Glanville knows how to fire up players. In fact, he whips them into a frothing frenzy. "Jerry teaches us to expect everything, but fear nothing," says linebacker Robert Lyles. "We don't go out to hurt anybody. We go out to tackle them hard on every play. If the sucker's moving, our goal is to get 11 guys on him. Put the flag up. Surrender. He's dead. It's over. He's a landmark. It's hit, crunch and burn."
"Just seeing him wear black gets me juiced," says second-year cornerback Cris Dishman. "Black oozes a bad-boy attitude." Dishman may be too bad for his own good. He glowered over injured Minnesota Viking tight end Carl Hinton in this year's season opener, screaming and taunting him. The next week, in San Diego, he received a personal foul penalty that turned a third-and-22 for the Chargers into a first down. Moon took Dishman aside and asked him to tone down his act. So did Houston general manager Mike Holovak. Glanville talked to him, too, but Dishman says, "There's no toning down with Jerry. When you tone down, you're loose, and when you're loose, you're out of a job."
Steeler coach Chuck Noll believes Glanville goes too far. After Houston beat Pittsburgh 24-16 two years ago, Noll stretched the obligatory post-game handshake into a midfield finger-wagging lecture about cheap shots. Glanville had to jerk himself free. "I think Chuck was infatuated with my hand," he says.
On the practice field, Glanville is a sputter of comic agitation, razzing his players into fits of helpless laughter. "Jerry's just a crazy old white man people listen to," says running back Mike Rozier, whom Glanville calls Lassie when Rozier dogs it. Once, when a pricey defensive lineman showed up late for training camp after a contract dispute, Glanville snatched the player's name-plate off his locker and hung it over the door to the lavatory. "Jerry keeps us all sort of humble," says running back Allen Pinkett. "It's impossible to have a big ego here. Jerry says we're family."
At Saturday workouts Glanville holds Kids Day and Pets Day. Sons, daughters and gerbils run routes with their proud papas. "We had to separate Wives Day and Girlfriends Day," says Glanville. "A couple of guys brought both."
For all his loudmouthing, Glanville doesn't talk much about his speeches to church groups, his fight to reopen an inner-city boys' club or his work with runaways, drug addicts and the homeless. He visits the children's wards of Houston hospitals every Wednesday morning, sometimes dragging along players. He practices his bedside manner on cancer patients and quadriplegics, not just kids in for tonsillectomies. "Jerry would come in the middle of the night if I asked him," says Jim Alcorn, chaplain of St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. "He has incredible compassion toward these kids. He finds a way to touch them."
It's not always a happy experience. "I've seen him stand in the halls in tears," Alcorn says, "I've seen kids die in his arms. Many athletes can't take it—they come and leave. But Jerry isn't smart enough to leave."
At the moment it doesn't appear that he'll be leaving the Oilers anytime soon, either. But he knows that can change. The local press has speculated that Glanville could be replaced by owner Bud Adams if Houston doesn't advance further in the playoffs than it did last year. Glanville doesn't seem dismayed. "You know what NFL really stands for?" he says. "Not For Long."
He utters this while sitting behind his office desk, surrounded by memorabilia of his dead heroes: a liqueur bottle shaped like a bust of Elvis and a traffic ticket "issued" posthumously to James Dean. He reaches back and grabs a recent group photo of NFL coaches. "Six of us get fired every year," he says. "I'm in an elite fighter-pilot group. I know one day I'm not coming back, but I go out anyway. And one day I'll say, My god, they got me, too."
Glanville leans forward, elbows on knees, his mouth resting in one upturned palm. "Till then," he says, "I'll drink up while the drinking is free."