Twenty years ago, as head coach of the NFL’s Houston Oilers, Jerry Glanville guided his squad to one of their finest seasons in franchise history. Behind star performances from Pro Bowl quarterback Warren Moon, wide receiver Drew Hill and guard Bruce Matthews, the Oilers finished the season at 10-6.
Twenty years ago, as head coach of the NFL’s Houston Oilers, Jerry Glanville guided his squad to one of their finest seasons in franchise history.
Behind star performances from Pro Bowl quarterback Warren Moon, wide receiver Drew Hill and guard Bruce Matthews, the Oilers finished the season at 10-6.
Those 10 victories included road wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium and the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. Glanville’s squad even defeated the Cleveland Browns on the road for a wildcard playoff victory.
Twenty years later, Glanville is clearly no longer in the NFL.
His arrival at Portland State was marked with excitement and expectations. Yet, 17 games into his tenure, the Vikings are just 5-12, the latest loss coming in Flagstaff, Ariz., Saturday.
Certainly Glanville should not shoulder all of the blame. Expectations aside, Glanville brought a new system on both sides of the ball, and recruiting and teaching new players takes time.
In the NFL, Glanville had players like Moon, Hill and Matthews. Glanville had players that were leaders. He had winners. He had players that the other guys were willing to stand behind.
The schedule gods have given the Vikings a much-needed bye this week, and finding a Moon, Hill or Matthews should be priority number one for Glanville.
After disappointing defeats at Washington State, UC Davis, Sacramento State and now Northern Arizona, Glanville has suggested that the youth and inexperience of his team have contributed to the loss.
On Saturday, 17 of the 22 Vikings starters were upperclassmen; veterans with proven experience at the college level.
In comparison, only two squads, Montana and Weber State, had more upperclassmen starting this past weekend. On the other side of the field, Northern Arizona started three freshmen and four sophomores, and easily dismantled Glanville’s troops.
Results like these could leave Vikings fans wondering if it is truly the age of his team that is holding Glanville back from obtaining victories.
His time in the NFL likely taught Glanville about one characteristic that is difficult to quantify in a player: character.
That character can come from a senior on the tail end of his athletic career or it can come from a budding freshman that has yet to see the playing field.
The circumstances will vary: It might be an offensive lineman making a crucial block to give the quarterback an extra second to complete the pass, or a defensive back knocking down a deep pass in the end zone.
The key is that character players make plays when their team needs it.
Glanville has done a good job of emphasizing to fans that this team is likely a year or two away from truly competing. He has repeatedly warned that because he is forced to play younger and more inexperienced players, the Vikings may continue to stumble.
While Glanville’s recruiting efforts are largely based on finding the right type of athletes for his 3-4 defense and offensive coordinator Mouse Davis’ run-and-shoot offense, perhaps he should spend more of his recruiting time on obtaining the players that display the fortitude to win games.
Unessential is the leader that leads the team in the postgame chants, organizes off-field gatherings or taunts the opponent after making an ordinary play.
Indispensible is the leader who consistently makes plays, blocks and fulfills his assignment, no matter where the team is playing.
On Saturday afternoons this fall, it has not been the Xs and Os that are slowing the Vikings down, but rather the focus, determination and character that a football team desperately needs to be victorious on the road.
Penalties, dropped passes, missed tackles and blown assignments have cost the Vikings more yards and points than any of their four opponents’ game plans.
Now at essentially the halfway point of the season, Glanville’s main task should be finding a group of leaders on his team instead of dialing up the right blitz when it is third and long.