So far, the Cincinnati Bengals have had a good offseason in terms of rebuilding their coaching staff.
Despite retaining head coach Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati has made a host of changes on their offensive and defensive staffs. Arguably the biggest change was going from Paul Guenther as defensive coordinator to Teryl Austin.
However, Guenther says the Bengals really wanted to keep him, according to ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez.
New Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said the Bengals made a strong push to retain him. But... “The opportunity to come out here with Jon (Gruden) and start from the ground up was way too intriguing.”
Not long after the Bengals retained Lewis, reports circulated that Guenther was leaving to explore other opportunities. Guenther’s contract was up, so instead of re-signing with the Bengals, he left to become the Oakland Raiders’ defensive coordinator.
Guenther was originally promoted to the Bengals’ defensive coordinator position in 2014. He replaced Mike Zimmer when he left to become the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach. Guenther, previously the team’s linebackers coach, joined the Bengals’ coaching staff in 2005 after spending time with Washington from 2002-03.
Guenther has enjoyed plenty of success as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator. His defenses were never really known for shutting down opposing offenses, operating more as a bend-but-don’t-break unit that did do a good job of keeping opponents off the scoreboard.
Cincinnati finished 12th in scoring defense in 2014, second in 2015 and eighth in 2016. But in 2017, the Bengals finished 18th in total defense, 16th in scoring defense, and 25th in third-down defense.
To be fair, Guenther’s defense was hit hard on the injury front as the season wore on, but you’d still like to see more from a guy who was reportedly considered to be Cincinnati’s next head coach if Lewis was out.
In the end, it feels like a good thing that Guenther is out and Austin is in, though mostly because this team needed a new voice on defense. It was clear at times in 2017 that Guenther wasn’t getting through to his unit as they let teams like the Titans, Vikings and Bears run over them. Even stopping teams like the Browns proved to be more difficult than it should have been for the personnel Guenther had.
Also, keeping Lewis and the same coaching staff could have led to player tuning the coaches out if they begin to struggle in 2018. But now with a new voice like Austin and others in the room, perhaps that helps keep the Bengals from stagnating when adversity hits.