Former Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons coach Jerry Glanville famously coined the phrase that N-F-L stood for “Not For Long,” as he complained about an official’s call with an NFL cameraman there to record the details.
But in Glanville’s case, the “Not For Long” is actually a misnomer as Glanville says he himself is a football lifer, one who would dearly love another crack at coaching in the NFL or the college level.
“Coaching never leaves you. That’s a forever gene,” said Glanville, now 71, who has worked as a coaching consultant for the past year or so.
He sees 70-plus coaches like recent Titans consultant Tom Moore and Dick LeBeau still around the league and would like another chance himself.
His previous coaching gig dried up before it ever really got started. Glanville was named to succeed recently fired Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer as the head coach of the United Football League’s Hartford Colonials.
However, Glanville said that due to a Connecticut workers compensation situation, the Colonials folded less than three weeks after Glanville took over as head coach.
“We had put together a tremendous staff and had some really good players, but the State of Connecticut wouldn’t let us continue unless the owners put $7 million in to a workers compensation fund,” Glanville explained. “The state wanted to be sure they had funds and unfortunately, I was only there for 19 days before it had to close.”
Since then, Glanville has helped as an advisor to a couple of college programs and coached in the East-West Shrine Game.
That alone, has kept the coaching juices flowing, and the crux of coaching, he says, is seeing players improve.
“You just go do what you do. You do what you do every day, because you’re a teacher,” Glanville said. “The thrill of it just coaching a kid for a week and is that you can make his value increase. He might move up a round. It’s about making a guy better. That’s what’s it’s all about. You build your plans around the players, and you don’t try to shove your philosophy down their throats.”
During his time in Hawaii, Glanville got to face San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, who was at Nevada at the time, and says teams will have to figure out ways to stop the read option and the pistol and adapt in that regard.
“You’ve got to know how to stop that. There are ways to stop it, and in that regard, the colleges are ahead of pro football in defending it,” he said.
The new wrinkles, however, are still mostly recycled ideas that become fresh again, according to Glanville.
“The game hasn’t changed. The game is the game. What people are doing in the game now is pretty close to what we were doing with four wide receivers, the shotgun and spreading the ball around (in the run-and-shoot),” Glanville said. “Defensively, you’re coming after the quarterback. You’re running some trap corners, trying to get turnovers. We’ve been doing that since 1974. Nothing has really changed, except that the players get bigger and faster. Athletically, they just keep getting better.”
Quite the character
Glanville demonstrated that in his time in the NFL, coaching both the 4-3 defense and the 3-4. He is most famous for his time as the Oilers coach, stirring the pot with opposing coaches, wearing black on the sideline and leaving tickets for Elvis.
That got started when the Oilers were playing the New England Patriots in an exhibition at the Liberty Bowl. A story had been making the rounds that Elvis Presley had been seen at a Burger King in Michigan.
That’s when June Jones, who was Glanville’s offensive coordinator, told the coach he should leave The King of Rock and Roll some tickets at the will call window in case he wanted to watch the game in his hometown.
“June Jones said, maybe we ought to leave him a couple of tickets, if he’s there in Michigan. Maybe he’ll come down and see the game,” Glanville said. “So we did, and we beat New England pretty good that day. We gave them a pretty good whipping over there in Memphis, so we figure maybe Elvis would like to come see us play some more.”
Glanville in his time as the Oilers coach dubbed the Astrodome the “House of Pain,” thanks to a hard-hitting defensive style, and traded several barbs with Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche through the years.
Glanville always seemed to be having fun, which he says was a by-product of winning.
“NFL Films came to my office and they said that the ’91 Falcons were the most fun team they had seen. Well, when you win 12 games, you have fun,” Glanville said. “We had a lot of fun in Hawaii, because we won 36 out of 38 games. The only fun in football is winning.”
Life with the Oilers
Glanville became the Oilers head coach in 1986 and stayed through 1989 before moving on to the Falcons. In his second season as head coach, the Oilers made the playoffs for the first time in seven years. In that time, he also got close with owner Bud Adams.
“Bud Adams would come and pick me up in his helicopter and we would go to his ranch. He called me the foreman of the ranch,” Glanville recalled. “We had all kinds of things we had to go do. In the offseason, he was busy with other things, and I could go to him and say, ‘Mr. Adams, we need a tight end and I think we should look at these guys.’ And he would say, ‘Do what you’ve got to do.”
Glanville said he would accompany Adams to annual Rodeo in Houston and added that, “He was great to work for because in the off-season, he was so busy with other things that he didn’t want to be bothered.”
Adams was a little more hands-on during the season.
“During football season, he liked to talk about once a week about what was going on, and in training camp he used to fly over in his helicopter for a day or two of came. But he’s a good man,” Glanville said.
Munchak and Matthews
Though he had a good relationship with Adams, he said he had to work hard to pry an extra $1,600 out of the owner for offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, who was also handling the team’s long-snapping chores.
“I had to go down and fight Bud Adams for $200 extra game for Bruce Matthews,” he said. “Matthews not only the best center and tackle I ever coached, he was also one of the best long snappers I’ve ever seen. I told Mr. Adams, we’ve got to get him an extra $200 a game. And Mr. Adams said, ‘Well, he’s under contract. I don’t know why we have to do that.’ But I explained that Matthews was saving us a roster spot and another salary that we didn’t have to spend on a long snapper.”
Glanville got Matthews his money, and speaks fondly of both him and Titans head coach Mike Munchak, whom he also coached.
“They were exceptional when they were at Houston,” Glanville said “They were above the norm. I tell everybody that they just played hard, worked hard and never took a day off. They held everyone accountable and they were accountable. It’s kind of fun to watch where they are now.”
Not For Long
The now-famous clip of Glanville telling the game officials what NFL stands for actually has a story behind it as well.
That game was against Tampa Bay, recalled Glanville, who was upset that linebacker Robert Liles had been penalized for a late hit on the Buccaneers quarterback.
According to Glanville, the week before against the Denver Broncos, John Elway had scrambled on a play, and as the run ended, linebacker Johnny Meads (now a Titans scout) pulled up on the play to avoid a penalty. In the process, Elway did not slide and Meads suffered a knee injury on the collision.
Glanville then told his players not to pull up anymore, to protect themselves rather than leave themselves open to a hit. So when Liles blasted the Bucs quarterback, that’s when the penalty flag flew, leading to the “Not For Long” quote.