By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Cincinnati Bengals have had one of the NFL’s top defenses for the last several years. The man who had been at the head of that defense, Mike Zimmer, recently left to become the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. That has opened the door for a local product to take over the unit.
Paul Guenther is a native of Richboro, Bucks County, and he played his college football in Collegeville, spending four seasons as a linebacker at Division III Ursinus College. This will be his tenth season on staff with the Bengals. He most recently had been serving as their linebackers coach before getting the promotion to defensive coordinator.
“We’ve been playing pretty good the last couple years out here (in Cincinnati),” Guenther tells KYW Newsradio. “I’m excited to get a chance to lead the group. I’m real familiar with all the guys and the scheme we’re doing out here, so it’s an exciting time for me, for sure.”
The 42-year-old Guenther is now one of the NFL’s youngest defensive coordinators and he says coaching has been in his blood for quite some time.
“When I went to college,” Guenther says. “About halfway through my career, some of the guys I was playing football with got into coaching. Actually, about three or four of the guys that I played with at Ursinus my senior year are still in coaching. One of my roommates is the head coach at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen. It’s just something that we talked about as college guys and after I graduated I decided to go to Western Maryland, what now is McDaniel College, out in Westminster, Maryland, and I started up as a graduate assistant. Things kind of took off from there.”
Guenther wasn’t done at Ursinus after his playing days. At just 25 years of age he would become the head coach of the Bears in 1997, going 25-18 in four seasons – two of which ended in the NCAA playoffs.
“I’ve got fond memories of Collegeville,” Guenther says. “Being a coach at such a young age really prepared me for what I’m doing right now. You go into the first meeting and you look up at 100+ players and their parents and they are saying, ‘Hey we are going to leave our kids with this young guy who is going to try and mold them.’ So all those thing at a young age, whether it be leading the team, whether it be worrying about budgets, travel, when to call a time-out, when to go for it on fourth down, those type of things, at a young age, really helped me to where I am today.”
Guenther takes over a Cincinnati defense that allowed just 19.1 points a game in 2013.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.