Date of Birth: February 1, 1947
Place of Birth: London, England
Al Saunders became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1960.
In college Saunders played defensive back and wide receiver for the Spartans of San Jose State University (SJSU) from 1966-1968. He was a three year starter, team captain and an Academic All-American.
Saunders began his career as a graduate assistant under John McKay at USC (1970-1971). He then coached the receivers at Missouri (1972) before heading the offensive backfield at Utah State (1973-1975). He was an assistant head coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at California from (1976-1981). Leading an offense that set 32 national, conference and school records. In 1982 he served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Johnny Majors at the University of Tennessee.
Saunders first NFL job was with the San Diego Chargers as the wide receivers coach (1983-1986) under Don Coryell. He filled in as the interim head coach halfway through the 1986 season when Don Coryell resigned. At the time of Coryells' resignation the Chargers had a won/loss record of 1-7. Saunders coached the Chargers to a 3-5 record for the final 8 games of the 1986 season. Saunders was selected as the Chargers head coach for the 1987 & 1988 seasons. Under Saunders leadership in 1987 the Chargers won 8 games in a row. The teams longest winning streak in 26 seasons. The team finished the 1986 season with an 8-7* record, a four game improvement from the team's 4-12 finish the previous year.
*- The 1987 season was reduced by 1 game because of a 24 day players strike. The games that were scheduled for the third week of the season were cancelled, but the games for weeks 4-6 were played with replacement players. 85% of the veteran players did not cross the picket lines during the strike, putting the integrity of the 1987 season in question.
Saunder's 1988 Chargers finished the 88' campaign with a 6-10 record. Overall Saunders NFL head coaching record is (17-22).
He than moved on to join the Kansas City Chiefs (1989-1998) under Marty Schottenheimer as the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach.
(1999-2000) saw Saunders join the ST. LOUIS RAMS as the wide receivers coach and he also served as associate head coach in 2000. During that two year span, Saunders helped revitalize a RAMS offense as the team steamrolled its way to 13-3 regular season record in 1999 and a Superbowl win over the Tennessee Titans.
The RAMS paced the NFL that season with 6,412 yards of total offense, good for a remarkable 400.8 yards per game average. The RAMS also led the the NFL in passing offense with 272.1 yards per game and scoring with a 32.9 points per game average. The 526 total points scored by the 99' RAMS ranked as the fourth highest point total ever at that time.
In 2000, Saunders was part of a ST. LOUIS coaching staff that helped the RAMS score 540 points (33.8 points per game), the third highest single season total in NFL history. The team also led the NFL with a record 442.2 yards of total offense per game. The RAMS also led in the NFL in passing offense (327.0 yards per game) for the second straight season setting another league record in the process. ST. LOUIS amassed 7,075 yards of total offense and 5,232 passing yards, breaking the previous marks established by the 1984 Dolphins.
Saunders than moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs from (2001-2005) as their assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.
In 2002, Kansas City broke or tied 22 single season team offensive records. Most notably, Kansas city turned the ball over a franchise low 15 times (non-strike season) and broke two long standing NFL records by fumbling just seven times and losing only two of those fumbles. The Chiefs averaged 148.6 rushing yards per game to rank third in the NFL.
The Chiefs led the NFL in scoring in both the 2002 and 2003 seasons, becoming the first AFC team to lead the league in scoring in back-to-back seasons since San Diego in 1981-82. During the 2003 season alone, the Chiefs piled up a franchise record 484 points after registering a league high 467 points in 2002.
2004 saw the Chiefs lead the NFL in total offense for the first time in franchise history, accumulating a franchise record 6,695 yards or an average of 418.4 yards per game. Kansas City also set a new NFL record with 398 first downs, breaking the previous mark of 387 set by the 84' Dolphins.
Saunders led the Kansas City Chiefs offense to a number one overall ranking in the NFL for 2005, which was the second season in a row that they led the NFL.
Dating back to 2001 when Al Saunders took over as offensive coordinator, the Chiefs ranked first in the NFL with 30,470 net yards of total offense (373.9) yards per game.The Chiefs impressive numbers during that 80 game span from 2001-2005 are also the league's best in seven categories.
Total first downs-(1,760)
Red Zone TD%-(64.1)
Runs of 10+ yards-(312)
Passing yards per attempt-(7.83)
Passing yards per completion-(12.61)
On Januaryn 19, 2006, Al Saunders joined the coaching staff of the Washington Redskins as the associate head coach/offensive coordinator.
Thus reuniting him with fellow Don "AIR" Coryell alumun Joe Gibbs. At the time his 3 year, 6 million dollar contract made him the second highest paid assistant coach in the NFL behind Greg Williams.
In his first season at the helm, the Redskins offense managed the type of impressive numbers in many categories that has been commonplace for a Saunders' led offensive unit.
The team finished fourth in the league in rushing, averaging 138.5 yards per game and a league leading 41 carries of 10 yards or more. Also the offensive line was protecting the quarterback allowing just 19 sacks (third fewest in the NFL) and protecting the football with just 17 giveaways.(second fewest in the NFL)
At the end of the 2007 season Joe Gibbs announced his retirement which led to the demise of Al Saunders and Jim Zorn was hired as the new offensive coordinator.
In total, Al Saunders has been associated with 11 postseason appearances, five division crowns and a Superbowl victory. He was named USA Today's NFL Offensive Coach of the Year in 2005.
In closing I would like to add my own opinion of the Al Saunders hiring by our RAMS.
Obviously this hiring is a huge improvement over our previous offensive coordinator. (Greg Olson)
We all know Randy McMichael's in for a career resurgence under Saunders. We also know that Steven Jackson figures to be the RAMS offensive weapon of choice. What about Torry Holt?
In Saunders last two stints prior to coming to our RAMS (2001-2005) in KC and (2006-2007) in Washington the tightend stats ranked right up there with the teams' wide receivers' numbers. Last season in Washington, TE Chris Cooley led the Redskins in catches and TD receptions and just 22 fewer yards than team leader Santana Moss. Don't forget, Washington's QB situation was a mess during Saunders' time there. With the Chiefs, TE Tony Gonzalez led the team in receiving in all but two seasons during Saunders stint there, when Eddie Kennison edged him out.
I would hardly compare Moss and Kennison to Holt. Yeah Moss and Kennison are solid players but they've never been on the same plateau as Torry Holt.
What I'm getting at is that Al Saunders has stepped into a job where he has alot of proven weapons he can rely on. At least more than he has had in previous seasons except of course in the case of our 1999 & 2000 RAMS.
Saunders has worked with or under some very impressive names. John McKay, Johnny Majors, Don Coryell, Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil, Mike Martz and Joe Gibbs to name a few.
With our offensive and defensive units being led by Al Saunders and Jim Haslett respectively, Head Coach Scott Linehan has put together a very impressive duo.
We all know last season was destroyed by injury (legitimate excuse for Linehan?) but now's the time. We have the pieces in place both coaching and personnel wise.
It's do or die time for Head Coach Scott Linehan.
I am looking forward to a very exciting 2009 season.
Re: Al Saunders
What a record of excellence Saunders has on offense, even better than I thought when you actually have all the numbers in front of you to look at.
I'm surprised the Redskins didn't give him a shot as headcoach when the spot opened up. I think I'd have picked him over Zorn.
If you can't get excited about this hire for OC I don't know what to say. He seems like an absolutely perfect fit to me. I hope Linehan lets him loose and gives him free hands, if he does I'm sure he'll help a lot to improve this offense.
Re: Al Saunders
I enjoy Saunders in some schemes but overall he lacks a punch. Under Martz he was directed to execute and with the other coaches he was given free reign and nothing came about in terms of post season impact and or Championship caliber clubs. So my wait and see is still in doubt until he can prove consistently that he can improve this team this year. Coach Linehan has the right mix of coaches and now he is really on the hot seat. Just like Dick Vermeil was back in 1998. This team has lots of talent and if they put it together the NFC west is for the taking.
Re: Al Saunders
He will get the offense going again. Good hire by Linehan.