How Al Saunders Can Help Kansas City Chiefs as Offensive Coordinator

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How Al Saunders Can Help Kansas City Chiefs as Offensive Coordinator
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On Wednesday, the Kansas City Chiefs announced that Bill Muir is retiring. Following the announcement of Muir's retirement, there were already reports that the Chiefs have began searching for a new offensive coordinator.

Wednesday afternoon, I had predicted that quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn or former Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson would be the next offensive coordinator of the Chiefs.

However, little did I believe that a former offensive coordinator would be a serious candidate for the position.

ESPN announced Wednesday that former Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders met with head coach Romeo Crennel, which excited a lot of football fans in Kansas City. Saunders was the offensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, but was replaced by Greg Knapp. Saunders is still under contract with the Raiders and is unsure if there is a spot for him with the franchise in 2012.

Saunders was the last Chiefs offensive coordinator to have an active tenure in Kansas City.

He played a big role in constructing a Hall of Fame-like offensive line alongside a dynamic offense with Trent Green, Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Tony Richardson, Tony Gonzalez and Eddie Kennison.

Since Saunders left Kansas City following the 2005 season, the Chiefs have had five offensive coordinators in six seasons.

Mike Solari took over for Saunders following Dick Vermeil's retirement for two years as the offensive coordinator. Herm Edwards replaced Solari with Chan Gailey in 2008.

But Todd Haley fired Gailey in 2009 and made himself the offensive coordinator during his first year as a head coach. Afterwards, Haley realized carrying two titles was risky business and he brought in Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator before he left for Florida after the 2010 season.

In Haley's final season with the Chiefs, Muir was promoted to offensive coordinator and was given the play-calling duties for the first time in his career.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Al Saunders (right) and Dick Vermeil (left) watch their offense in the 2004 Wild Card Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Saunders returning would mean the Chiefs could have an active offensive coordinator. Saunders has been heavily involved with offenses in Washington, Baltimore and Oakland, and has played a vital role in helping teams have a strong offense.

As many are aware, Saunders' biggest challenge in Kansas City will be working Matt Cassel and helping him remain consistent. Not only will this be Cassel's fourth offensive coordinator in his four years with the Chiefs, but he will also have to adjust to a new system.

However, let's not forget that Saunders was responsible for helping Green find a rhythm. Green was a journeyman in the NFL until he came to Kansas City in 2001 to reunite with his head coach and play under an offense coordinated by Saunders.

Green's career high for touchdown passes in a single season prior to joining the Chiefs was with Washington in 1998. Green threw 23 touchdowns in his first season as a starter.

In Kansas City, Green surpassed the 23 touchdown-mark three times. Green was voted to two Pro Bowls during his time in Kansas City and is now viewed as the best quarterback in franchise history behind Len Dawson and Joe Montana.

If Cassel has the opportunity to work with Saunders, then the Chiefs have a great chance of making some noise in 2012. Kansas City is set on defense and an offensive coordinator with a lot of credentials in Saunders could help complete the Chiefs.

Adding Saunders to the team will put the Chiefs in a position to seriously compete in a division where the winner, the Denver Broncos, took the division with only eight wins.

While Cassel does have full support from the Chiefs front office, one can't help but wonder if he is on a short leash. Cassel is halfway through his six-year contract and has had his ups and downs. Cassel had a phenomenal 2010 season, but it ended with a rough outing against the Raiders in the regular season finale and against the Ravens in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.

Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star mentioned that members of the Chiefs scouting department emphasized that team needs to bring in competition for Cassel for the starting quarterback job.

If things go well and if Saunders comes to Kansas City, Cassel deserves one last chance to prove himself. If Saunders can stay long term again, this might be the key to helping Cassel succeed and give Kansas City what they haven't won in over 40 years.

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