Now that the regular season is over, the period of chaos has begun, as the teams whose seasons have already ended are beginning preparations for what comes next. Often enough, that entails the hiring and firing of some powerful people, namely head coaches and general managers, though it goes up and down every ladder.
Pittsburgh Steelers fans likely do not appropriately appreciate the extent to which things can change from year to year for the average franchise. The Steelers have retained the exact identical staff for three seasons in a row, the only major change in that time being one long-planned: the succession of Keith Butler replacing Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator.
There are many such intentions that exist throughout the league, and at a certain point it can only be pushed back so far before one member of the party rebukes and searches for alternatives. We saw a migration of coaches from Pittsburgh when they were passed over following Bill Cowher’s retirement, for example.
That is what we may be seeing in Cincinnati as well, as, reportedly, their defensive coordinator, whose contract is expiring, intends to search for an opportunity elsewhere, now that Marvin Lewis has been retained for two more seasons as the head coach.
That defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, has been in that role for the past four seasons, but previously spent nearly a decade as an assistant coach for the team. He inherited the role from Mike Zimmer, who left in 2014 to become the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
The truth is that the Bengals’ staff has fairly regularly been plucked for ascension by other organizations. Zimmer is just one of five former coaches on Lewis’ previous staffs to ascend to a head-coaching job. Most notable are Hue Jackson, with the Browns, and Jay Gruden, in Washington.
Presumably, Guenther will want to interview for some head-coaching vacancies, and there are certainly a handful at the moment. The Giants, Lions, Colts, Bears, Cardinals, and, ostensibly, the Raiders all have vacancies as head coach, with perhaps more to come.
Failing that, however, he could seek an opportunity with another organization that more clearly presents an opportunity to move up, though I’m not sure one exists that is more likely to produce a promotion from coordinator than staying with the Bengals.
This season, Guenther’s group finished 16th in points allowed and 18th in yards per game. Their third-down defense based on conversion rate ranked 25th. While they ranked toward the bottom in rush defense, they were a top-10 team against the pass—which they should be, considering they draft a cornerback in the first round every other year.