Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wants you to understand one thing: He's not Mike Zimmer.
"I’m Paul Guenther and I get to put my own stamp on things," Guenther said on Thursday when asked how his personality contrasts with Mike Zimmer. "I think the world of Zim. He’s got his own personality and I've got my own personality. I've got to be myself. I've got to coach the guys the best I know how and not try to be somebody else."
As fair as that might be, Guenther is filling very large shoes with Zimmer's departure, who not only staged one of the biggest coups in franchise history -- shifting Cincinnati from an offensive oriented team to defensive oriented -- but earned the love from fans and the media.
In reality, Guenther has an advantage over most. The players view Guenther, many of whom have worked with him throughout their entire careers, as they do Marvin Lewis and Zimmer. He's a players' coach who is big on relationships.
"I have different relationships with a lot of different guys on the team," said Guenther. "Obviously I’m close with the linebackers because I've worked with them pretty much every day."
In thanking him for everything that he's done, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is taking Guenther and his wife with him to this year's Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
"I am a relationship guy. I believe you can hit guys in different ways," said Guenther. "There are 25 guys in the room and not all are going to hit on the same clip, so you've got to motivate the group first, then you've got to motivate the individual on the side. Knowing these guys here and knowing their personalities will give me an advantage starting up."
Guenther has been with the team since 2005 but has been a prodigy of Marvin Lewis since 2002 when both were on Washington's coaching staff -- something that Cincinnati's head coach takes pride in.
"It is a quick rise, but I do think, as already stated at 25 years old Paul was a young head coach at a college program," said Lewis. "That’s what impressed upon me. The year we coached together in Washington, this his maturity at a young age, his work ethic, his ability to be very, very thorough. Just naturalness as a coach, naturalness with the players with is key to this. There’s been a lot of younger guys assume these roles and their timeline is sped up because of how they are as a person and how they are as a coach, and he’s done that.
"And every opportunity I've had to advance his career, I've advanced Paul’s career from working with Darrin on special teams to moving back into the secondary to becoming the linebacker coach, he’s had this opportunity. I've been training him for this day literally."
Lewis will continue mentoring his young coach, applying experience following the same track of being a linebackers coach and defensive coordinator.
"I’m going to tell (Guenther) what Tony Dungy told me: 'Sometimes they might make a yard.' (Laughs) Move on. Make a tackle, move on. That’s the best piece of advice Tony Dungy gave me in February 1997. They might make a yard every once in awhile. Make a tackle, move on.
"He’s so right. That’s the thing that I learned. Your job as the defensive coordinator is to get your guys off the field. That’s your job. Nothing else matters. Get your guys as quickly as possible off the field, without the offense scoring. No other stat matters other than that. I always remember that time with Tony."