When he was coaching at Georgia Tech in the early 1970s, Jerry Glanville hopped on his Harley-Davidson and drove all the way from Atlanta to Quebec City, where he’d pre-booked a room at the prestigious Chateau Frontenac.
“I walked in wearing cowboy boots, overalls and no shirt,” he recalls with his infectious laugh. “And they said, ‘Are you sure you have a room here?'”
There are a lot of relevant elements in that quick anecdote from the new defensive co-ordinator of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats who arrives in town for the season on April 15, to add a few more curls to the climbing vine which has entwined him and head coach June Jones for four decades.
First, he likes speed and machines with wheels. Glanville, taught to drive by The Intimidator himself, Dale Earnhardt Sr., raced and owned cars in NASCAR in the midst of his extensive coaching career.
Second, he’s adventurous and appears not to care what others think. Channeling Fleetwood Mac, he goes his own way. It’s shown in what he’s done in football, often in conjunction with Jones.
Third, he’s colourful and loves to laugh and tell stories. Hamilton media types are going to need extra recording space on their iPhones.
Fourth, he’s been around a long time.
“When you meet me you know why everyone is scared to ask me (about his age),” says the 76-year-old. “You’re not old if you can listen, and identify intelligence and beauty.”
But his long absence from coaching ranks and lack of CFL experience are valid concerns. The return of city favourite, Orlondo Steinauer, though, should go a long way toward facilitating his adjustment. So should Glanville’s history of tapping into his coaches’ acumen.
Glanville’s last formal coaching position was a three-year stint ending in 2009 at Portland State (where Jones played quarterback 33 years earlier) but he says that in the intervening years, when he was a college and NFL TV analyst, “I never stopped coaching.”
He’d work successfully with three college programs every year which “had no chance of winning,” and had a stint head coaching in the East-West college Shrine Game, then worked for Jones when he took the gig. Their 2016 quarterback, Vernon Adams, set a Shrine Game passing record and is now with the Tiger-Cats.
When he was head coach of the Oilers, NFL Films famously caught Glanville quipping to a first-year official, “This is the NFL, which stands for ‘not for long’ when you keep making them *#$%* calls.”
Did we mention that Glanville is colourful?
He’s fashioned dramatic single-season defensive turnarounds in Detroit and Atlanta but points out that they weren’t accomplished by a solitary template. He likes to create his defences based on the particular strengths of his players, as expressed to him by his position coaches, and says he’ll do that here too. He carries small cards that read, “Coach the Team,” meaning the specific players he has at the moment.
He helped out for five days at the Ticats’ 2017 training camp and was baffled for three days by the 12-man offence but says that by the fourth day, “in theory at least,” he’d figured out ways to defend it.
Because of that exposure, he watched every CFL game on ESPN last season and concludes that the most significant difference between three and four-down football is the one-yard restraining line: “The offence has time to sort out a blitz with that extra yard, so if you’ve got any pressure coming, it better be instant.”
Glanville was introduced to Jones when somebody, “I don’t know who,” placed a film of a college quarterback on his desk in Atlanta, “and I saw the ball never hit the ground. I didn’t even know his name but I said, ‘Sign him’.”
Jones played four seasons in Atlanta when Glanville was there, was Glanville’s quarterback coach in Houston, and his offensive co-ordinator for three years for the Falcons. Glanville was Jones’ defensive co-ordinator for two years at Hawaii, and rejoins him in Hamilton.
There was a reported rift between the two close friends after Jones succeeded him as head coach in Atlanta, but Glanville says, “You just go through things in life and keep going. I’d say it’s hard to bother either one of us. We say things to each other on the sidelines that people might be shocked to hear during the game.”
And he’s got lots of stories about that too.
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