Welcome to story time with June and Jerry.
In this edition, Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach (June Jones) and his long-time friend, coaching buddy and co-conspirator (defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville) spend more than 30 minutes discussing, among other things: bulletproof vests; Deion Sanders; M.C. Hammer; Evander Holyfield; and kickers who arrive 30 minutes before game-time, repeatedly hit the long snapper in the ass during warm-ups, but drain five goals when it matters.
These stories have been abridged for length and clarity. We’ll let June go first and, in this tale, he uses an example from an Atlanta Falcons’ win over the New Orleans Saints in the 1991 NFL playoffs – he was offensive coordinator, Glanville the head coach – to illustrate that Glanville’s defences will lateral the ball repeatedly after an interception to try and score (something the Ticats’ D did after a pick at mini-camp on Wednesday.)
“We’re winning the game late and we just have to stop them, right, game over. Sure enough, Deion picks the ball off. Now, there’s only 30 seconds left in the game and if he just goes down, it’s over. Deion, of course, laterals it three times and scores a touchdown. That’s crazy, right? But that’s the mentality.”
Now it’s Jerry’s turn to tell a story about June. This one comes from their time together with the Houston Oilers of the NFL in 1988.
“Remember the high plains drifter jacket I had? Well, that meant I had a death threat and that was a bulletproof coat. When I wore that, nobody on the sideline would come near me. We were in Cleveland and I had the jacket on and maybe a minute left in the game, we were going to beat Cleveland in Cleveland. June walks up to me and says ‘this may be the greatest win in Houston’s history.’ Somebody threw an apple from the upper deck and hit him right in the back. And he says ‘they got me!’ and he fell down. I said ‘June, it was an apple.’ He thought whoever was going to shoot me, shot him. You should have seen his face. It was awesome.”
Now, it’s entirely possible these stories are apocryphal. Sanders had an interception in the 1991 game but it wasn’t the clinching play (that was Tim McKyer) and he didn’t score. Glanville has told the Cleveland story before but it isn’t the coat that’s bulletproof, it’s the vest underneath (and there’s no independent corroboration of the death threat.)
But that hardly matters. One gets the sense that the two of them have literally hundreds of these stories, told and retold over the decades – they first coached together in 1977 – used for coaching purposes, to charm a room full of reporters, and to amuse themselves.
Here’s June: “He has so many stories and keeps everybody so loose, you have so much fun coming to the office when he’s around. You might have heard the story 20 times but each time it gets a little better.”
Here’s Jerry: “We tell everybody that we got interviewed together and the person said ‘which one of you wants to be the head coach?’ And we both pointed to the other guy. June never worked for me and I don’t feel I like I worked for June. We’ve just been doing it so long together. There probably isn’t another head coach that would bring me in as an assistant. That’s probably the truth of the whole thing. We just have a lot of fun.”
Like all good storytellers, experience is a factor: June is 65-years-old and Glanville is 76. It begs the question: what the heck are two guys with long professional resumes now well into their so-called golden years doing out on a rain-soaked field at a Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ mini-camp?
Well, there’s a story about that and Glanville, wearing sunglasses inside after not wearing them all day outside, tells it better.
“In the NFL, they have a name for June and me – they call us ‘lifers.’ Those two guys will be coaching when they put them in the box. Somewhere, we don’t care where. Last year, I installed the defence at Brevard College in North Carolina. It has no scholarships, no players and they had a crowd at homecoming of about 15 people. I went over and put in the defence because that’s who we are. It could have been anywhere, it wouldn’t have mattered. Now that I’m here, I love Canada. It reminds me of how great the U.S. used to be before we screwed that thing up.”
Actually, June’s version is pretty good, too:
“After being up here last year – and I told Jerry this – the Canadian game is way funner to coach. The hours… when I was in the NFL, I wouldn’t see my family for the whole season. For me, when the players are gone, what else can you do? Just invent ways to lose the game. You win by executing — by doing what you do. From 1987 to 1994, Jerry and I would stay late on Thursday night and make up some kind of trick play. I put every one on film and two of them worked. You can out think yourself if you really want to.”
But will the June and Jerry show actually work here? Can two guys with a long history together – some of which has produced good results, some not so much – find some twilight success in a foreign land playing a familiar game with strange rules? In many respects, it feels like their unique brand of unorthodox methodology is perfect for a league known for its innovative football and willingness to allow colourful characters be exactly that.
This is Glanville’s approach and please try and imagine any other coordinator in the CFL – or anywhere – saying anything like this:
“I’m running a defence I’ve never run in my life because I watched the film and they were running it pretty good. Well, I’m not a guy that says you have to run the Jerry Glanville system. The Jerry Glanville system is totally based on what can you do best and we’ll change the system. We’re running a defence here that I love — and we played great today — that I never coached until I walked in this building. Didn’t even know it existed. I’m smart enough to say ‘if they can play like that, you’d have to be an idiot to throw it out.'”
“I believe Jerry’s one of the best defensive minds in football. He might be 76, but he gets it.”
Either way, it should make for a great story.