Al Saunders

Al Saunders
Cleveland Browns
Position: Senior offensive assistant
Personal information
Date of birth: (1947-02-01) February 1, 1947
Place of birth: London, England
Career information
High school: St. Ignatius Prep
College: San Jose State
Career history
As coach:
Head coaching record
Regular season: 17–22 (.436)
Coaching stats at PFR

Alan Keith Saunders (born February 1, 1947) is an American football coach who is the senior offensive assistant for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL).

Personal life

Saunders was born in the north London suburb of Hendon as part of a sporting family; his great-uncle, Ron Saunders, played soccer for a number of teams in The Football League and later became a manager, winning honours with Norwich City and Aston Villa.

Saunders is an honors graduate and member of the San Jose State University Hall of Fame. He earned Academic All-American Football honors as a three-year starter and team captain at defensive back and wide receiver from 1966-68. A recipient of AAHPER'S John F. Kennedy Memorial scholarship and California's state graduate fellowship, Saunders earned a master's degree in education from Stanford University in 1970. Recognized in Who's Who in America he was awarded California's prestigious Golden State Award in 1989, given for outstanding community leadership and service. A former All-American swimmer and national record holder in the sport he was also an accomplished distance runner, crowned the Road Runners Club of America’s Master 5K National Champion in 1996.

Saunders is married to the former Karen Mize, daughter of television personality and recording artist Billy Mize. While recording for Columbia and United Artists, Mize was winner of the Academy of Country Music's Personality of the Year award each year from 1965-1967. Saunders has three children, distinguished clinical psychologist Dr. Korrin Saunders, Emmy Award winning director/producer William J. Saunders and NFL assistant coach Bob Saunders.

Coaching career

As a coach in the national Football League Saunders has been part of 15 playoff teams, five division titles and one Super Bowl championship. 20 times his offensive units have ranked first in the NFL in total offense, passing, rushing or scoring.

Prior to entering the NFL, Saunders spent 12 years as an assistant at the collegiate level. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant as USC under the legendary John McKay from 1970–71 and served as receivers coach on the University of Missouri Fiesta Bowl team in 1972.

Following three seasons as play-caller and offensive backfield coach at Utah State, where Louie Giammona led the nation in all-purpose yardage for two consecutive years (1974–75), Saunders spent six season at California as assistant head coach/ offensive coordinator/ quartbacks coach. With all American QB’s Joe Roth and Rich Campbell he guided the golden Bears to 32 NCAA, conference and school records and finished each season ranked in the top 10 in the nation in passing. His final collegiate stop was in 1982 as offensive coordinator/ quarterbacks coach under Johnny Majors at the University of Tennessee, where he again tutored one of the NCAA’s most explosive offenses featuring NFL first round draft pick wide receivers Willie Gault and Clyd Duncan. [1]

His first NFL head coaching position came with the San Diego Chargers as interim head coach in 1986 following the resignation of Don Coryell. He spent two full seasons as the Chargers head coach after previously filling the roles of assistant head coach (1985–86) and receivers coach (1983–84) for “Air Coryell,” one of the most exciting and prolific offenses in NFL history. In 1985, the Chargers led the NFL in both passing and total offense for an unprecedented fifth time in six seasons. Saunders toutored Hall of Fame receivers Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner and was credited with the development of pro bowlers Wes Chandler, Lionel James and Gary Anderson .[2][2]

For 10 years from 19891998, Saunders was with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he served as the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach under Marty Schottenheimer.[3]

Saunders would then join the St. Louis Rams coaching staff under Dick Vermeil As associate head coach/receivers Saunders was part of a coaching staff that helped create “The Greatest Show on Turf,” establishing NFL records in 2000 of 7,075 total yards, 5,232 passing yards and 540 points (33.8 avg.). In 1999 the Rams finished atop the NFL with 6,412 yards of total offense, 272.1 passing yards per game and 32.9 points per game en route to winning Super Bowl XXXIV. His work with future Hall of fame receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce was largely cited as a key factor in the Rams innovative and creative offensive success.[4]

Saunders would rejoin the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001 as the assistant head coach/ offensive coordinator when Vermeil came out of retirement. In his second stint with the Chiefs, Saunders built the NFL's top offense, which was ranked #1 in the NFL from 20022005. Saunders’ offense established 46 franchise records and exploded with 2,157 points, 262 touchdowns and 30,470 net yards, more than any other NFL team across those five seasons. In 2005, he was named USA Today’s Offensive Coach of the Year as the Chiefs offense led the NFL for a second consecutive year. In 2004 the Chiefs led the NFL in total offense for the first time in team history, accumulating a franchise-record 6,695 yards (418.4 avg.) and breaking or tying 18 single-season records. The chiefs also broke or tied numerous NFL records, establishing a single-season record with 398 first downs and tying a 42-year old mark with 63 rushing touchdowns over two seasons. Kansas City became the first team in NFL history to produce three running backs that recorded 150-yard rushing performances in a single game and was the first team to post eight rushing touchdowns in one game. Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez also set the NFL single-season receiving mark for tight ends with 102 receptions and QB Trent Green had over 300 yards passing in eight games to become just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to finish four straight seasons with a QB rating above 90.

In 2003, the chiefs led the NFL in scoring for the second straight season with a franchise-record 484 points and the highest red zone touchdown scoring percentage (77.8) in league history. RB Priest Holmes set and NFL single-season record with 27 rushing touchdowns and was named NFL Offensive player of the Year. In 2002, Saunders’ offense led the league in scoring with 467 points and broke or tied 22 single-season team records, including the long-standing NFL record for fewest fumbles (two) and the mark for longest touchdown pass in league history (99 yds.) and most combined first downs in a game (65). In 2001, Kansas City’s offense ranked in NFL top-10 in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense and Holmes led the league in rushing with 1,555 yards. .[5]

On January 19, 2006, he joined the coaching staff of the Washington Redskins, reuniting him with fellow Don "Air" Coryell alumnus, Joe Gibbs. Saunders led Washington’s offense, under Hall of Fame coach Gibbs (2006–07) for two seasons as the associate head coach/offense, helping the Redskins to a playoff berth in 2007. In 2006, the Redskins produced one of the league’s top rushing attacks and QB Mark Brunell established an NFL record with 22 consecutive completions in a single game.[5]

Saunders' creative and innovative offensive playbook reportedly had approximately 700 pages of various plays.[6]

On January 30, 2008, Saunders was hired as offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. Returning to the franchise nearly a decade after helping the team win a World Championship in 1999 with one of the most explosive offenses in league history. The Rams boasted one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the NFL behind pro bowler Steven Jackson.[4]

In 2009 Saunders was hired by the Baltimore Ravens to serve as the senior offensive assistant to John Harbaugh for two consecutive playoff seasons. Once again he helped design an offense that was among the NFL leaders and one of the best in franchise history led by QB Joe Flacco.[7]

On January 20, 2011, Saunders was hired as the Offensive Coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. During that season Oakland’s offense finished the season with the second highest yardage total in franchise history (6,072) and ranked among the NFL leaders in rushing, total offense, and passing. In addition, the Raiders ranked second in the league in explosive plays of 20-or-more yards with 84, first in two-minute scoring offense and established a franchise record by allowing only 25 sacks on the season. .[8]

On January 31, 2012, following Hue Jackson's firing, and after interviewing for several vacant offensive coordinator positions with other organizations, Saunders agreed to return to Oakland as Senior Offensive Assistant for new Head Coach Dennis Allen. He served in that capacity for the following three seasons.[9]

Saunders announced his retirement from coaching in the National Football League on April 10, 2015 after turning down an opportunity to work in the Raiders front Office.[10]

He opted to return to the coaching ranks when on October 7, 2015 Saunders was hired to the position of senior offensive assistant by interim Miami Dolphins head coach Dan Campbell in the wake of the firing of Joe Philbin. Working primarily with the wide receivers Jarvis Landry set a franchise record with 110 receptions and became the most productive receiver in NFL history for his first two seasons with a total of 194 receptions.[11]

On January 19, 2016 Saunders was hired by new Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson to be the teams Senior Offensive Assistant.

Head Coaching Record

Team Year Regular season Post season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
SD 1986 3 5 0 .375 5th in AFC West - -
SD 1987 8 7 0 .533 3rd in AFC West
SD 1988 6 10 0 .375 4th in AFC West
SD Total 1722 0 .439 0 0
Total 1722 0 .439 0 0


  1. 2014 Oakland Raiders Media Guide page 27.
  2. 1 2 "Coryell resigns after 1–7 start". The Palm Beach Post. October 30, 1986. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  3. Tucker, Doug (January 23, 2001). "Saunders returns as offensive guru". Daily Union. Associated Press. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  4. 1 2 "Rams hire Saunders as offensive coordinator". USA Today. Associated Press. February 1, 2008. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  5. 1 2 Carter, Ivan (January 21, 2006). "Saunders Has Been Known to Mix It Up". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  6. Jenkins, Sally (September 25, 2006). "For This Week, A Complete Effort". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  7. "Raiders to interview Al Saunders". Associated Press. January 19, 2011. Archived from the original on January 22, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  8. Bill Williamson (January 20, 2011). "Raiders add experience with new OC". Archived from the original on January 23, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  9. "Saunders Returns to Raiders Coaching Staff". Archived from the original on February 10, 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
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