If the Las Vegas Raiders miss the playoff once again, there’s going to be plenty of finger-pointing. In fact, it already has started. After the loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15, the team fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
The Raiders’ defense has been really bad since Guenther took over but he hasn’t had a ton of talent to work with. While some might suggest he didn’t get a fair shake, he had some serious flaws as a defensive coordinator. On the Bussin’ With The Boys podcast, former Raiders linebacker Will Compton got very honest about his impressions of Guenther.
At about 31:20 into the podcast, Compton said that he believes the team made the right move by letting him go.
“I will say it was interesting being there at times,” Compton said. “When I was taking Tahir’s [Whitehead] job, you felt like they were throwing Tahir under the bus a little bit. And being a player that was in those meetings, during the game, understanding how the headset works and all that stuff, there would be blame pushed around that you just hate seeing because you don’t want to be playing the blame game in the middle of the year.”
Compton wasn’t with the team for the whole season but he did play in nine games and started four of them. He was there when they started off 6-4 and he was also there when they went 1-5 down the stretch. He should have a very good idea of what Guenther does and doesn’t do well.
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Compton Talks Guenther’s Deficiencies
Compton isn’t a big-name player but he’s been around the NFL and has been coached by a lot of guys. At this point, he can tell a good defensive coach from a bad one. While he was being as mild as possible when talking about Guenther, he did give some insight into what he thought the defensive coordinator was lacking:
What you want to see in a coach is somebody who can coach, someone who can teach game plans, who can help players understand why you are building a scheme in the first place. You want to be able to inspire your athletes. You want to be relatable to guys. You want to be optimistic. You want to be somebody that you know when you go in is going to have a good attitude because you’re all going to figure it out together. You want a coach that when bad stuff happens that you see take blame. I don’t want to get into too much, but in my opinion [Paul Guenther] didn’t check a lot of those boxes.
It sounds like Guenther’s biggest problem was that he wasn’t much of a leader for the defense to turn to. The Raiders have a very young group of guys so it would’ve been beneficial to have a really strong voice coaching them. Jon Gruden coaches the offense and gives his defensive coordinator a lot of freedom. If the Raiders want to succeed on defense, they need somebody who can essentially be the head coach of the group.
Compton Believes There Was Poor Communication From Guenther
Guenther had success as a defensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals but that was a much different situation. He inherited Mike Zimmer’s defense, who is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL. Also, the team was coached by Marvin Lewis, who was responsible for coaching the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense, which is one of the greatest in history. Gruden should be very familiar with that team.
Guenther also had plenty of talented veterans to work with. Having guys like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap makes things a lot easier. There was no evidence that Guenther could take over a bad defense and turn them around. Based on what Compton had to say, it makes sense why the coach didn’t work out:
There would be times where the communication would be off-kilter, there would be a jam in the middle of communicating throughout the week. There was a lot of stuff you didn’t understand why we did things. An entire game plan was open on game day, whether or not you worked on it in the week. I remember sitting there, I was on Facetime with my fiancé and I was gearing up to play, I want to say it was my first start and, again, I’m still trying to catch up to a lot of stuff and I’m sitting there going over our third down plan and I’m like we’ve got about 25-30 calls on just third down defense. Which is a lot for a defense because you only have so many plays you can run during the week. When you are game planning and practicing, you have about 30-ish plays that you run during practice. Fifteen of those you might be working on third down on Thursday. One day a week you are working on specifically third down, you tie it all together on Friday and Saturday you do a couple plays, but to get through a lot of the game planning it would be hard because you run a lot of the new calls and stuff and then when you get in the game, the entire book was open. It was like a Madden playbook … there was just a lot going on.
People can blame the lack of talent and spending on defense for why the Raiders struggled. However, it’s clear that Guenther did have some serious problems as a defensive coordinator. Perhaps he would have success being able to coach a veteran defense. He clearly wasn’t the right guy to develop a young defense.
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