Paul Guenther, entering his 12th season as an NFL coach and his 10th with the Bengals, was named today as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator. Guenther has spent the last two seasons as Bengals linebackers coach, overseeing the rapid development of a number of young players, including 2013 season Pro Bowl selection Vontaze Burfict.
Guenther replaces Mike Zimmer, who yesterday was named head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Zimmer had been Bengals defensive coordinator since 2008. Guenther worked as a key aide to Zimmer in the formation of defenses that helped lead the Bengals to the playoffs four of the last five years. Last season, as the Bengals finished 11-5 to win the AFC North Division championship, the defense ranked first in the AFC and third in the NFL in fewest yards allowed (305.5), despite suffering significant major injuries. The Bengals ranked tied for fifth in the NFL in fewest points allowed (19.1).
In 2012, the Bengals ranked sixth in net defense and eighth in scoring defense.
"Paul has been Zim’s right-hand man the last few years, so we’re moving in the direction of keeping a good thing going with our defense," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "He knows what we do and how we do it, and he had a hand in creating it. Paul and I have been mostly together since when we were both on the Redskins staff (in 2002). I’ve seen him grow over the years and really have sort of been grooming him for this kind of opportunity."
Guenther’s premier player project has been Burfict, who joined the Bengals from the college free agent ranks in 2012, Guenther’s first season as LBs coach. Burfict has been one of the NFL’s most prolific tacklers in each of his two seasons and is in this season’s Pro Bowl after leading the team with 204 tackles.
Also in 2013, the Bengals saw the strong emergence of third-year LB Vincent Rey, another original college free agent signee. Guenther meanwhile oversaw an improved 2013 performance from starting MLB Rey Maualuga, a fifth-year player, and Guenther worked well with five-time Pro Bowler James Harrison, who had a productive season at age 35 after joining the Bengals as a free agent.
"I’m obviously very excited about this opportunity," Guenther said. "I like the players we have and what we’ve already done to get a good defensive team in place. I’m looking forward to working with all of them, in a new role for me, and continuing to improve us and make us better.
"I want to thank Mike Brown and Marvin for all they’ve done for me over the years and now for this chance. And I also want to thank Zim for working with me so closely and helping me become a better coach."
The 42-year-old Guenther is a native of Richboro, Pa. He played LB from 1990-93 at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. and coached in the college ranks for seven seasons before entering the NFL. He was the youngest head coach in college football in 1997, when at age 25 he took the reins at Ursinus for a tenure that would last four seasons and include two playoff berths. He joined the NFL with Washington in 2002.
Guenther joined the Bengals in 2005. Before taking over the LB coach position, he worked primarily as an assistant position coach with LBs, special teams and/or defensive backs.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, on the Minnesota Vikings’ signing yesterday of Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as head coach:
"Zim did a tremendous job for us, and it’s fantastic that he is getting this opportunity now to be a head coach. I’ve talked many times about what he brought to our defense, and to me as the head coach. He has the players’ trust. He does a great job of identifying who to push, and when.
"He is also exceptionally thorough. Everything in the gameplan is done with a thoroughness, and every player down to the last one is properly prepared. I’m happy for Zim and wish him all my best."