Paul Guenther enters his first season as defensive coordinator for the
Raiders, having spent the previous 13 seasons with the Cincinnati
Bengals, including the last four as defensive coordinator.
In his 13 seasons with Bengals, Guenther helped the team win four
AFC North titles (2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015) and reach the postseason
seven times, including a franchise-record five straight trips to the playoffs
As the Bengals’ defensive coordinator from 2014-17, Guenther guided
a unit that ranked fifth in points allowed per game (20.1) over that time
span and ranked in the top 10 in two separate seasons, finishing second
and setting a Bengals franchise record in 2015 (17.4) and eighth in
2016 (19.7). Cincinnati also excelled in forcing turnovers, recording 69
interceptions over the last four years, a number that ranks first in the NFL.
Guenther also coached his defensive players to eight Pro Bowl selections
as the team’s defensive coordinator, including four straight selections for
DT Geno Atkins. The Bengals also limited opposing passers to just an 80.1
quarterback rating in his four years at the helm of the defense, ranking first
in the NFL over that span.
Last season, Guenther led a defensive group that finished sixth in the
NFL in yards per play, holding opponents to an average of only 4.97. With
21.8 points allowed per game, Guenther tallied his fourth consecutive
season as coordinator where the defense averaged under 22 points per
game. The unit was also one of just seven teams to have four players with
at least five sacks each.
In 2016, the defense finished eighth in the league in fewest points
allowed (19.7). Cincinnati held opponents under 20 points in six of the last
seven games, and only 15.0 points per game over that stretch. Guenther’s
unit finished second in the NFL with 17 interceptions and ranked seventh
in red zone defense. DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap led the charge,
and both were selected as starters in the Pro Bowl. Atkins led all NFL
interior linemen in sacks (nine) and was also named first-team All-Pro by
The Sporting News. Dunlap was second on the team in sacks (eight) and
had tallied 15 passes defensed.
The Bengals’ defense finished 2015 as one of the strongest units in the
league, ranking second in the NFL in points allowed at just 17.4 per game.
The 17.4 points per game is a franchise record, and Cincinnati allowed
just two more points (279) than the league-leading Arizona Cardinals
(277). The Bengals also ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing defense,
with a 92.3-yard average that was lowest in team history. Additionally,
Cincinnati ranked third in the NFL with 21 interceptions and allowed only
18 touchdown passes. Four defenders were selected for the Pro Bowl,
tying the franchise’s best total. The quartet included Atkins (11 sacks), DE
Carlos Dunlap (13.5 sacks, second in club history), CB Adam Jones (three
interceptions and 12 passes defensed) and S Reggie Nelson (tied for NFL
lead with eight interceptions).
In his first season as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator in 2014, Guenther
led a Bengals defense that ranked 12th in the league with 21.5 points
allowed per game. The defense also ranked in the top 10 in nine of 15 major
statistical categories, including a tied for third-place finish in interceptions
(20) and a third place in lowest opponent quarterback rating (75.8).
Prior to being appointed the team’s defensive coordinator, Guenther
served in various roles on the Bengals’ coaching staff from 2005-13. He
spent two seasons from 2012-13 as the team’s linebackers coach, helping
guide undrafted free agent LB Vontaze Burfict to a Pro Bowl selection
in 2013. Under his direction in 2013, the linebacking corps helped the
defense finish third in the NFL in total defense (305.5 yards per game) and
tied for fifth in scoring defense (19.1 points per game).
In his first season as linebackers coach in 2012, Guenther directed a
unit that helped the defense finish sixth in the league in total defense
26 2018 Raiders Gameday
(319.7). The Bengals were also eighth in the NFL in scoring defense (20.0
points allowed per game). Guenther was charged with the development of
the rookie Burfict, as he led the team in tackles (174).
From 2005-11, Guenther assisted on special teams each season, while
also working with the linebackers from 2005-10 and the defensive backs
in 2011. Guenther helped the Bengals win AFC North titles in 2005 and
2009. While assisting the Bengals’ special teams units from 2005-11,
Guenther helped the group develop into one the better coverage units in the
league, ranking sixth in opponent punt return average (7.8 yards) and 12th
in opponent return average against (22.0 yards) during that span.
In 2011, Guenther worked last season in a dual role, with defensive
backs and special teams. He also worked closely with defensive coordinator
Mike Zimmer on blitz techniques, and the Bengals ranked fifth in the NFL
in sacks (45), up from 27 the previous year. On special teams, Guenther
helped Cincinnati finish seventh in the NFL in punt return average (11.5
yards per return), seventh in punt coverage (7.2) and third in kickoff
Guenther served as the assistant special teams/assistant linebackers
coach from 2005-10. In 2010, he coached LB Dhani Jones, who led the
team in tackles (160) for the third straight season. Working with special
teams, Guenther helped Cincinnati lead the NFL in punt coverage in 2010,
allowing only 4.8 yards per return, a mark that was third best in franchise
history. In helping the Bengals win the AFC North in 2009, his linebackers
supported a defensive unit that ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense
and (301.4 yard per game) and allowed only 18.2 points per game.
In 2008, Guenther’s unit helped the defense finished 12th in the NFL
in total defense, allowing 325.5 yards per game. Jones was once again
the leader of the linebacking corps, posting a career-high 165 tackles.
Additionally, the special teams units limited opponents to 22.5 yards
per kickoff return (13th in NFL) and 9.1 yards per punt return (14th in
NFL). In 2006, Guenther’s efforts on special teams produced the top punt
coverage unit in the league, as Cincinnati allowed just 5.6 yards per return.
The Bengals’ kickoff coverage was also among the NFL’s best, allowing just
21.0 yards per return, a figure that ranked sixth. In his first season with the
Bengals in 2005, Guenther helped KR Tab Perry set franchise records for
kickoff returns (64) and kickoff return yards (1,562).
Guenther entered the NFL coaching ranks as an offensive assistant with the
Washington Redskins from 2002-03, working as an associate to Marvin Lewis,
who served as the team’s assistant head coach/defensive coordinator in 2002.
With the Redskins, Guenther also worked with the running backs corps.
From 1997-2000, Guenther was the head coach at his alma mater,
Ursinus College, an NCAA Division III school in Collegeville, Pa. He was
the youngest head coach in college football in 1997, at age 25, and he led
the program to the playoffs in 1999 and 2000. His 1999 team finished
10-2, setting a school record for wins, and advanced to the second round
of the playoffs. The team also broke nearly every offensive and defensive
in school history.
Prior to joining Ursinus as an assistant coach in 1996, Guenther coached
at Western Maryland for two seasons from 1994-95.
PERSONAL: Native of Richboro, Pa. …Played linebacker at Ursinus
College, setting a school record for career tackles (355), while earning
all-conference honors three times…Received his bachelor’s degree in
communications from Ursinus in 1994, and a master’s degree in sports
administration from Western Maryland in 1997...Last name is pronounced
16th season in NFL
1st season with Raiders