stay at strong safety or does he become that money backer position that you had with (Deone) Bucannon?
A: I look at him as a guy -- we had some guys in Arizona, Tyvon Branch and before Tyvon we had Tony Jefferson who played strong safety for us who could play both high, could play down in the box, could cover tight ends, could blitz off the edge. That's what I see with Landon, a guy who is very versatile in what he can do. You might see a snap where he's down covering a tight end in the box, you might see a snap where he's in the half field playing deep or in the middle of the field playing deep or you might see snaps where he's blitzing off the edge. I think that's the versatility a guy like him lends and that's something that as you look and study defenses across the league and you talk to offensive guys of what gives them trouble, it's players that have that versatility -- that one snap they're down in the box and the next snap they're playing high. That kind of versatility gives offenses trouble and I'm excited to have a chance to work with him.
Q: How important was it to bring in people who knew you and knew your scheme?
A: Sure. I think the first thing with those kind of guys you have a chance to acquire and bring in -- number one is they check the character box. Those guys that we brought in, they love to play football and they play it the right way, both of those two guys. They play hard, they play fast, they play smart and physical and that was the number one thing. Number two is certainly knowing the scheme, having some awareness, Josh (Mauro) being in the D-line room, that's certainly going to be something for those guys. Then Kareem (Martin) in the linebacker room in giving the guys someone, 'Hey, what is this?' Or some of that side conversation or some of the conversation that happens outside of the building when those guys are kind of building the core of who we are as a defense and having conversations. So, the first thing was the character, football character, defensive football character was the thing that both of those guys checked and the second thing is certainly to have some smarts in the room.
Q: What do you make of Eli Apple?
A: Very talented player. I did him when he was coming out in the draft, really liked his skill set. He's a guy who can play man, who can press, who can play zone defense in space, who can break on the ball and very excited next week to get him here and get to work and have a chance to work with these guys this offseason. He's a guy that -- I think it's a guy that has expectations for himself and that's the most important thing. I think any player that I've ever been around, whether it's Patrick Peterson or you want to talk about Kareem Martin in guys who have improved from the first day that I met them until where they're at right now. A guy like Kareem, one of the most improved players that I've ever been around in the four years that I was around Kareem so far to Patrick Peterson -- these guys have expectations of themself that supersede my expectations, that supersede yours, that supersede anyone within the organization. If guys don't have those kinds of expectations for themselves, they generally will fall short of anything we had hoped they could be as a player and that expectation as an individual player is kind of their motivating factor and I believe he has that and I'm excited for him and we're going to get this thing going for him and for other guys on this defense.
Q: He was one of the three players suspended last year. Do you feel like that has to be something that you have to address and how do you plan on handling that?
A: Day one is Monday. Day one is Monday. That is how I will answer that. Day one is Monday and every guy that walks in that room, day one is Monday. So, whatever happened before, whether it was here or whether it was with a different team, guys that we draft, whether it was in college, whatever it was that has happened with guys, day one is Monday, day one is the first day those guys walk in the building and we're going to build from there.
Q: You mentioned the opportunity in coming to the Giants. Can you describe the process of rolling out a new defense with a new team?
A: Number one is it's exciting. It's exciting to sit down when you're a guy that just loves the game. I just love football, I love watching football, I love talking about it, I love being around it. I probably tire my wife out very much when we watch football. We're home and it's in-season and it's a Saturday afternoon when we have some time and we have college football in the house and we're watching ball, so it's an exciting time. It's a time where you have to be very planned out and thorough. I've had some great conversations with Coach Shurmur about some of the direction, some of the things we want to do here on defense. Great conversations with this group of defensive coaches we have, who are a bunch of outstanding coaches and had some great dialogue about building our defense. I'm not trying to correct you in any way, but this is going to be the New York Football Giants defense. This isn't going to be James Bettcher's defense. This is going to be our players’ defense, this is going to be these assistant coaches’ defense, this is going to be our defense. As we sit through and go through putting it together as a staff, we've had some great conversations and great pieces have been added from other guys in the room, so that's what I love about it -- when you kind of start from scratch and that's really what we've done. We've taken some of the things we've done in Arizona and we've kind of thrown it in a pot and we've went through it day-by-day, piece-by-piece and started to build some of the structure of what we would like to do here. Then as we kind of talked about before, that's just a starting point because really the work gets done when we get on the field and see what our guys do best. Then the work gets done when we come in the meeting room after that practice and hear feedback from our players and also feedback from the coaches in the room and kind of determine what's next or what's going to be best for us as a defense as we build. But, I'm excited about that and it's really an ongoing process and that's one of the reasons I love coaching.
Q: Does your wife like football?
A: She loves it.