CINCINNATI -- Paul Guenther has only been the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive coordinator for a day, but already he has begun making the delineation between him and predecessor Mike Zimmer known.
"I'm not Mike Zimmer, I'm Paul Guenther and I get to put my stamp on things," he said Thursday, answering a question near the start of a news conference to announce his promotion from linebackers coach.
He might not like it, but from now until next September's season opener, Guenther can be assured of hearing comparisons to his ex-coaching buddy. Until Guenther's defense finally takes the field for the first time, Zimmer's shadow will loom ominously above.
With an understanding of that, Guenther wants it known early in his time as the Bengals' lead defensive assistant that he wants to carve his own coaching path.
"[Zimmer's] got his own personality and I've got my own personality. I've got to be myself," Guenther said. "I've got to coach the guys the best I know how and try not to be somebody else."
Known to combine curse words in a manner that made the foulest of foul-mouthed speakers jealous, Zimmer earned a reputation around Paul Brown Stadium for being a delightful person to know off the field but a terror on it whenever he got angry. It's that measure of intensity, though, that had Zimmer's players willing to do whatever he asked of them, and one the Minnesota Vikings were seeking when looking for a new head coach.
"It's like when parents get disappointed in their kids," cornerback Chris Crocker said. "You can feel that with Zim. ... You know, there aren't very many loyalties in this business. It is a business first. But if you play hard and are a good teammate, he goes to bat for you. That's why he has so much respect among players. That's why so many guys want to play for him."
That's precisely why the Vikings offered him their head coaching job Wednesday, and why he accepted.
But none of that is part of Guenther's personality. Cursing and screaming aren't part of his makeup.
"Have you seen 'Hard Knocks?'" Guenther quipped with reporters, referring to his relative silence as juxtaposed to Zimmer's expletive-laced rant during a preseason game at Atlanta.
Guenther added that he felt comfortable being the same person he's always been and will use that philosophy while carving his own niche throughout his tenure as the Bengals' defensive coordinator.
"My job is to get the other team off the field, whether I spin on my head and spit nickles or start yelling and screaming," Guenther said. "One way or another, I've got to be myself, I've got to run the job like I know how to run it. Guys get in these positions as head coaches and coordinators and then all of a sudden they change their personalities and say, 'I'm going to be this, that or the other,' and players see through that."
Asked if he felt like he needed a person on his defensive staff to step up and fill Zimmer's role as the intense screamer, Guenther said he didn't care how his coaches acted around the players. He just wants them doing their jobs and helping the team win.
"Trust me, I'm going to do this thing and there are some expectations that I have," Guenther said. "I need the best coaches I can get. I don't care whether they yell or scream, they have to get their guys to play."
Sometime in the next 48 hours or so, Guenther and head coach Marvin Lewis hope to have their final two coaching vacancies filled; a linebackers coach and, presumably, an assistant defensive backs coach. It is believed Zimmer's son, Adam, will leave his post as assistant defensive backs coach to work with his father. If that happens, the Bengals will have to fill that spot as well as Guenther's old linebackers coaching position.
As for Lewis, Cincinnati's head coach who began his time in the NFL coaching the defensive side of the ball, don't expect him to get in the way and start holding Guenther's hand. According to Lewis, this is Guenther's opportunity to take the defense down whichever path he wants to lead it.
"I am not going to interject myself any further, but I am the sounding board and the writer of last refusal on everything in every area, so that's not going to change," Lewis said.
With that, the Zimmer era officially ends in Cincinnati. The Guenther period officially begins.