Paul Guenther spent 13 seasons in Cincinnati.
Originally hired in 2005 as an assistant special teams/assistant linebackers coach, Guenther spent more than a decade as a Bengal, working his way up the coaching ranks before getting a chance to run the Cincinnati defense in 2014.
He ultimately moved west to become the defensive coordinator of the Raiders, but less than a year after he landed in California, Guenther is headed back to Ohio for a Week 15 matchup against his old team.
And while Sunday’s return to Paul Brown Stadium will no doubt produce a bevy of emotions for the Raiders defensive coordinator, once kickoff comes along, it’ll be strictly business.
“There’s people who were real good to me,” said Guenther when discussing his time in Cincinnati. “I spent a lot of time with those players and the organization, the Brown family. The coaching staff means a lot to me. They still do. When toe meets leather at 1 o’clock it’s business. I root for those guys every week and I hope they do good except for one game, which is this one.”
That said, since Guenther does have a unique sense of what the Bengals like to do defensively, the question was understandably asked if he was in Derek Carr’s ear this week more than normal.
“The structure is very similar,” Guenther explained. “He [Carr] had some questions just about the personnel to give him some help. Some of the guys on defense, and I’m familiar with more so the personnel and what their abilities are. They have a good group of guys over there on defense. I know the season hasn’t gone like they wanted it to, but they have a lot of talented, veteran players over there. A lot of respect for those guys.”
As Guenther alluded, 2018 hasn’t gone to plan for his old squad. After a hot start to the beginning of the season, the Bengals – decimated by injuries – have lost seven of their last eight games, and find themselves in the cellar of the AFC North.
Without the services of Andy Dalton, the Bengals have called upon Jeff Driskel to start under center the past two weeks, a player that both Guenther and current Raiders quarterback AJ McCarron are familiar with.
Actually AJ McCarron was our scout team quarterback. Driskel was obviously playing quarterback, but when you needed him to, he played receiver and tight end because he’s fast,” Guenther said. “The guy can run. He’d run deep posts. A couple of times he’d beat our corners over there. I’m like, ‘Guys, that’s a quarterback you have to cover.’ He’s a good athlete. Obviously, he’s done a good job for them coming in with Andy’s [Dalton] injury. He’s handled the offense, it looks like, very good.”
“We know he’s athletic, very athletic,” Head Coach Jon Gruden added about Driskel. “He ran the scout team for Guenther last year. We know he’s a capable runner. He can run the read option. I thought he did a nice job. I thought the Bengals played very well last week against a great team in the Chargers down in LA. He’s going into his third start now, I believe, maybe his fourth. So experience is often the best teacher. We expect him to play well.”
Regardless of what iteration of the Bengals the Raiders see Sunday afternoon, the matchup between the two squads will be a tightly-contested one, and regardless of the outcome, will be one that Guenther likely doesn’t forget for a long time.