Updated: 1 p.m.
When Paul Guenther met the media for the first time as the Bengals defensive coordinator Thursday morning, it was not exactly an introduction.
Guenther is heading into his 10th season with the Bengals (only line coach Jay Hayes has been with the defense longer) and he's familiar enough with the scheme and players that cornerback Leon Hall calls it "a seamless promotion."
Guenther, who has worked with the defensive backs, linebackers and special teams in the past decade, has already had a big hand in putting together the Bengals nickel packages. He aided coordinator Mike Zimmer with the looks in an effort that helped the club finish second in NFL defense in third-down percentage this season, highlighted by the 23-percent clinic they put on in eight home games.
"He was like our nickel guy; he did a lot of the film study," Hall said. "Most of the offensive tendencies, especially according to third down. He did a lot of that stuff. He's done probably more than I even realized."
Hall says Guenther has the players' attention. He may be more happy-go-lucky than Zimmer, he says, but Hall says Guenther has their respect through his knowledge of the game.
"Why not? He knows as much football as anybody," Hall said. "If there was an extension of Zimmer as far as coaches are concerned, it would be him. He ran some of our full meetings as a defense. He's always done great with that."
Also on Guenther's plate Thursday besides meeting the media is filling his own linebackers coaching spot, as well as another secondary spot. It's believed that the Bengals are allowing assistant secondary coach Adam Zimmer to join his father's developing staff in Minnesota.
It's going to be a whirlwind. Guenther would like to find those two guys before gets on the plane Sunday to Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl. At the very least it's got to be done by Wednesday, when he gets on another plane. This time he'll be getting on with his wife as the guest of his starting WILL linebacker, Vontaze Burfict. As a thank you to what Guenther has meant to his career, Burfict is sending the couple to Hawaii to watch him play in the Pro Bowl.
When he did meet the media, Guenther emphasized that while Zimmer has been one of the biggest influences of his career, he's got a different style. Yet Guenther flashed a lot of Zimmer when asked what is the one thing he took from his six years with him.
"Never shortcut anything," Guenther said. "If you think a guy is doing something that isn't right, you've got to stay on his (butt) until he gets it right. Whether you yell and scream at him or pull him aside and say, 'Hey, listen, this is the way I want it done.' It all depends on how you go about it."
Of course, since Zimmer was hoping Guenther would be his guy in Minnesota, mentor isn't exactly having a lot of conversation with pupil at the moment.
"We've talked briefly. He's kind of mad at me right now," Guenther said.
But Zimmer is telling people that Guenther will do a good job. They've got a close relationship and in the past Adam Zimmer has talked about how Guenther has helped his father.
"He's been instrumental in how good this defense has been," Adam Zimmer said. "He really studies protections well, he understands what the offense is trying to do. He communicates well with players. I think he's really good with blitzes, protections, the way the offense is trying to pick us up. He did excellent with it. With Paulie's background with the offensive line, I think that helped elevate that."
Guenther reiterated what head coach Marvin Lewis has been saying: the playbook remains in the same language. But Guenther also says he'll add to it and he smiled when asked if he'll blitz more than Zimmer.
"Maybe," Guenther said with a laugh. Asked what his first call would be he joked that it would be an all-out blitz.
One other thing that also looks like it's going to stay the same is that Guenther is going be where Zimmer was during games—on the sideline. But "that's up to the boss (Lewis)," Guenther said.