"The lowest point in my career came after Coach Campbell was fired," says Moon, who has been the Oiler starter since he arrived. "I had been lied to. I'd been told that he would have an opportunity to rebuild. I didn't feel that I fit in. I didn't feel that I was being used right. It was frustrating.
"I had three quarterback coaches or offensive coordinators in three years. The first one was Kay Dalton. He used the Redskins' two-tight-end system. Earl Campbell was on his last legs. We had no speed at wideout. The next year they brought in Joe Faragalli, who'd been my quarterback coach in Canada. Then in 1986, the quarterback coach was Gary Huff. We copied the Raiders' system, slam-bam football—run, run, then throw deep. Nine go-routes a game was what they wanted. Except that the deep routes never seemed to come into it that much.
"I remember we played the Dolphins at midseason. They were 27th in the league in pass defense, and 18 of our first 19 snaps were runs. I ended the first half five for eight, and one pass had been tipped and intercepted. They sat me down and put in Oliver Luck for the second half.
"It was the only time I ever criticized Coach Glanville publicly. He called me in and said I should have spoken to him first. He said from now on we would open up the offense. Trouble was, we were 1-8 and out of it. We did open our offense, and we won four of our last seven games."
In 1987 the quarterback coach was June Jones, who had been with Mouse Davis, the modern-day architect of the run-and-shoot, in the USFL. The Oilers called the run-and-shoot the Red Gun, but it was used as a mixer, not a steady diet. When Jones joined Davis in Detroit in 1989, Glanville hired Gilbride—Moon's fifth position coach in six years.
"Jerry's system was to let June and then Kevin handle the concept, the game plan," says Moon. "He would let them do all the work during the week, and then on Sunday, Jerry would take over the play-calling. It was done by instinct! He would say, 'This series we're gonna open it up in a no-huddle and surprise 'em. Next series we're gonna punish 'em, run the lead draw right down the field. The next series we're gonna open it up again. You got me? You thinking with me?' O.K., Jerry."
The Oilers were turning into a freak show: House of Pain, the Man in Black, the tickets for Elvis. Moon kept his mouth shut. Everyone did. No one wanted to get into Glanville's doghouse. In private, though, Moon echoed what most of the other offensive players felt. All that smash-mouth House of Pain stuff was fine for the defense, but then the offense had to take the field against an enemy defense psyched to inflict some pain of its own.
A coolness developed between coach and quarterback. Glanville never criticized Moon publicly, knowing that the quickest way to turn the town against him would have been to rip Moon in print. Moon was one of, if not the most likable sports figures in Houston. The Jaycees named him one of the Five Outstanding Young Men of Texas. The Travelers insurance company honored him with its coveted NFL Man of the Year award. When Moon's church in Houston, Windsor Village Methodist, needed $200,000 to complete a community center, Moon donated the entire amount.
Moon is comfortable with the Oilers' new system. Pardee devotes most of his attention to the defense and leaves Gilbride and his quarterback alone to dream up wrinkles in the run-and-shoot. Everyone gets along fine.
If Moon can stay healthy and if Houston can put together an outstanding second half, the best of Moon's 13 pro seasons could reach a happy fruition. The guy has paid his dues. He deserves it.