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Gunther Cunningham

Gunther Cunningham (June 19, 1946 – May 11, 2019) was an American football head coach. He served as the Kansas City Chiefs head coach for two seasons. He also had two stints as the Chiefs' Defensive Coordinator. He served as an assistant coach for five other National Football League (NFL) teams and four college teams. He coached football for 47 consecutive seasons without taking any years off.

Gunther Cunningham
Personal information
Born:(1946-06-19)June 19, 1946
Munich, Germany
Died:May 11, 2019(2019-05-11) (aged 72)
Career information
Career history
As coach:
  • Oregon (1969–1971)
    Defensive line coach
  • Arkansas (1972)
    Defensive line coach
  • Stanford (1973)
    Assistant offensive line & freshman coach
  • Stanford (1974–1976)
    Defensive line coach
  • California (1977)
    Defensive backs coach
  • California (1978)
    Linebackers coach
  • California (1979–1980)
    Defensive coordinator & defensive line coach
  • Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1981)
    Defensive line coach & linebackers coach
  • Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts (1982–1984)
    Defensive line coach & linebackers coach
  • San Diego Chargers (1985–1990)
    Defensive line coach
  • Los Angeles Raiders (1991)
    Linebackers coach
  • Los Angeles Raiders (1992–1993)
    Defensive coordinator
  • Los Angeles Raiders (1994)
    Defensive line coach
  • Kansas City Chiefs (1995–1998)
    Defensive coordinator
  • Kansas City Chiefs (1999–2000)
    Head coach
  • Tennessee Titans (2001–2003)
    Assistant head coach & linebackers coach
  • Kansas City Chiefs (2004–2008)
    Defensive coordinator
  • Detroit Lions (2009–2013)
    Defensive coordinator
  • Detroit Lions (2014–2016)
    Senior coaching assistant
Head coaching record
Regular season:16–16 (.500)
Coaching stats at PFR

Early lifeEdit

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.[1] He attended the University of Oregon, where he played linebacker and placekicker before embarking on a coaching career that spanned almost forty years.

Coaching careerEdit

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. In his first season, the Chiefs finished 9-7, but were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the season when the Oakland Raiders's Joe Nedney kicked a field goal as time expired. After the Chiefs regressed to 7-9 a year later, Cunningham was fired and replaced by Dick Vermeil. The move was controversial at the time as Cunningham claimed he was never informed by management that he was to be fired and 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.[2]

Personal lifeEdit

He became a naturalized U.S. citizen on April 6, 2010.[3] Cunningham and his wife, René, had two children, Adam and Natalie. Cunningham died on Saturday, May 11, 2019 from cancer.[4][5]

Head coaching recordEdit

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
KC 1999 9 7 0 .563 2nd in AFC West - - - -
KC 2000 7 9 0 .438 3rd in AFC West - - - -
KC Total 16 16 0 .500 - - - -
NFL Total[6] 16 16 0 .500 - - - -
Total 16 16 0 .500 - - - -


  1. ^ [1] "Born: June 19, 1946 (Age: 70-313d) in Munich, Germany"
  2. ^ "Lions hire Cunningham as defensive coordinator". Detroit News. January 21, 2009.
  3. ^ "Lions coordinator Gunther Cunningham travels long road from Germany to U.S. citizen". Detroit News. July 2, 2010.
  4. ^ "Former Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham dead at 72". May 13, 2019. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  5. ^ "Ex-Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham dead at 72". Detroit Free Press.
  6. ^ "Gunther Cunningham Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks".

External linksEdit