Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Bengals got it right holding on to Guenther
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- Ah, the joys of reacting instantaneously to news in today's ever-evolving social media climate.
Paul Guenther's promotion to defensive coordinator should ease the Bengals' transition following Mike Zimmer's exit to Minnesota.
It usually means that as soon as you share one news nugget or thought or idea, it's time to move on because that one has evaporated and another, more interesting item has come along.
That's exactly what happened to yours truly Wednesday.
While I encourage you to read this story about how the Bengals ought to expect growing pains for their defense in the wake of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's departure, I also ask you to read this particular piece about how the Bengals got it right by getting linebackers coach Paul Guenther to stay on board as their new defensive coordinator.
In the earlier piece, written within the hour of the report ESPN insiders Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen filed announcing Zimmer's exit from Cincinnati for the Minnesota head coaching job, I mentioned how Guenther was expected to be his replacement. Naturally, the Bengals were working behind the scenes at that very moment to convince Guenther to stay, but at the time, it wasn't clear if he'd end up staying or how long it might take to convince him to decide.
So, with time being a factor, out came the earlier story.
I stand by it. It still applies even though an hour after it went live, reports from Schefter and other media outlets confirmed that Guenther was indeed staying. All of that is just to say that when you read it, disregard any references to former Lions coach Jim Schwartz or any other possible defensive coordinator candidates. There are no longer candidates for that job. There's only Guenther.
And that's the way it should be.
According to ESPN insider Adam Caplan, Guenther met with Bengals owner Mike Brown in the middle of the day Wednesday as Cincinnati tried to convince him to stay for that job. Other reports indicated that Zimmer would try to take Guenther with him to Minnesota for the Vikings' defensive coordinator vacancy, or that former Bengals assistant Jay Gruden would try to entice him to come to Washington.
As reported by Caplan, thanks to a new three-year deal and a presumably much more significant pay bump, the Bengals were able to stave off possible advances from Minnesota and Washington and keep one of their own to allow for a smooth transition.
While the growing pains still will most certainly exist on a defense that has been one of the league's best the last six seasons, they should at least be abated with Guenther's promotion. A Bengals position coach for nine seasons, Guenther has a sound understanding of head coach Marvin Lewis' defensive philosophy and knows exactly what made Zimmer's defenses so successful: aggressive blitz packages and constant quarterback pressure.
If Guenther wants to be successful in his new role, he'll keep using them. Do that for the next few years and a bigger and better opportunity might one day beckon for him. Once that happens, the first branch of the newly planted Zimmer coaching tree might be extended.
We started this post by talking about time. With two new coordinators, a more veteran quarterback, a slew of playmakers and a fan base perturbed by a string of first-round playoff exits, the Bengals don't have much time. They have to start winning postseason games next season.
Unfortunately for Guenther, time is exactly what he's going to need in this period of transition.
"Regardless how smart your guys are, it takes a while to implement your style [as a coordinator]," veteran cornerback Chris Crocker told ESPN.com. "It takes time."
Crocker was in Cincinnati in 2008 when Zimmer first arrived. Even though the Bengals ended the year with the league's 18th-best defense, they started much worse. Poor offense and an adjusting defense contributed to their 1-10-1 showing through the first 12 games. Wins in the last three came after the defense held each of their last three opponents that season to under 300 yards of total offense.
"It helps a lot to have a familiar face take over," Crocker continued."You don't have to spend a whole offseason trying to familiarize yourself with a new playbook like we did in 2008. You could see how slow we started that year because the team had a new defensive coordinator, even if it was Zim. By the end of 2008, though, you saw where it all finally started clicking and we finally came together.
"It just shows that it takes a while to implement your style."
Growing pains are going to come.
But again, at least with Guenther around, they might not be so bad.