GLENDALE, Ariz. – Saturday isn’t just a tune-up for players.
Coaches need practice, too.
The Arizona Cardinals’ preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs will be James Bettcher’s first game as defensive coordinator. He’s spent the last three seasons coaching outside linebackers for the Colts and Cards, but now he’s overseeing an entire unit. And he’ll do it from the field, Arians said.
“It’s a practice run for [coaches] also,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Especially defensively with a new voice on top and all the guys on the sideline, him hearing them calling the game, them shutting up and letting him call the game.
“I might click over more this time to see how much chatter is on that side of the ball just to help Bettch out a little bit.”
Arians will hear a lot of Bettcher’s voice.
Inside linebacker Kevin Minter, one of just a handful of players who have a radio in their helmet to hear the plays relayed from Bettcher, said the first-year coordinator is definitely anxious.
“You can tell it’s his first time coaching more in the fact that he’s a little bit more energetic about it,” Minter said.
Teams are allowed one radio transmitter on the field at a time and those helmets are marked with a green sticker on the back. Coaches have the first 25 seconds of the 40-second play clock to relay plays and information to the field. At the 15-second mark, the transmission shuts off.
But, Minter said, Bettcher can pack a lot of information to him in those 25 seconds. But that's no different than former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who called the plays during Minter's first two seasons.
“They obviously have seen so much film, they’re like, ‘Watch this, watch this, watch this.’” Minter said. “I’m talking about it’s to the point you almost want to take your helmet off. C’mon Bettch, you talk a lot, but I love it, though.”
Where Bettcher has been different, Minter said, is his penchant for calling blitzes.
“The way he’s calling it is he’s bringing people on first, second, third, fourth, fifth down,” Minter said with a smile. “You can hell he’s trying to get it. I can say he’s a little bit more heavy on the trigger with the blitzes to an extent.”
That's saying a lot considering Arizona led the NFL in blitzes per dropback under Bowles the last two seasons.
While Minter adapts to a new voice in his head during games – literally – he’s learning that Bettcher is right with his calls and information more often than not.
“Nine times out of 10, he’s right,” Minter said. “I like a coach that is helpful.”