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The Candidate

After seven NFL coaches get sacked, Chiefs assistant Al Saunders becomes a wanted man

CHIEFS OFFENSIVE coordinator Al Saunders runs marathons at age 57--which is a good thing because now that he's the hottest head-coaching candidate in a market with at least eight vacancies, he'll need endurance to make it through his interviews. Saunders, whose offenses have produced more yards and touchdowns than any other team's over the past five seasons, talked with Kansas City general manager Carl Peterson about the Chiefs job, which opened when Dick Vermeil retired. That meeting took place the day after the season ended--better known as Black Monday, following the firings of Mike Sherman (Packers), Dom Capers (Texans), Jim Haslett (Saints) and Mike Martz (Rams). Minnesota jumped the gun, booting Mike Tice on Sunday, and the Raiders canned Norv Turner on Tuesday. (The Lions fired Steve Mariucci on Nov. 28.)

After seeing Peterson, Saunders flew to Minnesota to speak with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf before meeting with the Texans later in the week. If it were up to the Chiefs players, he would stay in Kansas City, but Saunders, who was head coach with the Chargers from 1986 to '88, was determined to keep his options open. "I think I would be a good fit for someone," he said.



A SHOULDER TO CRY ON Saunders (near right) won a Super Bowl under Vermeil in St. Louis and ran his offense for five years in K.C.