Hey Falcoholics, I’m back with another edition of The Falcoholic’s Throwback Thursday series. This weekly segment highlights a former member of the Atlanta Falcons and discusses their life and what they did for the franchise.
Whether you’ve been a fan since the inaugural season, or just became a fan recently, this series will give insight on Falcons from the past. This week’s subject is the series first non-player, head coach Jerry Glanville.
Jerry Michael Glanville was born on October 14, 1941 in Detroit, Michigan before moving to Perrysburg, Ohio. Glanville attended Northern Michigan University, where he played middle linebacker for their football team. He received his bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan, and eventually went on to obtain a master’s degree from Western Kentucky University, where he worked as an assistant football coach.
From 1968-1973, Jerry Glanville coached the defensive ends and linebackers at Georgia Tech.
Jerry Glanville’s first NFL coaching experience came with the Detroit Lions, where he was a defense and special teams assistant from 1974-1976. Following the stint with the Lions, Glanville joined the Atlanta Falcons where he coached the defensive backs from 1977-1978, Falcons gave up only 129 points, a record-low in a 14-game NFL season. The infamous “Gritz Blitz” was established on a no-name defense, except for Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey. Glanville served as the team’s defensive coordinator from 1979-1982.
Following a playoff season in 1982, Glanville coached the Buffalo Bills’ defensive backs in 1983, and quickly moved on to serve as the defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers from 1984-1985. The following year, Glanville got his chance to coach an NFL team. Houston promoted Jerry to head coach, which would become known as the “House of Pain” era. A lot of memorable stories came out of his time in Houston, such as the rumor that he would always leave tickets for Elvis Presley and coining the phrase “NFL means ‘not for long.’” He also hired Nick Saban for his first NFL job, coaching the Oilers defensive backs from 1988-1989.
In 1990, Jerry Glanville returned to Atlanta taking over as head coach for the Falcons. Glanville claimed that when joining the Falcons, he “inherited a flat tire” – but still managed to take the team to the NFC divisional round in 1991. The Falcons would receive their first playoff victory since 1978 under Glanville, which was only the second playoff win in franchise history at the time.
That period in Falcons history would be commonly known as the “Back in Black” era. With the mixture of tough attitude, new uniforms and aggressive play-calling on defense, these were exciting times in Atlanta. The Falcons featured talented players such as Hall of Famer “Prime Time” Deion Sanders which provided the team with winning expectations from the fanbase.
In the 1991 NFL Draft, Falcons’ GM Ken Herock selected quarterback Hall of Famer Brett Favre in the second round, and Glanville did not approve of the pick due to Favre’s personal issues with alcohol and the party lifestyle. He infamously said that it would take a plane crash for him to put Favre into a game. In 1992, the Falcons traded Brett Favre to the Green Bay Packers for a first-round pick.
Unfortunately, consecutive 6-10 seasons from 1992-1993 lead for the Falcons to fire Jerry Glanville in 1994.
It wouldn’t be until over a decade later that Jerry Glanville would return to coaching, as he became the defensive coordinator for the University of Hawaii, working under his former offensive coordinator with Atlanta, June Jones. In 2007, Glanville became the head coach at Portland State University, his first college head coaching job. He eventually resigned on November 17, 2009, with an overall record of 9-24 during his tenure.
Jerry Glanville again stepped away from football, until 2018 when he joined the Canadian Football League, serving as defensive coordinator for the Hamilton Tigers-Cats. For personal reasons, he left the team the following year.
Jerry Glanville is slated to return to coaching 2020, to serve as the defensive coordinator for the currently unnamed Tampa Bay XFL team.
There’s certainly a lot to say about Jerry Glanville. If you were to gather every character in Atlanta Falcons history, Glanville would definitely be one of them. He may not have the best coaching record, but he provided the fanbase with something to be excited about. His 27 wins with the Falcons still lists him as the sixth most successful coach in franchise history.
Jerry Glanville was also heavily involved in NASCAR, even during his time with the Falcons. Glanville was taught by NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, who mentored Jerry in tests at Richmond International Raceway. You can read about Jerry Glanville’s racing career by clicking here.
Let me know in the comments below some of your favorite Jerry Glanville memories. As always, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Thanks for reading, Falcoholics!