One of the top options for Jay Gruden’s defensive coordinator was expected to be Paul Guenther. In a move that surprised very few, the Cincinnati Bengals blocked Guether’s permission to interview for the job.
When Jay Gruden was first named as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, he had to build a staff to lead the Redskins through his years as head coach. One of his favorite candidates for the job was Cincinnati Bengals assistant coach Paul Guenther. Gruden and Guenther had worked together over the course of three seasons, and their strong rapport was made Guenther a strong candidate for the job.
However, after Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer got a head coaching job in Minnesota, the Bengals elected to promote Guenther to defensive coordinator. The move made sense, as it helped maintain continuity with the team. At the same time, Gruden had to pick a new candidate, and ended up choosing to retain Jim Haslett, who parted ways with the team after the 2014 season. This ended up leading to the hiring of Joe Barry, which ended in the first week of 2017.
When that happened, it appeared that Guenther would still be one of Gruden’s favored options for the positions. After all, Guenther had led a strong defensive unit for the Bengals over the course of three seasons in charge of the defense. With questions about Marvin Lewis‘ job security, some thought that Guenther could be out if Lewis left. In the end, Lewis elected to stay with the team and not retire. The Bengals elected to keep him on as well. That meant that Guenther would stick around as well.
Still, the Redskins elected to try and land an interview with Guenther. If he had been on the ropes, perhaps the Bengals would be willing to let the two parties talk. Instead, the Redskins were blocked from interviewing Guenther. This is a pretty normal practice across the league, as teams do not always let their top coordinators interview with other teams for the same position. If Guenther was going for a head coaching job, the Bengals likely would have let him do that.
Guenther also probably played a role in this decision. He likely wanted to stay with the Bengals, where he is established as a solid coordinator with some potential. The Redskins defense has a lot of holes, especially compared to the Bengals defense, so staying in Cincinnati makes a lot of sense. With a couple more good seasons under his belt, he could get a chance to be a head coach somewhere. So why risk going to a different team that has downgraded personnel?
At the end of the day, this news will have little impact on the Redskins coordinator search. They reached out to the Bengals with hopes that they could get the man who worked alongside Gruden for a few years. They could not get permission, so they will find another equal or better candidate elsewhere.