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Cunningham at a 2007 Chiefs practice.

Gunther Cunningham (born June 19, 1946 in Munich, Germany) is an American football defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions. Cunningham has presided over some of the most successful defenses in NFL history (1995 & 1997), typically ranking at the top of the league in many statistical categories.

Cunningham was born in 1946 in war-torn Munich, Germany to an American serviceman and a German mother before moving to the United States at age ten. He attended the University of Oregon, where he played linebacker and placekicker before embarking on a coaching career that has now spanned almost forty years. In 1995, Cunningham was hired by the Chiefs as the defensive coordinator after spending the previous four seasons as a coach with the Los Angeles Raiders.

During his original tenure as defensive coordinator, Cunningham's defenses allowed an average of only 16.4 points per game, the best mark in the NFL and had a turnover margin of +30, tops in the AFC. Under his lead, a number of players excelled, including stars such as Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, James Hasty, and Dale Carter. Cunningham's defenses led Kansas City to an overall record of 42-22.

After the Chiefs missed the playoffs in 1998, head coach Marty Schottenheimer resigned, opening the door for Cunningham's promotion to the head coach position. After finishing two seasons with a .500 win percentage, Cunningham was fired and replaced by Dick Vermeil. The move was controversial at the time as Cunningham claims he was never informed by management that he was to be fired, and apparently only found out about it after discovering the article regarding his termination on the Chiefs website after he showed up to work one morning. Cunningham went on to become a successful linebackers coach for the Tennessee Titans. Under Vermeil, the Chiefs' offense exploded, but its defense struggled, resulting in the firing of Vermeil's choice of defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson. Cunningham was hired again to revitalize a defense that had finished near or at the bottom of the overall rankings since Schottenheimer and Cunningham departed.

For the 2008 season, Cunningham coached the Chiefs' linebackers as well as serving as the defensive coordinator.

Cunningham was hired as the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator on January 21, 2009, about a week after the Lions hired new head coach Jim Schwartz, who he worked with on the Titans from 2001-2003.[1]

According to a September 16, 1996 Sports Illustrated article titled "The Beat Goes On", Gunther holds the unofficial NFL record for most times the f-word was used in a 40-minute practice. The record stands at 118 times.


External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Dave Adolph
Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Coordinators
Succeeded by
Kurt Schottenheimer
Preceded by
Marty Schottenheimer
Kansas City Chiefs Head Coaches
January 22, 1999–January 5, 2001
Succeeded by
Dick Vermeil
Preceded by
Greg Robinson
Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Coordinators
Succeeded by
Clancy Pendergast
Preceded by
Joe Barry
Detroit Lions Defensive Coordinators
Succeeded by


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