Paul Guenther, entering his 14th season as an NFL coach and his 12th with the Bengals, is in his third year as Bengals defensive coordinator. The defense’s contribution to last season’s 12-4 record is easy to quickly note.
The Bengals led the AFC and ranked second in the NFL in fewest points allowed, at just 17.4 per game. The No. 2 NFL ranking was the best in franchise history, topping a fifth-place finish in 1972. The Bengals allowed just two more points (279 total) than league-leading Arizona (277). “My job is to limit points, period,” Guenther says. “It’s not holding a team to 200 yards and have three plays be TDs. Regardless of where they get the ball — the 10-yard line or wherever — let’s go play defense, hold them to three. I’m paid to keep them off the scoreboard.” But there were other 2015 superlatives as well:
● The Bengals ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing defense, with a 92.3- yard average that was lowest in team history, topping the 93.7 figure of 1983.
● Four defenders were selected for the Pro Bowl, tying the franchise’s best total. The quartet included DT Geno Atkins (his 11 sacks tied for the NFL lead among interior linemen), DE Carlos Dunlap (13.5 sacks, second in club history), CB Adam Jones (three INTs and 12 passes defensed) and S Reggie Nelson (tied for NFL lead with eight INTs).
● The Bengals ranked third in the NFL in INTs (21) and allowed only 18 TD passes. Only Cincinnati and Carolina had more INTs than TD passes allowed, both finishing plus-three in the category.
Numerous teams were minus-10 or worse, including one at minus-33. The Bengals also excelled in this category in 2014, when their plus-two made them one of only two teams with a plus. Over Guenther’s two seasons (2014-15), the Bengals lead the league at plus-five and are the only team with a plus. In 2014, Guenther’s inaugural edition led the Bengals to a No. 12 NFL rank in fewest points allowed (21.5 per game), and the defense ranked in the top 10 in nine of the 15 major statistical categories widely monitored by NFL coaching staffs.
Among those top 10 rankings were a tied-for-third-place finish in INTs (20) and a third place in lowest aggregate passer rating by opponents (75.8). Guenther prepped for the coordinator position by spending 2012-13 as Bengals linebackers coach, overseeing the rapid development of a number of young players, including ’13 season Pro Bowl selection Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State. Burfict joined the Bengals from the college free agent ranks in 2012, Guenther’s first season as LBs coach. Though bypassed in the ’12 draft, Burfict quickly became one of the NFL’s most prolific tacklers after signing with Cincinnati as a college free agent. Burfict returned to action for 12 games in 2015, after missing significant time due to a 2014 knee injury, and he appears set to contend for top honors again in 2016.
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). In 2013 with Guenther directing LBs, the Bengals ranked tied for fifth in scoring defense (19.1) and third in fewest yards per game (305.5). 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 ’02, 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 ’00. 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 master’s degree in sports administration from Western Maryland in ’97. Paul and his wife Patrice have two sons, Jake and Duke.
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, Cincinnati Bengals. 2014-present—Defensive coordinator, Bengals.
In less than a week Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has lost two coordinators that anchored three straight playoff runs.
NFL Network's Peter Schrager shares his "Ones to Watch," Bengals Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz.