Paul Guenther, entering his 12th season as an NFL coach and his 10th with the Bengals, assumes the position of defensive coordinator for 2014. Guenther 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 left the staff to become head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Guenther worked as a key aide to Zimmer in the design of defenses that helped lead the Bengals to the playoffs four of the last five years. In 2013, 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 was in last 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.”
In his debut as LBs coach, in 2012, Guenther directed a unit that helped produce a No. 6 NFL ranking in fewest yards allowed per game (319.7). The Bengals were eighth in the NFL in scoring defense (20.0).
Guenther faced an early challenge in 2012 when veteran Thomas Howard, the starting WLB, was lost for the season to a knee injury in practice the week following the season opener. But the cloud had a silver lining, as the opportunity was presented for Guenther to help Burfict become arguably the most pleasant surprise of the season.
Guenther held dual roles on the staff from 2006-11, assisting on special teams in all those seasons while also working with a position group. He worked five years with linebackers and one year with defensive backs.
Guenther (pronounced “GUN-thur”) entered the NFL as an offensive assistant with the Washington Redskins for 2002 and ’03. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was one of his associates in 2002, serving as Redskins assistant head coach/defensive coordinator.
From 1997-2000, Guenther was head coach at Ursinus College, an NCAA Division III school in Collegeville, Pa. He was the youngest head coach in college football in ’97, at age 25, and he led the team to the playoffs in ’99 and 2000.
Guenther was born Nov. 22, 1971. His hometown is Richboro, Pa. He played LB in college at Ursinus, setting a school career tackles record (355) while three times earning all-conference honors.
He received his undergraduate degree in communications from Ursinus
in 1994, and a master’s degree in sports administration from Western Maryland in ’97.
Playing and coaching history: 1990-93—Played linebacker, Ursinus College. 1994-95—Assistant coach (AC), Western Maryland. 1996—AC, Ursinus. 1997—Defensive coordinator, Jacksonville University. 1997-2000—Head coach, Ursinus. 2002-03—AC, Washington Redskins. 2005-13—AC, Bengals. 2014—Defensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals.
In less than a week Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has lost two coordinators that anchored three straight playoff runs.
Defense Coordinator Paul Guenther talks with Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham about improving on defense and keys to stopping an explosive Saints offense.