James Bettcher enters his second season with the Bengals in 2023 and his 11th on an NFL coaching staff. He leads Cincinnati's linebacker unit.
In 2021, as senior defensive assistant/running game specialist with the San Francisco 49ers, Bettcher helped guide a defense that ranked in the top 10 leaguewide in yards allowed (third), passing yards allowed (sixth) and rushing yards allowed (seventh). He worked with Pro Bowl LB Fred Warner, who registered a career-high 137 tackles.
Prior to his stint in San Francisco, Bettcher spent five seasons as defensive coordinator with the N.Y. Giants (2018-19) and Arizona Cardinals (2015-17). In 2019, he helped free agent signee Markus Golden lead the team in sacks (10) and record a career-high 72 tackles. Two Giants defenders earned Pro Bowl selections in 2018, as LB Olivier Vernon tallied seven sacks while S Landon Collins logged 96 tackles. That season, he coached alongside current Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, who served as DBs coach for the Giants.
Bettcher spent five seasons in Arizona (2013-17), including the final three as defensive coordinator. While coordinating, his units ranked fifth in the NFL in yards per game in 2015 (321.7), second in '16 (305.2) and sixth in '17 (310.9), and had the fourth-most takeaways (82) and defensive TDs (11).
Bettcher joined the Cardinals as outside linebackers coach in 2013. That season, Arizona led the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (84.4) and tied for sixth in sacks (47). In 2014, it yielded an average of 18.7 points per game, ranking fifth in the league.
Bettcher first entered the NFL in 2012 as special assistant to the head coach for the Indianapolis Colts. During that season, Bruce Arians stepped in as interim head coach for 12 games while Chuck Pagano received treatment for leukemia. With Bettcher's assistance, Arians led the team to a 9-3 record and a playoff berth, earning AP NFL Coach of the Year honors. Working primarily with the team's outside linebackers, Bettcher helped LB Robert Mathis transition from defensive end and earn his first Pro Bowl selection at that position.
Before joining the Colts, Bettcher spent nine years in the college coaching ranks. In 2011, he served as linebackers/special teams coach at the University of New Hampshire, where he coached the NCAA FCS leading tackler, LB Matt Evans. Bettcher coached defensive ends and special teams at Ball State University in 2010, tutoring DE Robert Eddins, who led the team in sacks and earned second-team Mid-American honors.
Bettcher was a graduate assistant at the University of North Carolina from 2007-09, working primarily with the defense. In 2009, the Tar Heels finished sixth nationally in total defense. At UNC, Bettcher helped develop DL Robert Quinn, who went on to become a 2011 first-round NFL draft pick. Prior to UNC, Bettcher spent one season (2006) as a defensive graduate assistant at Bowling Green State University, working with the secondary and special teams units.
Bettcher began his coaching career at his alma mater, the University of St. Francis (Ind.), where he served as special teams coordinator and defensive line coach from 2003-05. He also worked with the strength and conditioning staff and additionally was the head track coach from 2003-04. With Bettcher on staff, the Cougars earned three berths to the NAIA playoffs, including two national championship game appearances.
As an offensive lineman during his playing career at St. Francis (1999-2002), Bettcher was a two-time NAIA Coaches All-American and a three-time All-Mid-States Football Association selection. In his senior season in 2002, Bettcher received the team's Silver Helmet Award for leadership, coachability and performance on the field. He also competed on the school's track & field team, where he earned All-America honors five times. Bettcher was inducted into the St. Francis Hall of Fame in 2012.
Bettcher was born in Lakeville, Ind. He and his wife, Erica, have one son, Colton and one daughter, Addison.