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Philadelphia Eagles coaching candidate profile: Paul Guenther, Bengals defensive coordinator

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Could a local boy return as head coach?

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Paul Guenther

Summary

Paul Guenter is the defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, having been a member of their staff since 2005. Since 2009, the Bengals defense has finished top ten in points five times and in yard four times, including finishing second this season in points. He is scheduled to interview with the Browns and Eagles.

Resume

1994-1995 Western Maryland (assistant)
1996 Ursinus (defensive coordinator)
1997 Jacksonville University (defensive coordinator)
1997-2000 Ursinus (head coach)
2002-2003 Washington Redskins (assistant)
2005-2011 Cincinnati Bengals (assistant)
2012-2013 Cincinnati Bengals (linebackers)
2014-present Cincinnati Bengals (defensive coordinator)

Why he could work

A Bucks County native and cousin of Villanova basketball head coach Jay Wright and college roommate of Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen at Ursinus, Guenther certainly has some familiarity with the Eagles. Guenther is highly thought of by those who he has worked with and for. When Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer became head coach of the Vikings in 2014, he tried to bring Guenther on board as his defensive coordinator. And when Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden took the Redskins job, he tried to bring Guenther with him too. Instead the Bengals promoted him to replace Zimmer. Lewis and Zimmer are top notch defensive coaches who both think very highly of Guenther, which would indicate he might be the "strong strategic mind" that the Eagles are looking for. Guenther is considered a excellent technician, garnering praise for having a key role in developing undrafted free agent linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamar and working with Taylor Mays to transform him from castoff to contributor. He's also coached a variety of roles. Prior to being the linebackers coach in 2012, Guenther worked with special teams and defensive backs. At Ursinus he was the youngest head coach in college in 1997 at the age of 25, in 1999 and 2000 he led them to the playoffs, 1999's 10-2 season was the best in school history, which would indicate he has strong leadership qualities. He resigned after the 2000 season to pursue other opportunities. While he never worked with him, former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was an influence on him. And lastly, one reason he chose to stay in Cincinnati rather than join Zimmer or Gruden's staff was his connection to his players.

Why he may not be the guy

While Guenther is highly thought of by Marvin Lewis' coaching tree, he's a virtual unknown outside of it, though Bengals wide receivers coach James Urban coached for seven years under Andy Reid with the Eagles, so he has some connection to the front office. He also has no NFL experience outside of the umbrella of Lewis, who was the Redskins defensive coordinator during Guenther's first season in Washington. The interview will be crucial for Guenther to separate himself from Lewis' coattails. And for all the Bengals success under him in 2015, the defense struggled in 2014, 12th in points, 22nd in yards and 14th in DVOA. One of the reasons that the Bengals promoted Guenther was to give the defensive continuity, which it did not achieve in his first year. Additionally, with so much work to be done for the Eagles on the offense and the defense relatively sound, the team may decide that an offensive coach is the way to go.

Final thoughts

Guenther appears to be a very good defensive coach, that three different head coaches that are in the playoffs this year wanted him to be their coordinator is strong praise. His resume is as strong as his offensive counterparts that are coaching candidates, most of whom have an equally short resume and have worked with top end talent. He may be able to check all the proverbial boxes that Jeffrey Lurie is looking for in a head coach. His superiors and peers thinking so highly of him would indicate he is a strategic thinker and good communicator. His local ties certainly give him an understanding of the team, and his work in Cininnati, where the Bengals consistently take on players who have significant off the field issues and turn them around, including players he has worked directly with, he appears to have the "emotional intelligence" that Lurie values. This combination would explain why he's been a "sleeper candidate" since the Eagles fired Chip Kelly.