For the majority of the 2020 NFL season, Paul Guenther was not the defensive coordinator capable of taking the Raiders to the next level.
Following wins against the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints to start the season, the general consensus around the Las Vegas Raiders camp was that Guenther had turned a new leaf. In addition, he smoothed out the kinks of the defense. Immediately after their hot start, the Raiders’ defense appeared lost once more, losing to the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. Then, the Raiders beat the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead. After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismantled them.
Some may look at the game against the now 9-3 Cleveland Browns and vouch for Guenther. Yet, remember that this game occurred during a windstorm featuring gusts of 40+ miles per hour. As a result, this limited both teams’ passing attacks and allowing defenses to sell out against the run.
The story of a majority of the Raiders’ losses this year remained consistent: holding close through halftime but the defense begins to tire and wear down, writing checks most offenses cannot cash. Las Vegas should not have to score 30+ points per game, but that is where the defense has left them. The Raiders are 6-1 when scoring 30+ but fall to 1-5 when scoring less than 30. This trend has held true throughout the season, yet the Raiders waited until losing a must-win game to fire their defensive coordinator. Did the game against the Falcons not show us enough? Guenther was still worthy of a coaching job following the Jets game?
This is no implication that the Raiders could have beat the Colts on Sunday, just confusion of the timing. It is obviously difficult to change such a crucial part of the coaching staff during a playoff push, but sometimes it is necessary to remove the finger to save the arm. Some may like to think that Guenther would have received the ax had the Raiders not beat the Chiefs a week before their bye week, but we may never know.
Guenther’s future has been written in the stars for months now, but the Raiders’ destiny for the 2020 season has not been sealed. However, it was significantly less sealed three weeks ago when Guenther still could have been fired. Guenther had been a defensive coordinator with the Raiders since 2018 and unfortunately was never able to truly answer the call.
The final argument made is that Guenther was set up to fail by the Raiders spending $50 million more on offense than defense. Yet, the easy response to that? The Raiders prioritized defense in their recent drafts. By selecting Ferrell, Crosby, Arnette, etc, and signing Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton in free agency. Expectations for Guenther appeared reasonable: field a competent squad..