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Saunders plots 'Skins' offense

June 15, 2006 12:50 am

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Al Saunders

By JOSEPH WHITE

AP SPORTS WRITER

ASHBURN--Joe Gibbs' infamous late-night sessions are as much a part of his Hall of Fame legacy as the three Super Bowl trophies. He and his offensive staff would get so caught up in telling stories about the old days that the actual game-planning wouldn't get done until the wee hours.

It would suggest a rift in the fabric of the football universe to suggest a Gibbs team would be run any other way, but a quiet revolution has been taking place since January, when the coach ventured beyond his tight inner circle and hired Al Saunders to run the Washington Redskins offense.

Simply put: Story time is over.

"My frame of reference is to get the job done and keep moving," Saunders said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We'll spend a lot of time, but our time will be spent on football."

When it was suggested that old habits die hard, that Gibbs and assistants Joe Bugel, Don Breaux, Jack Burns and Rennie Simmons might be reluctant to give up their late-night camaraderie, Saunders paused and said: "We'll have to have a special time for stories."

"It'll be Sunday night--after the game," he added. "There's not enough time during the week."

In case there were any doubts, Saunders is the boss of the offense, the one designing the plays, calling the plays, scheduling the meetings, deciding who reports to whom. He is the first coach ever given that type of authority by Gibbs. His input will be on display when the Redskins begin their three-day spring minicamp tomorrow.

"He has taken the bull by the horns," said Bugel, whose title of "assistant head coach-offense" is a step below Saunders' "associate head coach-offense."

"The structure has changed as far as preparation for the game," Bugel said. "When you're in charge, you're in charge. It's not a democracy."

It was drastic step for Gibbs, but he had to do something. He was run ragged juggling the duties of team president, head coach and offensive game-planner in the two years since his return.

His offense wasn't exactly fearsome, anyway. Who could forget the 120 yards against Tampa Bay, the fewest ever gained by a winning team in a playoff game?

So Saunders, disappointed over not getting promoted to head coach in Kansas City, got the call to come to Washington. Saunders and Gibbs are from the same coaching tree--both are disciplines of Don Coryell.

But anyone who watched Saunders' offenses in Kansas City--ranked No. 1 in the NFL over the last five years--knows his approach will be a lot more aggressive.





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