Former Senior Offensive Assistant, Oakland Raiders
Al Saunders returns to the coaching staff of the Oakland Raiders as senior offensive assistant after spending last season as the Silver and Black’s offensive coordinator. Saunders has over 40 years of coaching experience, including the past 29 in the National Football League. He has been a part of 15 playoff teams, five division titles, one Super Bowl championship as an NFL coach and 19 times his offensive units have ranked 1st in the NFL in total offense, passing, rushing or scoring.
Despite injuries at key positions in 2011, Oakland’s offense ranked among the NFL leaders in rushing (seventh, 131.9), total offense (ninth, 379.5) and passing (11th, 247.6). In addition, the Raiders ranked second in the league in explosive plays of 20-or-more yards with 84, and established a franchise record by allowing only 25 sacks on the season.
He spent two playoff seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, serving as an offensive consultant in 2009 and as senior offensive assistant in 2010. He was an assistant with the Washington Redskins from 2006-07, serving as associate head coach/offense. The head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 1986-88, he also was as an assistant for the St. Louis Rams on two occasions, helping the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999.
Saunders served as the offensive coordinator for the Rams in 2008, returning to the franchise nearly a decade after helping the team to a World Championship in 1999 as associate head coach/wide receivers (1999-2000). Saunders was part of a coaching staff that helped create The Greatest Show on Turf and helped the Rams finish with NFL records in 2000 of 7,075 total yards and 5,232 passing yards, and score 540 points (33.8 avg.), the third-highest single-season total in NFL history. 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 a Super Bowl title.
Between stints with the Rams, Saunders led Washington’s offense for two seasons as the associate head coach/offense from 2006-07, 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.
He served as the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2001-05, having previously spent 10 years in Kansas City as assistant head coach/wide receivers (1989-98). During his second stint with the Chiefs, 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 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, and was the first team to post eight rushing touchdowns in one game. 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, a feat last accomplished by an AFC team in 1981-82, and RB Priest Holmes set an NFL single-season record with 27 rushing touchdowns. 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 yards). In 2001, Kansas City’s offense ranked in the NFL top-10 in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense, and Holmes led the league in rushing with 1,555 yards.
His first NFL head-coaching position came with the 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 wide 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 passing and total offense for the fifth time in six seasons.
Prior to entering the NFL ranks, Saunders spent 12 years as an assistant at the collegiate level. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at USC under the legendary John McKay from 1970-71 and served as wide receivers coach at Missouri in 1972.
Following three seasons as play-caller and offensive backfield coach at Utah State, Saunders spent six seasons at California as assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. He helped the Golden Bears set 32 national, 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 head coach Johnny Majors at Tennessee, where he tutored an explosive, record-breaking offense that included future Raider wide receiver Willie Gault.
Saunders is a member of the San Jose State Hall of Fame, having earned Academic All-America honors as a three-year starter and team captain at defensive back and wide receiver from 1966-68. He was the recipient of California’s State Graduate Fellowship and earned a master’s degree in education from Stanford.
Saunders was recognized in Who’s Who in America and was awarded California’s prestigious Golden State Award in 1989, given for community leadership and service. He is a former All-America swimmer and national record holder in the sport. Also an accomplished distance runner, he was crowned the Road Runners Club of America’s Master 5K National Champion in 1996.
Saunders and his wife, Karen, have three children: Sons Robert and Joseph, and daughter Korrin.