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Paul Guenther’s departure and candidates to replace him

Who should the Bengals replace Paul Guenther with if he leaves?

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NFL: DEC 10 Bears at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Minutes following Cincinnati’s agreement with Marvin Lewis to remain as the team’s head coach, reports reemerged that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will be looking for opportunities elsewhere.

The team released a statement on Tuesday announcing their agreement with Lewis at 5:10 p.m. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora published a tweet 30 minutes later saying that Guenther is “leaving to explore other options”. It should be noted that the Cincinnati Enquirer broke the original Guenther story, saying that “Enquirer learned via two league sources that Guenther considered moving on should he not be interviewed for the Bengals job” which Lewis retained on Tuesday. Two known candidates to acquire Guenther are Oakland (if Jon Gruden becomes their head coach), and Washington, pairing up with Jay Gruden, a former colleague in Cincinnati.

Guenther, who has been an assistant coach in Cincinnati since 2005, was promoted to defensive coordinator after Mike Zimmer became Minnesota’s newest head coach in 2014. During the period with Guenther as the defensive coordinator, his defenses have ranked ranked anywhere between 12th and 22nd, with a respectable scoring defense that once ranked 2nd (2015).

Paul Guenther Defense

2014 359.3 22nd 21.5 12th
2015 340.8 11th 17.4 2nd
2016 350.8 17th 19.7 8th
2017 339.1 18th 21.8 16th

Injuries, questionable personnel decisions, and exhaustive team offenses have obviously impacted Cincinnati’s defense. Within that context alone, Guenther deserves recognition for keeping this defensive cohesive and effective. On the other hand, he acquired amazing talent while maintaining a defensive philosophy/scheme that was implemented by Mike Zimmer. In other words, Guenther maintained (and did a great job) an impactful defense and that’s difficult enough in the NFL. I’m torn. He’s done well, earned the players respect, but did he really offer anything more than any qualified coordinator? I guess we’ll find out.

Candidates to replace Guenther include Jack Del Rio, who served as Lewis’ linebackers coach for three years (1999-2001) while Lewis was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator. Del Rio served as a defensive coordinator for Carolina in 2002, spearheading a defense that ranked second overall. He spent three years as Denver’s defensive coordinator (2012-14), building two defenses that ranked inside the top three. Kevin Coyle (Miami’s defensive coordinator, 2012-15) and Jim Haslett (defensive coordinator for the Saints, Steelers, Rams, and Redskins) are experienced candidates that were on the 2017 staff.