"I'd be in the cemetery," said Glanville in a gravelly whisper. "I'd be dead."
The Falcons were expected to be much better this year. But their defense is the worst in the league; starting quarterback Chris Miller is out for the season with a knee injury; his backup, Bobby Hebert, has an ailing elbow; and future Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson is second string. In Atlanta everyone is down on Glanville, though the Falcons will probably wait until the end of the season to can him; Glanville's staff is full of loyalists, making it difficult to select an interim successor.
"My son [Justin, 11] came home from school the other day and told me everybody was talking about me getting fired," said Glanville. "I told him Mike Ditka's been fired. I told him every coach gets fired. I told him I'll be fired too someday, just like every coach the Atlanta Falcons have ever had. I also told him the longest I've ever been without a job is five days."
Things might be different this time. Assuming the Falcons don't make a remarkable turnaround, he will have had only one winning season since he came to Atlanta in 1990. Plus Glanville's forth-rightness and outrageousness scare a lot of owners. His act may finally have grown stale. Last week, though, Glanville was still trying to remain upbeat. "The season's not over," he said. "Did you see Hoosiers? They would never have made that movie if Milan had started the season undefeated. You've got to come back something big to be special."
That seemed to spur Glanville to a high school memory. "Do I have a right to complain about football?" he said. "To complain about this season? Me? Absolutely not. Football has been wonderful to me all my life. In my high school yearbook, in 1959, in Perrysburg, Ohio, you know what they wrote under my class picture? 'Life without football is not life.' "
Sometime soon Glanville might get the opportunity to see exactly what life is without football.
Not since Houston's Earl Campbell led the league in rushing from 1978 to '80 has any back won three straight NFL rushing titles. The Cowboys' Emmitt Smith won the crown in '91 and '92, but if history provides a lesson, he is unlikely to make it three in a row. Smith missed the first 2� games of this season as the result of a contract dispute, and since 1941—the first year in which statistics on games played were kept—no runner who has missed more than one full game has gone on to win the rushing title. "Is that right?" Smith said when SI broke the news to him. "Well, if there's anybody in the NFL who can do it, I think I'm the man."
Having gained 105 yards in Sunday's 27-3 win over the Colts, Smith is 313 yards behind the league leader, Barry Sanders, whose Lions had the week off. In order to end the season with 1,500 yards—the ballpark figure for the league leader in recent years—Smith will have to average 108 yards over the remaining 11 games. Says Smith, "I need to have a couple of really huge days to get back in the race. I look at it this way: No one ever won a rushing title and the Super Bowl in the same season until I did it last year. I can do it."
Perhaps, but here's more for Smith to ponder: Since '41 only one back, Larry Brown of the Redskins, has even finished as high as second in the race after missing more than one game. In 1972 Brown played 12 games of a 14-game season and trailed Buffalo's O.J. Simpson 1,251 yards to 1,216.