What he did: The life and times of Jerry Glanville. It would be a great movie, somewhat serious but very strong on the comedy.
Today, Glanville quietly spends much of his time in Knoxville, Tenn., with his only grandson, but insists he has not retired and “will be coaching somewhere next season.’’
For now, though, it’s time to look back on a coach who was always considered one of football’s better teachers, hired some of today’s best head coaches in college and the NFL, draped himself in black, wore cowboy boots, drove motorcycles to work and swears he never left tickets for Elvis.
It all started in Detroit, growing up in a one-parent house with his mother before moving to Perrysburg, Ohio, where he started playing baseball and football. Interestingly, his baseball teammate in Perrysburg was former major league manager Jim Leyland, who Braves fans are very familiar with when he leading the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1990s.
Glanville and Leyland both were catchers, but Glanville focused on football, his high school team at one time winning 17 consecutive. It appeared until he was injured as a senior that he would play for Woody Hayes at Ohio State. However, Glanville spent most of the season bothered by an Achilles heel injury, and Hayes pulled the scholarship. Said Glanville, “Woody would send my mother a dozen roses. But I was sort of step-and-fetch-it my senior year, Woody didn’t want me, and that’s why when I was coaching in college I refused to ever take away a kid’s scholarship.’’
Instead, Glanville headed to Montana State to play, but after one season returned home to work and help with the family’s finances before finishing his college football at Northern Michigan. From there, he coached three years of high school football, first in Cincinnati and then in Lima, Ohio.
He started his college coaching career at Western Kentucky in 1967 before Bud Carson, the head coach at Georgia Tech, called and he came to Atlanta and stayed three years as a defensive assistant. But in 1974, Tech brought in Pepper Rodgers, who retained Glanville but got upset at him when he decided to interview with the Detroit Lions. Said Glanville, “Pepper told me if I interviewed I wouldn’t have a job when I came back, and he was true to his word.’’
Glanville, who had also interviewed with George Allen of the Washington Redskins, became the special-teams coach with the Lions, a rarity in the NFL then, as the only previous special-teams coaches were Dick Vermeil with the Rams and Marv Levy with the Redskins. It was also there that he hired a special-teams assistant he called “Billy.’’ It was Bill Belichick.
He stayed in Detroit for three years before his wife, Brenda, from metro Atlanta, persuaded Glanville to get a job with the Falcons. At the time, in 1977, Leeman Bennett was the head coach, and Glanville became part of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history that season. He worked with the defensive backs, and the Falcons gave up just 129 points, a record-low in a 14-game NFL season. Called the “Gritz Blitz,’’ it was a no-name defense except for Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey. Glanville spent two seasons as the defensive backs coach and four as the defensive coordinator.
But after a playoff season in ’82, he was warned by Bennett that they all would be fired, so he took a job for one season in Buffalo before going to Houston as the defensive coordinator for two seasons. Then in ’86, Glavine got his first chance to be a head coach, promoted in Houston and spent four seasons in what was called the “House of Pain” era. It was there the story of him leaving tickets for the now dead Elvis became famous and also where he coined the phrase “NFL means ‘not for long.’” Actually he was referring to an officiating crew that was doing one of his games. He also hired Nick Saban, giving him his first NFL job as a defensive backs coach in ’88.
He took the Oilers to the playoffs three times before taking the head job in Atlanta, where in 1991 on a team that had Deion Sanders and drafted Brett Favre, the Falcons finished 10-6, won a playoff game and introduced the “Back in Black’’ theme. Also during that time, Glanville started racing cars.
But injuries and free agency quickly caught up with Glanville. The Falcons recorded consecutive 6-10 seasons, and Glanville was fired.
At that point Glanville got out of coaching and increased his time on the track, racing in NASCAR, the ARCA Racing Series and even the inaugural Super Truck Series. He was taught to drive Dale Earnhardt.
He also spent a lot of time on television; working on HBO’s “Inside the NFL,” “The NFL Today” on CBS and did NFL games for Fox.
But in 2005 he went back to coaching with former assistant June Jones, spending two years in Hawaii as a DC and then was the head coach at Portland State from 2007-09. His last foray into football came in 2011 when he was hired to be the head coach and general manager of the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League, which folded before he coached a game though he did TV for the league for one season.
Where he lives: Glanville, now 74, lives in Knoxville with his wife of 40 years, Brenda. They have one son, Justin, and grandson, Oliver.
What he does now: He does some consulting for small colleges, saying, “It is a three-day thing, and all I ask for is to be treated to the best Tex-Mex the first night, the best pizza the second night and the best steak in town the third night.’’
On playing high school ball with Leyland: “We were put in the Perrysburg Hall of Fame together, and you know who else is in there … Jim Harbaugh and his brother.’’
On coaching at Georgia Tech: “Bud Carson offered me $10,000 a year over the phone. I didn’t say anything. I just jumped on a plane and came on down. I loved it at Tech. We didn’t have anyone that went into the pros, but I don’t know that I coached any players that played any harder. We took Georgia and Vince Dooley to the woodshed a few times.’’ (Tech won two of six games against the Bulldogs when Glanville was on The Flats.)
On his relationship with his mother: “I remember I needed to wear regular shoes for a job instead of cowboy boots, so we had to get them by licking a bunch of S&H Green Stamps. I did a lot of licking, but got the shoes. It was me and Mom against the world.’’
On interviewing with George Allen in Washington: “It was a two-day interview, and the first day I was showing him all I was doing at Tech. He said he was going to bring in his staff for the second day and I am thinking this is supposed to be an interview, not a seminar. So I called the airlines and went back to Atlanta.’’
On the Gritz Blitz: “I remember in the preseason we had a three-man rush and dropped eight. Then we changed things and beat up on Joe Namath in the first game against the Rams and some reporter asked Leeman if we blitzed on every play. Leeman asked me and I told him I remembered two plays that we didn’t blitz. That was the best defense in NFL history.’’
On being the head coach in Houston: “We had some kind of things going and then Plan B free agency totally destroyed us. Bud Adams was the owner and I had asked general manager Ladd Herzog if I could interview in Atlanta, so I did. He never asked Bud if I could do so, and he was fired. Bud broke down and cried the day I left, but then I later found out that he was talking to the Jets about me and told them he would take their two first-round picks for me. The thing about Bud was he never introduced me as their head coach. He also said I was his ranch foreman.’’
On being the head coach in Atlanta: “Chris Miller couldn’t stay healthy. He was hurt every other year. We could have won Super Bowls in Atlanta if he would have been healthy.’’
On coaching Deion Sanders: “The thing about Deion was he would let receivers get open so he could go for the interception. It was amazing how he could close on a ball. I will say in practice nobody worked harder. A lot of people don’t realize that Deion came to Atlanta as a safety, and I moved him to corner and Scott Case to safety.’’
On Sanders playing with the Braves and Falcons at the same time in 1992: “I remember the playoff game with the Braves. He came in on a helicopter to Miami after playing for the Braves the night before in Pittsburgh. I didn’t start him because he missed a whole week of practice, and I wanted to show something to the team, so I told him to stand right next to me. I put him in on the second play.’’
On the Elvis tickets: “I never did that one time in my life … never. It was one of those things that got out there somehow and was bigger than what it was, so I didn’t try to fix it. I was head coach in Houston, and we were playing New England in Memphis in the preseason. (Assistant) June Jones and I were riding in the car and on the radio someone said Elvis had been spotted at a Burger King in Memphis. The halftime show at the game was dedicated to Elvis music, so I said we are going to leave two tickets for Elvis. That’s it.’’
On driving motorcycles to work: “I always did that, but people didn’t notice until I was a head coach. Jerry Glanville never changed from 1977 until he left here in ’94.’’
On his relationship with Earnhardt: “A guy had to take you out on the track and be your instructor, and it just so happened to be Dale. He was my teacher.’’
On the day Earnhardt died at Daytona in 2001: “I was watching it on TV and didn’t think at first he hit the wall that hard. But I had driven Dale’s car and his seat sat way back. It was like reclining in a La-Z-Boy. Also, he wouldn’t wear a face shield, and there wasn’t much safety back then. I think what happened was his seat was so far back that when he hit he hit the wall, he went a long distance. I remember seeing his son last year after he won Talladega and went into the winners circle and hugged him. The people in NASCAR have always been so nice to me.’’
On something he would like to tell everyone: “I am between opportunities right now. I got one more good coaching job in me.’’