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Saunders to Take Over Play-Calling Duties

Al Saunders was officially named the Redskins' associate head coach-offense on Monday, but the veteran NFL coach referred to himself as more of an "offensive orchestrator."

Saunders will oversee the Redskins' offense in 2006, a role that will include tweaking some of the current offensive schemes, adopting some of the schemes Saunders employed in Kansas City, and handling the play-calling duties on game day.

That's not as big of an adjustment as it may seem, Saunders said.

Saunders hails from the same coaching tree as head coach Joe Gibbs. Both learned their craft under Don Coryell, the architect of the high-octane St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers offenses of the 1970s and 1980s.

While Gibbs went on to win three Super Bowl championships with the Redskins, Saunders went on to help lead an offensive juggernaut in Kansas City from 2001-05.

The terminology of the Redskins' offense will likely stay the same, but the play-calling may change as Saunders learns the strengths and weaknesses of his personnel.

Saunders indicated the offense may be more aggressive early in games and take advantage of one-on-one matchups in the passing attack.

"What I hope I can help this football team do is take some of the things we have done here...and maybe tweak some things and add some things that will make us a more productive point potential offense," Saunders said.

"To me, coming here was a great fit because I want to be part of orchestrating an offense that is successful in the NFL," he added. "It's about me doing what I really want to do and doing it with people I really want to do it with."

Gibbs has always had an integral role in play-calling, from his first stint as Redskins head coach from 1981-92 to the last two seasons. Last season, offensive consultant Jack Burns and offensive consultant Don Breaux managed some of the play-calling on game day, Gibbs said.

"There's a certain part of you that loves doing [play-calling], but to be quite truthful, I kind of backed away from it some last season," Gibbs said. "We had Jack and Don call some plays from upstairs. I was still involved with it, but when I did that, I was trying to find a way that was smoother and better, and a way to use our people better."

Saunders emphasized that the offensive approach will be a team effort.

He will seek out the advice of Gibbs and his offensive assistants, a group that includes assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel, tight ends coach Rennie Simmons, Breaux, Burns, wide receivers coach Stan Hixon and running backs coach Earnest Byner.

"Joe Gibbs is one of the greatest offensive football coaches in the history of the National Football League--he will be a strong part of the offense," Saunders said. "When he says, 'Al, it's all yours,' I know that Joe will still be in those meetings. It would be absolutely ludicrous to not have Joe be an extensive part of what we do.

"He's given me the responsibility of play selections and I'm sure during the course of the games Joe will have some thoughts, some ideas and some things that we should do. Everyone here will be a part of game-planning and preparation."

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