The Cincinnati Bengals are losing defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
According to numerous reports, Guenther is being named the next defensive coordinator of the Raiders, as part of Jon Gruden’s new staff. The news is expected to be made official on Tuesday, but is all but official at this point.
Guenther was promoted to the defensive coordinator position in 2014. He replaced Mike Zimmer when he left to become the Minnesota Vikings head coach. Guenther was previously the team’s linebackers coach. He joined the Bengals coaching staff in 2005 after spending time with Washington from 2002 to 2003.
Guenther has enjoyed plenty of success as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator. His defenses were never really known for shutting down opposing offenses from gaining yards. The Bengals routinely finished around the middle of the league in that stats. What his defense was good at was keeping opposing teams from scoring.
In 2015 his defense only allowed 17.4 points per game, which was second only behind the Seattle Seahawks 17.3. In 2016 his defense only allowed 19.7 points, which was good enough for eighth best in the NFL. They were just in front of Pittsburgh and Baltimore who ranked right behind them.
However, the defense took a step back this season as they allowed 21.8 points per game. That put them right in the middle of the league ranking 16th.
Last season was the first time one of his defenses finished outside of the top 10 in fewest touchdowns allowed, and they only finished 11th with 35 total touchdowns. It is no surprise his best season was 2015 when the defense only allowed 29 touchdowns, which was only one more than the leading defense. The Bengals went 12-4 that season.
It always felt like Guenther never got proper credit for the work he did in Cincinnati. Considering what he had to work with this season, he did a fantastic job. By the end of the season he was at the bottom of his linebacker depth chart. He also had to deal with a defense that couldn’t stay on the field consistently or score that much.
That isn’t to say the defense didn’t have its issues last season. There were plenty of times the defense gave up big leads or allowed game winning drives, not to mention two teams putting up 30 points on them near the end of the season.
There is plenty of room to grow with lots of talented players sprinkled throughout the defense in Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, George Iloka, William Jackson and Vontaze Burfict, to name a few.
This core should allow the Bengals to at least keep an average level defense going for a few more years, and Guenther has helped develop these guys into the players they are today.
It’s unclear why Guenther would leave Cincinnati for the same job elsewhere, but it could be to work with Gruden, who many are excited about as he makes his return to coaching.
The Bengals are interviewing former Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin for the now-open defensive coordinator role in Cincinnati. He is in town today for an interview. Expect the Bengals to move quickly to fill out their defensive coaching staff, which currently has zero coaches under contract for 2018. The Bengals are also in need of a quarterbacks coach and an offensive line coach on the offensive side of the ball.
Oh, and by the way, the Bengals will host the Raiders in 2018 at Paul Brown Stadium, so Guenther will be back in Cincinnati before long.