The Guenther Factor – Part I: Change of Command

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Sep 29, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) before the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have enjoyed a hard-hitting, highly productive defense since Mike Zimmer came to the Queen City in 2008.  With his departure and assumption as Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Linebacker’s Coach Paul Guenther has taken the mantel of Defense Coordinator.  While Coach Guenther is well documented as a “linebacker whisperer” raising a lethal corps of linebackers almost entirely from undrafted free agent prospects, his ability to command the defense in its entirety remains vapid, trapped in potential until the season gets underway.  It is believed that Coach Zimmer’s tutelage will directly translate to Coach Guenther achieving the same degree of production from what is largely the same body of players.  At this point, such speculation, while probable, remains theoretical.

Certainly, Coach Guenther is a known commodity; indeed, he was hired for this reason.  He has been a respected entity within the Bengals coaching staff for more than 8 years.  Though his defense is expected to maintain semblance to Coach Zimmer’s “Big Nickel” blitzing schemes and GNY (Give No YAC) approach to the secondary, Coach Guenther’s style is a notable departure from Coach Zimmer’s in-your-face coaching panache.  Not an intense, boisterous personality, Coach Guenther has more insisting and intellectual approach to his players as seen first-hand during HBO’s Hard Knocks this past preseason.  With the linebackers at least, this has yielded quantifiable results, but again, Coach Zimmer menacing shadow still loomed as an enforcer.