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Franz Lidz
October 30, 1989
Oiler coach Jerry Glanville has guts, wit and verve. So, of course, he expects to get fired anytime now
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October 30, 1989

Wise Guy

Oiler coach Jerry Glanville has guts, wit and verve. So, of course, he expects to get fired anytime now

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So before graduating from Northern Michigan in 1964, he worked on an assembly line at a Chevy plant and toted 100-pound bags of flour for General Mills. "People tell me I have a hard job," he says of coaching in the NFL. "I don't even consider this going to work." He played linebacker for Montana State and Northern Michigan, where his distaste for history class was mitigated by a love for psychology.

"I'm still mad at my history teacher," says Glanville. "He was such a drone that he cheated me out of 10 years of enjoying the subject. The only reason I majored in psychology was that my first psych professor was full of energy and enthusiasm. I know now you can't accomplish anything without those things."

Those things sum up Glanville in all his parts: shameless grandstander, tireless volunteer who visits the terminally ill, swaggering stoic who strutted into the House of Pain on Sunday after having been bitten on the foot by a water moccasin the day before, irrepressible wise guy who tells trainers, "Never X-ray injuries; X-rays show bad things." This is a fellow who once stopped his car on an interstate after a loss to tell his future wife, Brenda, to take a hike. Brenda's crime was saying, "But Jerry, it's only a game."

Glanville never debunks a story. "My life is partly truth, partly fiction," he says. "I guess you could say it's a contradiction." Glanville didn't come up with that line. Kris Kristofferson did. Glanville thinks Kristofferson is one of the three great poets of the 20th century. The other two are the late folk singer Harry Chapin and country balladeer Jerry Jeff Walker.

"Jerry Jeff is one of my top assistants," Glanville says. In defeat, Walker consoles Glanville on his car CD player. "The man with the big hat is buying," Glanville sings along in a strong but not necessarily musical voice, "so drink up while the drinking is free."

A compact 5'9", 175 pounds, Glanville turned 48 on Oct. 14, but he looks 10 years younger—well, maybe five. He's somewhat disappointingly garbed in jeans, a denim jacket and a quite ordinary striped shirt. But on his feet are what appear to be footballs. In fact, they're boots cobbled out of football leather. "If a player fumbles a lot," he says, "I make him carry them."

Glanville is renowned for appearing on the sidelines in black. He screams around downtown Houston in a black-on-black Corvette and a 1950 Mercury, which he calls "my James Dean special." A replica of a Tennessee license plate on the front of the 'vette reads 1-ELVIS. Glanville insists that Elvis "is alive and living in Grand Rapids, Michigan." He knows this because he read it in a supermarket tabloid. Glanville believes everything he reads that isn't about him.

Last year Glanville visited Graceland. He toured every room except the kitchen, which was locked. "I was sure Elvis was in there," Glanville says. "I heard him. I smelled him. He was fixing a peanut butter sandwich." Before a 1988 preseason game in Memphis, Glanville left a pass for Elvis at the Liberty Bowl's will-call window. The King never picked it up, but Granville enjoyed the attention the gesture attracted. Later in the season he left passes to Oiler games for Buddy Holly in Dallas, James Dean in Indianapolis, Loni Anderson in Cincinnati and the Phantom of the Opera at the Meadowlands. "People think I'm crazy," Glanville says, "but I don't have to be. If I can convince them I may be, then I've accomplished all I want."

Criticism, he tells you, glances off him like a deflected pass. Yet he has been feuding with the Houston press since the Oilers lost eight straight games in 1986. Ed Fowler of The Houston Chronicle branded him a "bobo in black," accused him of having a siege mentality and claimed some of his plays were concocted in an LSD laboratory. When Fowler and another Chronicle columnist called for Glanville's firing during the '87 season, he retaliated. Glanville told callers to his show he wouldn't answer questions until they promised to cancel their Chronicle subscriptions. "I only hold a grudge till I die," Glanville says.

He has been accused of encouraging dirty tactics among his players since 1979, when he was the defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. He cooked up a furious pass rush called the Gritz Blitz and ordered the secondary to dive bomb helmet-first on every play. Falcon defensive back Bob Glazebrook once plunged into a pile so ferociously that he broke the arm of teammate Jeff Merrow. Glanville almost teared up when he heard Glazebrook had asked for the X-ray and cast as mementos. "God," he said, "I love pro football."

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