clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Paul Guenther tabbed head-coaching candidate by ESPN

Paul Guenther’s defense has disappointed, but it’s still giving this team a chance to win games.

Cincinnati Bengals OTA's Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As bad as the Bengals have been this year, they may actually have a head coach in waiting among their staff.

Ever since Paul Guenther took over for Mike Zimmer in 2014, he’s kept the defense performing at a high level that was able to carry this team at times. This year, the Bengals defense has been a hindrance more often than not, but that hasn’t taken away from how Guenther is viewed as a head-coaching candidate.

ESPN’s latest report about the hottest coaching candidates around the NFL includes Guenther, even amid Cincinnati’s struggles this season.

Guenther's name has been rising in coaching circles for the past couple of years, much like New England's Patricia. Guenther joined the coaching staff in Cincinnati as an assistant in 2005 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2014 when Mike Zimmer was hired away as the Vikings' coach.

Guenther was getting some head-coaching buzz last year after his unit finished among the league’s best defenses, but they’ve taken a big step back this year, which makes you wonder if he really will be getting any interest around the league when the season concludes.

Entering Week 13, Cincinnati ranks 17 in points per game allowed, 23rd in total defense, 25th in opponent completion percentage, 24th in sacks, 28th in rushing defense, and 26th in yards per carry allowed.

That’s the negative. The positive is Cincinnati ranks 11th in third-down defense, 13th in passing defense, fourth in interceptions, and they’ve held four of their last five opponents to 21 points or less.

Much of that has come with the offense doing very little (averaging 15.3 ppg over last 3 games). Guenther’s defense, for all of their issues, are doing enough to keep opponents from running away, even when the offense has no hope of so much as jogging behind them.

And for what it’s worth, Cincinnati has played the No. 3, 6, 8, and 9 scoring offenses this season. The Bengals have gone 0-3-1 against those teams, and part of that is on the defense, but not getting enough offensive support has been just as damaging.

If Guenther’s unit can end this season on a high note over their next five games, perhaps he’ll draw consideration around the NFL, though it likely wouldn’t be as any team’s top options.

This also brings up the question of if the Bengals would actually consider promoting Guenther to head coach if Marvin Lewis is not the head coach next year. At this point, even without much to go off of with Guenther being a coordinator for just three years, even he could be an upgrade right now.