EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - When Pat Shurmur looked at the Arizona Cardinals defense, he saw they were stingy, aggressive, and stout against the run. So when their defensive coordinator became available, he made the easy and obvious choice.
Shurmur made it official on Friday during his introductory press conference that he has hired former Cards defensive coordinator James Bettcher as defensive coordinator with the Giants. The 39-year-old is coming off three straight Top 6 finishes for his defense in Arizona, and is very well-respected around the league.
"I think he's a rising star in the profession," Shurmur said. "They've played outstanding defense in Arizona for a very long time. He's a little bit multiple in his scheme, which I think is good. Everyone I've talked to, he inspires the player. He's got a great presence, and we're really, really fortunate to have him be with us."
It's the "multiple" part that is most interesting with Bettcher, because he ran a 3-4 defense in Arizona while the Giants have run a 4-3 defense since the '90s. Shurmur was non-committal about whether the Giants would be switching their base defensive scheme. Instead he made it sound like Bettcher would run a little of both.
"I think that's talked about often, three‑man front, five on the line, four‑man front -- I think all defenses play a version of that throughout the game," Shurmur said. "Even teams that play five on the line, you know, they're in nickel 60 percent of the time, so it's a four‑man front. So the ability to be multiple in my opinion, as long as you can still remain fundamental, is something that's hard on an offense, and I've faced that through the years."
If the Giants did switch to a 3-4 they'd probably need an upgrade at the linebacker position, though it is easy to see Olivier Vernon switching back and being a 3-4 edge rusher. Whatever Bettcher does, though, he's got a track record of success to show the players on what was the second-worst defense in the NFL last season.
In Arizona, Bettcher's defenses ranked sixth, second and fifth over the last three seasons, and were Top 10 against the run in those years, too. In 2016 they even led the NFL in sacks with 48.
"Very hard to score against," Shurmur said. "They find a way to put pressure on the quarterback. They do a good job in their coverage schemes, and they've been good at stopping the run."