Saunders welcomes return to St. Louis
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Feb. 01 2008
When Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs resigned unexpectedly Jan. 8, Scott
Linehan took particular notice.
No, the Rams' third-year coach wasn't interested in replacing Gibbs. Linehan,
searching for an offensive coordinator, wondered if Al Saunders, Gibbs'
associate head coach on offense, might enter the market.
"I was following what was going on in Washington," Linehan said. "I was really
looking for somebody like him."
Linehan received permission from the Redskins to approach Saunders. So when
Saunders officially was dismissed Saturday, their discussions already had
reached an advanced stage.
"Scott and I had been talking for over a week," Saunders said Thursday, a day
after Linehan hired him to replace Greg Olson. "It seemed to be just a real
great fit for me, and I'm real anxious to be part of the Rams family again."
Saunders, 60, was Dick Vermeil's wide receivers coach here in 1999 and 2000.
Saunders, who also held the title of associate head coach, was heavily involved
in putting together the "Greatest Show on Turf" offensive machine that helped
turn the Rams from 4-12 division doormats in 1999 to Super Bowl champions the
The "Show" folded its tents long ago, however, and the Rams last season
finished 24th in the NFL in total offense and 28th in scoring. Although a raft
of injuries, especially on the line, contributed to the downturn, Linehan
decided that he needed veteran assistance to rebuild the attack.
"Scott is committed to winning, and he reached out," Saunders said. "He said he
thought he needed some help in this area and he felt like I was the person that
could help him."
In pitching the job, Linehan — a former offensive coordinator with Minnesota
and Miami — assured that Saunders would have complete control over the offense.
Well, almost complete.
"I told Al, 'Just give me one idea a week that you've got to seriously
consider,'" Linehan quipped.
Saunders said Linehan told him "that I can run the offense in planning,
preparation and play-calling, which was very important to me. I think I have a
philosophy of football that will allow us to be successful if all the pieces
fall in place.
"But it's still a group dynamic; it's never one person. We'll all be in it
Saunders began shaping his offensive philosophy when he was Don Coryell's wide
receivers coach in San Diego in the early 1980s. Saunders likes to use multiple
receiver sets in an aggressive passing attack. But he also tries to create
balance with a strong running game.
"I really believe in being a very diversified team ... being able to run the
ball and pass the football with equal efficiency," Saunders explained. "I think
the offense is fun to play in, and I think the fans enjoy watching it. I think
it's entertaining, and hopefully we'll be very productive."
During Saunders' five years as Kansas City's coordinator, the Chiefs were an
offensive powerhouse. He didn't have the same kind of success in Washington,
but he didn't have the same kind of talent, either.
While noting that the offensive line "probably will need some attention,"
Saunders said the Rams have many of the pieces in position to put up big
numbers. He stressed that several of the key cogs — quarterback Marc Bulger,
running back Steven Jackson, wideouts Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and left
tackle Orlando Pace — have Pro Bowl credentials.
"You piece everything else together to make yourself as consistent at you
possibly can be," Saunders said. "It's about players and matchups in this game,
and I think you really have to do a great job of adjusting your personnel to
the system that you run and taking advantage of the playmakers that you have."
Linehan, who has made four staff changes since the end of the Rams' 3-13
season, said he wasn't anticipating other major moves. Still, he suggested that
he might not have finished reshuffling.
"There could be a change or two," he said. "But as far as anything significant,
I don't foresee anything."
RAM-BLINGS — Offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, fired by the Rams, has been
hired to do the same job with the Falcons.
Re: Saunders welcomes return to St. Louis
I'm very happy to have Al Saunders on board "BUT" won't this be like trying to mix oil and water?
Linehan is very big on protecting the ball, low risk if you will. Al Saunders is going to bring in that high flying yet balanced attack with a high risk hopefully high reward offense. Not to mention Saunders is a players coach not a coaches coach.
I can see a clash if things don't go right on the Offensive side of the ball.
UFC 100 (Battle of the Coaches) :)