GRETZ: 21st Century Offense, Part 3
Jul 22, 2005, 3:52:51 AM by Bob Gretz - FAQ

(This is the third of a three-part series on the Chiefs offense distilled from stories that appear in the 2005 Chiefs Yearbook which will be available soon.)
Part 1 | Part 2

On the back wall of Al Saunders’ office at Arrowhead are row after row of thick binders. They represent the game plan for every one of the Chiefs games since he took over as offensive coordinator in 2001.

All of those game plan binders hold the 200 to 300 plays that the Chiefs had at the ready for that week’s opponent. How those plays and pages came together is the part of the secret of the team’s offensive success.

“When does it begin? I’m not sure it ever stops,” Saunders said of the game planning exercise. “When we go through our off-season work, when we go to training camp we are working on plays, sometimes with specific opponents in mind.

“Especially at this point with our team and how experienced the players and this coaching staff are in the system.”

It all comes down to this.

“We want more tools in our box than our opponent,” said Saunders. “We want tools to take advantage of every single thing we want to be able to do, and we want to be able to dictate that.”

The preparation of the tool box each week is based on the foundation of keeping the opponent guessing. The planning is compartmentalized, with different coaches handling different aspects of the scheme. Unlike many other teams, the Chiefs offensive staff does not meet as a group to discuss the game plan.

Offensive line coach Mike Solari is in charge of the running game, consulting with offensive line assistant Irv Eatman and running backs coach James Saxon. Saunders leads the planning of the passing game with quarterbacks coach Terry Shea and wide receivers coach Charlie Joiner. Tight ends coach Jason Verduzco works with both groups.

The week really starts with the previous Sunday.


Once the game that day is over, especially if the Chiefs have played at Arrowhead Stadium, Saunders showers, maybe goes out and has a bite of dinner and then returns to the office to watch the tape of the game.

“It’s more for me, because I’m not going to be able to go home and relax without having a chance to go through the game and find the situations where I should have done this or that and find out why a play didn’t work the way we thought,” said Saunders.


The day starts early for the coaching staff, as they breakdown the previous day’s game, give each player a grade and then meet as a group with Saunders at 8 a.m. to discuss the results. If it’s a “Victory Monday” after a successful Chiefs performance, the review ends after that meeting. If the team’s coming off a loss, then the coaches prepare for meeting with the players in late morning.

Win or lose, once the review is completed, attention shifts to the next opponent. Offensive assistant Bob Saunders prepares a scouting report highlighting elements like defensive tendencies and use of personnel. Individual coaches break down this information for their position or responsibility.

“It’s by computer, it’s by video, it’s by the telephone, it’s by whatever method might be available,” said Saunders. “Each coach works in his assigned area and position.”

With the Chiefs that breaks down this way: Saxon handles the red zone (inside the opponent’s 20-yard line) run game, Joiner the red zone pass game, Solari the run game and pass protections, Verduzco the two-minute offense, Shea third down passing and Eatman handles goal-line and short-yardage schemes.

“The result is that each guy becomes an expert in that area,” said Saunders. “There are only so many days, so many hours between games. This makes us more efficient.”

The themes the coaching staff zeroes in on are opponent’s scheme and personnel.

“What do they do, how do they do it and who do they use to do it, that’s the information we are trying to gather,” he said.


The game plan for the running game is put together first, as the coaches involved meet with Solari. At 11 a.m., Solari and Saunders get together.

“Mike comes in with a skeleton of the running game, where the coaches think we can get an edge on the defense,” said Saunders. “Mike might say we should run this type of play and we go back and forth and put together the runs for the week.”

By 1 p.m. Saunders attention turns to the passing game and over two hours, Saunders and those coaches discuss the opponent, kick around ideas and narrow the scope of the game plan.

Two hours later, the discussions turns to what the Chiefs call “specials”: draws, screens, special plays, like a double-reverse pass, an end around, things of that nature.

When all that’s completed, the game plan gets typed up, drawn up and collated. Playbooks for the week are prepared and the plan is sent to the three quarterbacks.


The work on Tuesday creates what the Chiefs call their “mixdown” offense. That’s what is put into effect during Wednesday’s practice. After looking at the practice tape and a bite of dinner, Wednesday night is spent on the third-down scheme.


This day is a lot like Wednesday, with the offense working on third down situations in practices, while the staff works late into the night on the plan for the red area run and pass, goal line, short yardage and two minute offense.


Thursday night’s plan is played out on the field in Friday’s practice.

Once that’s put away, Saunders begins his personal process of putting together the pieces for the game. It includes coming up with 30 plays: 10 runs, 10 passes and 10 specials, designed for that game in particular.

“We have 200, 250, 300 plays in any given week,” Saunders said. “The 30 plays are distilled from that and kind of narrows the focus to get us started. Depending on game conditions, we’ll use those plays early in the game.”


At Saturday morning’s offensive meeting, Saunders presents the 30 plays to the offense. If there is a walk-through practice on the field, the offense goes through these plays at a slow pace.

Game day comes and the process starts again ..

Go get em Al !!! If nothing else we'll have "intensity" ..