Introducing Associate Head Coach -- Offense Al Saunders:**
"This is kind of a fun time for us. I'm here to introduce Al Saunders. The better part of Al is Karen [his wife]. They have three children, Bob, Joe, and Corey. We're excited about today. Obviously, we think we have a terrific coaching staff. As you saw from the release over the weekend, we currently have agreements with everybody going over to next year. That's exciting for us. We're doing the best we can with stability. We would love to keep our coaching staff together, but it's extremely hard when there are so many job openings around the league. Our guys have great reputations, so we were fighting our guts out to try to keep everyone together. We're still in the war, but we're doing pretty well from that standpoint.
We have a great offensive staff. We've had two excellent years. We felt that, this year, they really stepped up and did some very good things. As we got down towards the latter part of the season, I started thinking as you start getting ready for the next season, 'What are the things that we can do to improve ourselves? Is there a way for us to improve?' I probably have one of the best partners in the world in [Redskins owner] Dan [Snyder]. Dan has good wisdom. He is very, very smart. As we talked, we started looking at the things we could do this off-season -- just like last year. What can we do to help improve this football team? If you're in coaching, you're always admiring what other people do. If we were going to bring someone into this role, it was very important to me for us to have common ground with our coaching staff. It would have to be someone that we feel like is really talented that could help our coaches or me. If you go down the list, we have a terrific bunch of guys [on the offensive coaching staff]. I feel like we really work well together.
Each week, you can pick the teams that you would like to break down because [what they do] is similar to what you do or they believe in some of the [same] concepts. We always use Kansas City in our breakdowns because we feel like their concepts and what they believe in is a lot like what we believe in. They use a lot of [different] formations. They're very, very well-balanced.
As we studied things towards the end of the year, I knew that [former Kansas City head coach Dick Vermeil] was in the process of stepping out of coaching. I had conversations with him. We specifically talked about Al, but he brought Al up in the conversation. As I started thinking about that, I realized that Al's background is very similar to mine and most of the coaches on this staff. We come out of the same tree. It starts all the way back at USC when I was there as an assistant and Al was there as a graduate assistant who was starting his coaching career. It goes all the way down through people like Bobby Jackson, Ernie Zampese, and Don Coryell -- that tree of coaching that came out of Don Coryell. You have the West Coast guys and you have a lot of the guys that came out of Don Coryell's system. Al and I talked a lot about this. I don't there is anyone that's a genius in football. [Former Redskins owner] Mr. [Jack Kent] Cooke once told me that. He said, 'There were only two [geniuses] in the world -- and neither one of them were in football.' I said, 'Yes, Mr. Cooke.' What Don Coryell was a genius at was terminology and the way you list things. He was big on three digits. I used to open the door [of his office]. It would be almost pitch-black. He would be sitting in there all by himself with a pencil. He taught all the time about terminology and the right way to name things so that you get a visual picture. That's what he talked about. Out of that system came the three-digit passing system. In other words, he actually numbered the tree. If you're running 388, there's a visual picture. The quarterback can look at that and say, 'I have a three on that side, an eight here (post), or I have an eight here.' That number system gave you great flexibility.
Al's been around a lot of people who were around Don Coryell. That system branched off. A lot of people came out of that system. Al is one of those. The terminology in Kansas City -- we were looking at it the other night when I was over there visiting -- is very similar to what we're doing here.
What we have in Al is someone that comes out of the same tree and has had a big background with former [St. Louis Rams head] Coach [Mike] Martz and Dick Vermeil. We talked extensively. Dick and I believe in a lot of the same things. They're very well-balanced and well-structured. Then, of course, you look at what they've done. Kansas City, offensively, has pretty much been a machine over these last four or five years. They're highly productive and well-balanced. The concepts and formations are some of the best that we have seen. We had an admiration for that.
If there is any way to improve our football team, Dan wants to do and I want to do it. There's no ego from that standpoint. When it became obviously that Al might be available, I started thinking about it. Knowing that he was going to interview for several head coaching jobs, I kind of sat back for a little bit. Then I said, 'What the heck. Why not call?' I went over, sat down, and talked [with him]. In those conversations, I knew that he was still going to be considered for some head coaching jobs, so I kind of proposed what I was thinking about here -- we have a great coaching staff here right now. I spend most of my time with the offense. That's something that I've always done. Obviously, here with the Redskins, there's a lot to do. As I thought about that, I said, 'Hey, this might be a natural fit.' So, I proposed it to Al. I was really pleased that he would forego several opportunities that he would probably have the rest of this year from a head coaching standpoint and other positions. As we talked about it, he felt like, 'Hey, I'd like to come here and be part of the Redskins.'
I thought that we could add someone else that could really help us. A lot of the credit goes to Dan because, in most cases, when you propose something like that to an owner, it falls on deaf ears. It would be one of those things that really wouldn't get very far.
Basically, he will oversee and direct the offense. It will free me up to do some other things. I plan on keeping abreast of what's going on, but it will allow me to have more flexibility here. We're getting someone that will work with our other coaches. He's really familiar with them. It's funny -- he knows almost all of our coaches. He hasn't worked with any of them, but he just kind of rips it off. I think they'll get along great -- mainly because our guys here are great people. They're super smart. The bottom line is that it's a way to help the Redskins. I'm committed and Dan is totally committed. Everything I've ever brought up to him, Dan was willing to talk about it and consider it. If there is any way to help the Redskins, he wants to do it. As I talked to Al, that's what I talked to him about."
ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH-OFFENSE AL SAUNDERS
On working with Head Coach Joe Gibbs:
"Thank you for being here. Joe (Gibbs) and Dan Snyder thank you for having me here. This is really an exciting time for me. I think through your profession as a coach you have an opportunity to experience a lot of things and experience a lot of people. This is a real special situation and a real special opportunity for me. Joe Gibbs I have admired since 1970 when I was a young doctoral student at the University of Southern California and admired a young coach by the name of Joe Gibbs. He has been one of my real role models and hero's in this business. You don't often have the opportunity to work side by side with somebody who is already in the Hall of Fame. I just had a great occasion to work six years with a man (Dick Vermeil) who in my opinion is going to be in the Hall of Fame at some time and not only is a Hall of Fame coach but a Hall of Fame person. What Joe has given me the opportunity to do is do the same thing that I did for Dick Vermeil, work side by side in trying to orchestrate an offense that will bring a championship to the Washington Redskins."
On being with the organization and the type of people that work in the organization:
"I am just really excited to be here. The responsibility is really over whelming for me. Once again not only do you have the opportunity to work with someone who is in the Hall of Fame but you have an opportunity to work side by side and work for someone who has been one of your hero's. Part of this business to me that is really important especially when you get on in this business, when you are a young coach the most important thing is to be a coach and do the things you want to do. When you get going and get on as I have been in this business for a long time, I have been in the National Football League for 23 years, there are two things that are extremely important to me. One is to be aligned and affiliated with an organization that has a commitment to win. I don't know that there are many organizations in this National Football League that has more of a commitment to win and do it the right way then the Washington Redskins. It is a tremendous ownership commitment, it is a commitment from the coaches and it is a commitment from the players. The other thing that is really important to me is to be surrounded by people that have the quality and values that I admire. I think as you all know there is nobody with greater quality in values as a human being than Joe Gibbs and it extends to the staff. I have had an opportunity to not work with the people on the staff but as much as to be fans of theirs and watch them develop and grow and do the things that they do throughout their careers. Joe Bugel the offensive line coach, what a magnificent coach he is. What a thrill it is for me to have an opportunity to work with Joe. He is the stir that makes that drink go you know when you stir it around and there are
ice cubes are in there and everything is working. He is a special man and a special coach and I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to work with him on the football field."
On the offense and his goals:
"This offense goes back a long way as coach said. It goes back to the early days of St. Louis when coach was there and into San Diego they set very many records in terms of passing, in terms of running and in terms of productions. The most important thing for an offensive football team is to score points. My goal as I come here, one of the things that I hope I can help this football team do, is maybe take some of the things we have done here in the Washington Redskin organization on the football field and the Kansas City Chiefs and the background of all of our coaches and maybe tweak some things and add some things that will make us a more productive point potential offense. This defensive football team is outstanding. Gregg Williams in my opinion is one of the finest defensive coaches in football. I know because we had to compete against him this year. What a tremendous job he does. What a tremendous job that defensive staff does. It will be exciting for me to not only to be a part of a great offensive staff that is already here and work with them but to be aligned with a great defensive football team that there is at the present time in Washington. If we can score some more points and the defense can continue to play the way that they have established that they can play in this league I think there are only good things for the Washington Redskins."
On his title:
"It's not about titles it is about production. We are going to work together as a staff and we are going to share in the responsibilities. Everybody on that offensive staff will have tremendous value. I'm sure I will call the first play of the first game of the season and then Joe (Gibbs) might get on that headset and call the rest of them. I am looking forward to working with everybody."
On what it was like before this opportunity came about in terms of head coaching positions he interviewed for:
"It has been a little bit of a whirl wind. I had an opportunity to interview for three jobs. I said this a long time ago in my career, I had the good fortune of being a head coach at 36 years old and had that experience, the thing I have always said is that I never wanted to take a head job just to be a head coach. When you have that experience you know there are certain things within an organization that you need to have in order to be successful. The title of head coach was not as important as the people and the organization that you work for. A couple of interviews that I had would have been outstanding if that opportunity had presented itself. There was a couple that I don't think were a great fit for me personally. When Joe (Gibbs) came and proposed what he had in mind for me, to me it was a great fit. I am an offensive football coach. That is what I want to do. I want to coach offense and be apart of orchestrating and offense that is successful in the National Football League. Joe will tell you as a head football coach there are so many responsibilities that are involved. It is hard sometimes."
On if it was disappointing to not get offered the Kansas City Chiefs job:
"Yeah, it was disappointing. That would have been a wonderful organization and a wonderful thing. Carl Peterson chose the coach that he felt was best for him and the organization at that time and I understand that. I am just very grateful that I right now have the chance to do this with the Washington Redskins and that is where I am looking. We have all had times in our life when things have been disappointing to you but the great resiliency of coaching is to continue to move forward. There is no place that I would rather move forward in and no other people that I would rather do it with then the people that are here in this organization."