. . . Al Saunders
It's relatively long, but wow this guy has been around for a long time.
Bio from the chiefs website.
Regarded as one of the most accomplished and innovative offensive minds in all of football with experience as both a head coach and offensive coordinator, Al Saunders enters his fifth season as assistant head coach/offensive coordinator for the Chiefs in 2005.
Embarking on his 36th season in the coaching ranks this year, Saunders owns 23 years of NFL coaching experience and is beginning his 15th coaching campaign with Kansas City. He previously served a 10-year stint as assistant head coach/wide receivers coach under head coach Marty Schottenheimer from ‘89-98. During that 10-year span, he was part of a Chiefs coaching staff which helped guide Kansas City to three AFC West titles and seven playoff berths. In total, Saunders has been associated with 10 postseason appearances, five division crowns and a World Championship during his NFL tenure.
In 2004, the Chiefs led 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 ypg. In the process, Kansas City established an NFL record with 398 first downs, breaking the previous mark of 387 set by the ‘84 Dolphins.
In total, the 2004 Chiefs ranked in the NFL’s top five in each of the four major offensive categories for the first time in team history: total offense (1st - 418.4 ypg), scoring offense (2nd - 30.2 ppg), pass offense (4th - 275.4 ypg) and rush offense (5th - 143.1 ypg). Last season, Kansas City also led the NFL in 24 different offensive categories, while tying or breaking 18 different single-season team records, including marks for offensive TDs (58), third-down conversion percentage (47.2%), most games with 400 or more yards of total offense (nine) and most consecutive 400-yard games (five).
Under Saunders, the Chiefs have also continued their unprecendented production in the running game. Kansas City tied a 42-year-old NFL record by registering 63 rushing TDs over the 2003-04 seasons, a two-season mark originally established by the ‘61-62 Packers. Those numbers were bolstered by three-time Pro Bowl running back Priest Holmes who registered an NFL-record 27 rushing TDs in 2003. The 2004 Chiefs owned the distinction of becoming the first team in league history to have three different backs produce a 150-yard rushing game in a season and were the initial NFL squad to ever rush for eight TDs in a league contest.
Simply put, Saunders has presided over the NFL’s most prolific scoring offense over the last four seasons. During that span, no NFL team has registered more points than the 1,754 accumulated by the Chiefs, an average of 27.4 ppg. In 2004, Kansas City scored 30+ points in five consecutive games, a first in team history. The Chiefs led the NFL in scoring in both 2002 and 2003, becoming the first AFC team to lead the league in scoring in back-to-back seasons since San Diego in ‘81-82. During the 2003 season alone, the Chiefs piled up a franchise-record 484 points after registering a league-high 467 points in 2002.
Dating back to 2001 when Saunders took over as offensive coordinator, the Chiefs rank first in the NFL with 24,278 net yards of total offense (379.3 ypg). The Chiefs oppulent numbers during that 64-game span from 2001-04 are also the league’s best in the following seven categories: offensive TDs (200), rushing TDs (105), total first downs (1,413), Red Zone TD percentage (64.3%), runs of 10+ yards (255), passing yards per attempt (7.79) and passing yards per completion (12.58).
Since Saunders returned to Kansas City in 2001, seven different Chiefs offensive players have earned Pro Bowl honors — G Will Shields, T Willie Roaf, TE Tony Gonzalez, RB Priest Holmes, QB Trent Green, FB Tony Richardson and G Brian Waters. While the Chiefs ground exploits are well-documented, Kansas City has also developed a prolific passing attack under Saunders’ direction. In 2004, Green boasted a franchise-high eight 300-yard passing games as Kansas City rolled up franchise records with 370 completions and 4,406 net passing yards. Kansas City also established team records with 228 passing first downs and an overall 65.95 completion percentage. Meanwhile, Gonzalez shattered the NFL single-season receiving record for tight ends with 102 receptions last season as the six-time Pro Bowl tight end had six of Kansas City’s 14 individual 100-yard receiving efforts. The Chiefs also boasted a 1,000-yard receiving tandem for just the second time in team history as both Gonzalez (1,258) and WR Eddie Kennison (1,086) topped that lofty plateau.
But record-breaking numbers have been the norm for Kansas City’s offense under Saunders. In 2003, the Chiefs led the league in 18 different offensive categories, including virtually every Red Zone category. That season, Kansas City owned NFL-high marks in Red Zone points (324), Red Zone TDs (42), Red Zone scoring percentage (98.1) and Red Zone TD percentage (77.8). The Chiefs also paced the NFL with a +19 turnover differential during the 2003 campaign.
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 as Holmes finished the year with 2,287 yards from scrimmage, 1,615 ground yards and nine 100-yard rushing games, all figures which established team single-season records.
The foundation for Kansas City’s offensive onslaught was established in 2001 when Kansas City finished the year ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in rushing, passing and total offense for just the second time since the AFL-NFL merger. That season, Holmes led the NFL in rushing with 1,555 ground yards becoming the first Chiefs back to pace the league since RB Christian Okoye in ‘89.
Prior to rejoining the Chiefs, Saunders spent two seasons with St. Louis where he coached wide receivers and also served as associate head coach in 2000. During that two-year span, Saunders helped revitalize a Rams offense as the club steamrolled its way to a 13-3 regular season record in ‘99 and a triumph over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV. Owning an energetic and hands-on style, Saunders continues to invigorate the Kansas City offense in much the same way.
Presiding over high-flying offenses is nothing new for this veteran coach. In 2000, Saunders was part of a St. Louis coaching staff which helped the Rams score 540 points (33.8 ppg), the third-highest single-season total in NFL history. The club also led the league with an NFL-record 442.2 yards of total offense per game and paced the NFL in passing offense (327.0 ypg) 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 ‘84 Miami Dolphins.
En route to their World Championship in ‘99, the Rams paced the NFL with 6,412 yards of total offense, good for a remarkable 400.8 ypg average. St. Louis also led the league in passing offense with 272.1 yards per game and topped the NFL in scoring by averaging 32.9 points per contest. The 526 total points amassed by the ‘99 squad ranked as the fourth-highest tally in NFL annals.
The St. Louis receiving corps under the direction of Saunders was responsible for a large portion of those record-setting numbers. WR Isaac Bruce made the Pro Bowl in each of his seasons working with Saunders and led the Rams in 2000 with 87 receptions, while garnering 1,471 yards and nine TDs. WR Torry Holt had a breakout year under Saunders’ tutelage in 2000, leading the league in receiving yards (1,635) and yards per catch (19.9) while earning his first Pro Bowl appearance after grabbing 82 receptions and scoring six TDs. WR Az-Zahir Hakim also made significant progress during Saunders’ stay in St. Louis. After producing just 20 catches for 247 yards and one score as a rookie in ‘98, by the 2000 campaign he had grabbed 53 balls for 734 yards and four TDs. Bruce, Holt and Hakim join a stellar list of receivers tutored by Saunders, a group that includes Pro Football Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow (San Diego) and Lynn Swann (Southern California).
Before initially joining the Chiefs in ‘89, Saunders served as San Diego’s head coach from the midpoint of the ‘86 season through the ‘88 campaign. In his first full season as head coach in ‘87 he guided the Chargers to an 8-7 record, a four-game improvement from the club’s 4-12 finish the previous year. That 8-7 record represented San Diego’s first winning season in five years and included a perfect 3-0 record in replacement games, a feat matched only by Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs that season. Under Saunders’ direction in ‘87, the Chargers also won eight straight games, the club’s longest winning streak in 26 seasons. He joined San Diego in ‘83 as receivers coach in what was one of the most exiting and prolific pass offenses in NFL history. Behind Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts and the Chargers electrifying receiving corps coached by Saunders, San Diego led the league in passing and total offense in both ‘83 and ‘85.
Saunders began his career as a graduate assistant under John McKay at Southern California (’70-71). He then coached receivers at Missouri (’72) before heading the offensive backfield at Utah State (’73-75). He was an assistant head coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at California from ‘76-81, leading an offense that set 32 national, conference and school records. In ‘82, he served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Johnny Majors at the University of Tennessee.
Born in London, England, he became one of only four foreign-born head coaches in NFL history after becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in ‘60. A three-year starter, team captain and Academic All-America pick as a defensive back at San Jose State (’66-68), Saunders also played wide receiver for the Spartans and is enshrined in the school’s Hall of Fame. As a recipient of California’s State Graduate Fellowship for Academic Excellence, he earned a Master’s degree in education from Stanford and was a doctoral candidate in athletic administration and sports management at USC.
Saunders has been recognized in Who’s Who in America and was awarded California’s prestigious Golden State Award for community leadership and service in ‘89. A former All-America swimmer and national record holder, Saunders is also an accomplished distance runner. In ‘96, he competed in the Kansas City and Los Angeles Marathons, as well as the 100th running of the Boston Marathon and was also crowned the Road Runners Club of America’s (R.R.C.A.) Masters 5K National Champion.
Education: Stanford (M.A. ‘70), San Jose State (B.A. ‘69).
Family: Wife - Karen; Children - sons Bob and Joe, and daughter Kori.
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