Bengals make it official; tap Guenther to replace Zimmer

The Cincinnati Bengals officially promoted Paul Guenther to defensive coordinator today to replace Mike Zimmer, who left Wednesday to become the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

Guenther, 42, is entering his 12th season as an NFL coach and 10th with the Bengals. He was a special teams and position assistant with linebackers and defensive backs from 2005-11 before taking over as linebackers coach in 2012, where he oversaw the development of a number of young players, including 2013 Pro Bowler Vontaze Burfict.

Guenther worked closely with Zimmer in designing formations and game plans that helped lead the Bengals to the playoffs four of the last five seasons, including division titles in 2009 and 2013.

“Paul has been Zim’s right-hand man the last few years, so we’re moving in the direction of keeping a good thing going with our defense,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said in a release. “He knows what we do and how we do it, and he had a hand in creating it.”

The defense ranked third in the NFL and first in the AFC with 305.5 yards allowed in 2013, despite losing a pair of marquee players in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall to season-ending injuries in October.

The Bengals were tied for fifth in the NFL in fewest points allowed (19.1).

“I’m obviously very excited about this opportunity,” Guenther said in a release. “I like the players we have and what we’ve already done to get a good defensive team in place. I’m looking forward to working with all of them, in a new role for me, and continuing to improve us and make us better.

“I want to thank Mike Brown and Marvin for all they’ve done for me over the years and now for this chance,” he added. “And I also want to thank Zim for working with me so closely and helping me become a better coach.”

Guenther coached seven seasons at the college level, including four as head coach at his alma mater of Ursinus, where at the age of 25 he was the youngest college head coach in the country at the time he was hired.

He broke into the NFL ranks with the Washington Redskins in 2002, when Lewis was the defensive coordinator there.

He joined Lewis’ staff in Cincinnati in 2005.

“Paul and I have been mostly together since when we were both on the Redskins staff,” Lewis said. “I’ve seen him grow over the years and really have sort of been grooming him for this kind of opportunity.”