Mind Over Sports

Al Saunders: Why He’s So Good at What He Does

Posted on: September 16, 2006

D032754175.jpgWashington Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs made a wise choice when he decided to hand off the play calling to his new offensive coordinator, Al Saunders. Saunders ran the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense from 2001-2005 and according to USA Today: “Over the last four years, no team scored more points than the Chiefs.”

One of the reasons for Saunders’ success is that he believes in tapping into his players’ belief systems. Saunders’ system of coaching is based on not asking players to do things on the field they don’t believe they’re capable of doing. For example (and this is strictly from my perspective, not Al’s), if a wide receiver believes he can catch the ball better over his right shoulder, then plays he’s involved in should call for passes to him to be over his right shoulder. If a player believes he plays best at a certain weight, he should be allowed to play at that weight.

What we believe to be true is true for us, regardless of what others think or how it plays out in the real world. When Marcus Allen was with the Kansas City Chiefs, he believed that the more times he carried the ball during a game, the better he performed. But then head coach Marty Schottenheimer believed otherwise and used him in short and third down situations. Marty has changed some from his days with the Chiefs. At that time, his philosophy was: It’s my way or the highway. I think he’s finally figured out what Al Saunders knows instinctively.

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