Bucs inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell has left Tampa Bay to become Jacksonville’s defensive coordinator. Who might replace him? Head coach Bruce Arians could turn to a familiar face in James Bettcher. He is currently serving as the 49ers senior defensive assistant/run game specialist.Tampa Bay would need permission from San Francisco interview Bettcher if he is still under contract.
Bettcher began coaching with Arians in Indianapolis as the Colts outside linebackers coach in 2012. He followed Arians to Arizona to serve in that same capacity from 2013-14.
If the 43-year old Bettcher is hired, he could coach inside linebackers at the NFL level for the first time. Or he could coach outside linebackers and Arians could have Larry Foote move to the inside linebackers unit to replace Caldwell.
Foote, who coaches the Bucs outside linebackers, coached inside linebackers at Arizona from 2015-18. Foote played linebacker in the NFL for 14 years, spending most of his time in Pittsburgh (2002-08, 2010-13). He finished his career with the Cardinals playing for Arians in 2013.
49ers senior assistant James Bettcher – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bettcher was promoted to the Cardinals defensive coordinator position from 2015-17 after Bowles was hired as the Jets head coach. Under Bettcher, Arizona had the fifth-ranked total defense (321.7 yards per game) and the seventh-ranked scoring defense (19.6 points per game) in 2015. He helped the Cardinals reach the NFC Championship Game. Bettcher’s Cardinals defense remained in the Top 10 over the next two years.
Bettcher joined the New York Giants after Arians retired in 2018. He served as the defensive coordinator in 2018-19 under Pat Shurmur. Bettcher’s defenses ranked near the bottom of the NFL during both of those seasons.
Another name that Arians could consider to coach linebackers is Clemson’s new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Wes Goodwin. The 37-year old Goodwin just replaced long-time Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Goodwin was a defensive assistant under Arians from 2015-17 in Arizona. Arians praised Clemson for promoting Goodwin.
“Wesley is one of the best young defensive minds I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” Arians said. “He was with my staff for three years in Arizona and I saw him grow defensively, and offensively, that whole time. He has a bright, bright future. One thing is for sure – they are going to be an attacking type of defense. And I know he is going to do great things with this opportunity.”