In Week 3, the Oakland Raiders meet the Minnesota Vikings. More importantly, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther faces off with his mentor, Mike Zimmer. The Vikings bring the type of defense that Paul Guenther envisions for the Raiders. Yet, so far, the team has not made that leap. However, with a strong offseason and draft, hope exists within the Raiders that Guenther can copy his mentor’s success.
For the last eight seasons, three in Cincinnati and five in Minnesota, Zimmer’s defenses rank among the league’s best. As a result, the Vikings and those Bengals squads allowed their offenses to thrive.. In Oakland, the Raiders need that from Guenther. With spent money arrives expectation. The Raiders spent draft capital to transform the defense into a threat. Unlike the Bengals and Vikes, Oakland employs an offensive-minded head coach.
When Zimmer left for Minnesota, Guenther stepped in. players immediately saw similarities and differences. Safety George Iloka said:
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“I would say Pauly tries to really help everyone just understand, he wants us to know the defense. He really coaches us as a group. The D-line or the secondary,” “Just kind of makes you overall have a better grasp of the defense and help us understand why he’s calling certain plays.”
With the Raiders, Guenther brings an inclusive, collective approach to the team. Under those circumstances, that brings a sense of camaraderie on the field, which will help the Raiders
Although they use different approaches to coaching, Zimmer and Guenther prefer similar player. They love angular ends, with long arms and quickness. From Carlos Dunlap to the drafting of Clelin Ferrell, these coaches share a type. For Guenther, he wants the Raiders to bring that Zimmer DE to the team. It sort of makes sense that the Raiders have so many taller edge rushers.
When Vontaze Burfict became available, Guenther jumped. After convincing Gruden and Mayock, his most trusted former player returned. Similarly, Zimmer uses Eric Kendricks in Minnesota. A gritty leader, Kendricks is the defensive playcaller and does not bend to anyone’s will.
In essence, the Raiders and Vikings share similar defensive theory. However, for Paul Guenther to keep his job, he needs to emulate the success of his mentor.