Paul Guenther, entering his 13th season as an NFL coach and his 11th with the Bengals, is in his second year as Bengals defensive coordinator. Last season, Guenther’s inaugural edition led the Bengals to a No. 12 NFL rank in fewest points allowed (21.5 per game) as the team made the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
Guenther prepped for the coordinator position by spending 2012-13 as Bengals linebackers coach, overseeing the rapid development of a number of young players, including ’13 season Pro Bowl selection Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State. Burfict joined the Bengals from the college free agent ranks in 2012, Guenther’s first season as LBs coach. Though bypassed in the ’12 draft, Burfict quickly became one of the NFL’s most prolific tacklers after signing with Cincinnati as a college free agent.
Last season the Bengals were forced to play largely without Burfict, due to injuries, but Guenther had fourth-year pro Vincent Rey ready to turn in an excellent season as Burfict’s replacement. Also at LB last season, third-year player Emmanuel Lamur was more than ready to take over a starting role following the departure of veteran James Harrison.
On the line last season, DE Wallace Gilberry was successfully moved into a starting role, and in the secondary, third-year pro Dre Kirkpatrick emerged as a potential starter at CB, along with first-round draft choice Darqueze Dennard.
Last year’s defense also had to deal with a four-game injury absence for MLB Rey Maualuga, and the unit missed his physical presence. But with Maualuga back for the final seven games, the Bengals yielded only 82.0 rushing yards per contest over that span, second-best in the NFL.
For the full season, the defense ranked in the top 10 in nine of the 15 major statistical categories widely monitored by NFL coaching staffs. Among those top 10 rankings were a tied-for-third-place finish in interceptions (20) and a third place in lowest aggregate passer rating by opponents (75.8).
Cincinnati ranked second in the NFL in differential between interceptions and TD passes allowed. The Bengals finished at plus-two, as their foes suffered the 20 INTs while completing only 18 TD passes. The only team better in this category was Buffalo at plus-three (19-16), and the Bengals and Bills were the only teams that finished in the plus column.
The defense earned the lion’s share of bows last season in the team’s last two wins, a 30-0 shutout at Cleveland in Game 14 and a playoff-clinching 37-28 decision over Denver in Game 15. The Cleveland game saw the Bengals give up the fewest first downs (five) in Cincinnati franchise history, and two of those came via penalties. In the Denver game, the Broncos’ first TD was allowed by the offense, on an interception return, and the defense went on to intercept QB Peyton Manning four times, including one returned for a TD.
In his debut as LBs coach, in 2012, Guenther directed a unit that helped produce a No. 6 NFL ranking in fewest yards allowed per game (319.7). The Bengals were eighth in the NFL in scoring defense (20.0). In 2013 with Guenther directing LBs, the Bengals ranked tied for fifth in scoring defense (19.1) and third in fewest yards per game (305.5).
Guenther held dual roles on the staff from 2006-11, assisting on special teams in all those seasons while also working with a position group. He worked five years with linebackers and one year with defensive backs
Guenther (pronounced “GUN-thur”) entered the NFL as an offensive assistant with the Washington Redskins for 2002 and ’03. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was one of his associates in ’02, serving as Redskins assistant head coach/defensive coordinator.
From 1997-2000, Guenther was head coach at Ursinus College, an NCAA Division III school in Collegeville, Pa. He was the youngest head coach in college football in ’97, at age 25, and he led the team to the playoffs in ’99 and ’00.
Guenther was born Nov. 22, 1971. His hometown is Richboro, Pa. He played LB in college at Ursinus, setting a school career tackles record (355) while three times earning all-conference honors.
He received his undergraduate degree in communications from Ursinus in 1994 and master’s degree in sports administration from Western Maryland in ’97.
Paul and his wife Patrice have two sons, Jake and Duke.
Playing and coaching history: 1990-93—Played linebacker, Ursinus College. 1994-95—Assistant coach (AC), Western Maryland. 1996—AC, Ursinus. 1997—Defensive coordinator, Jacksonville University. 1997-2000—Head coach, Ursinus. 2002-03—AC, Washington Redskins. 2005-13—AC, Cincinnati Bengals. 2014-present—Defensive coordinator, Bengals.
In less than a week Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has lost two coordinators that anchored three straight playoff runs.