Vikings Hire Ex-Bengals, Raiders DC Paul Guenther as Senior Defensive Assistant

Guenther, who knows Mike Zimmer well, replaces Dom Capers in a senior assistant role.

The Vikings' coaching staff moves keep coming. They're hiring former Bengals and Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther as a senior defensive assistant, as first reported by NFL Network. Guenther, who knows Mike Zimmer well from their time together in Cincinnati, takes over the role held by Dom Capers last season.

This is one of those hires that will be tough to judge because we're unlikely to know how involved Guenther will be. He's presumably not going to come in and have a massive impact on what the Vikings run on defense. Instead, I'd expect him to be an "ideas" guy for Zimmer and Minnesota's co-defensive coordinators. Guenther has a lot of experience in the NFL and will be another piece in the collaborative effort on that side of the ball, but his influence will be hard to quantify as an outside observer.

With that said, we can surmise that the Capers hire from last offseason probably didn't go as planned, for two reasons. One was that the Vikings' defense was very bad in 2020. Injuries, an opt-out, and a lot of young players had a role in that, but still. The other is that the Vikings elected not to renew Capers' contract after his one-year deal expired. Guenther sticking around for more than one season and being a part of getting the Vikings back to where they want to be defensively would be a sign that he added value.

Guenther has spent almost all of the past six seasons as a defensive coordinator. When Zimmer left the Bengals to come to Minnesota, Guenther was his successor as Cincy's DC. In 2018, he joined Jon Gruden's Raiders staff and was their DC until being fired last December. Here's a look at how each of his seven defenses have ranked:

  • 2014 (CIN): 22nd yards allowed, 12th points allowed, 14th DVOA, 20th PFF grade
  • 2015 (CIN): 11th yards allowed, 2nd points allowed, 10th DVOA, 7th PFF grade
  • 2016 (CIN): 17th yards allowed, 8th points allowed, 18th DVOA, 13th PFF grade
  • 2017 (CIN): 18th yards allowed, 16th points allowed, 21st DVOA, 23rd PFF grade
  • 2018 (OAK): 26th yards allowed, 32nd points allowed, 31st DVOA, 31st PFF grade
  • 2019 (OAK): 19th yards allowed, 24th points allowed, 31st DVOA, 29th PFF grade
  • 2020 (LV): 25th yards allowed, 30th points allowed, 28th DVOA, 30th PFF grade

Prior to 2014, Guenther worked under Zimmer for six seasons. He started as an assistant coach with the Bengals in 2005, Zimmer became the DC in 2008, and Guenther spent the last two years of their time together as Cincy's linebackers coach. He previously had stints in Washington and Jacksonville, along with a couple collegiate gigs.

Here's a look at the complete Vikings defensive staff:

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