Before Tony LaRussa gained the universal ire of Cincinnatians, there was one professional coach sure to get the home town fans' blood boiling. No, it wasn't Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Marty Schottenheimer, or even Bill Cowher, all of whom led hated rival teams into Riverfront Stadium. In the late 1980s, the venom of Bengal fans was reserved for the "Man in Black," Jerry Glanville, head coach of the Houston Oilers.
It wasn't just that the Bengals and Oilers competed for supremacy in the feisty AFC Central during those years. It was Glanville's "style" that got Bengal fans going. Glanville liked to talk… a lot, and was somewhat idiosyncratic, to be diplomatic. Not every coach in the NFL left tickets in every town for Elvis Presley. Glanville's Oilers, led by Hall of Fame quarterback, Warren Moon, were explosive on offense with their quick strike "run and shoot" offense. On defense the residents of "The House of Pain" lived up to that name with a hard hitting secondary led by Cris Dishman, a man who could out "woof" Deion Sanders.
The Oilers had defeated the defending AFC champs earlier in the season, 26-24. The Bengals entered week the week 15 matchup in Cincinnati 7-7, needing two wins to qualify for the playoffs and defend their title. The Oilers were 9-5 and were out to end the Bengals hopes along with fending off the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With no love lost between the two squads and head coaches Sam Wyche and Jerry Glanville always ready for a good media quote, the two teams squared off on a chilly December Sunday on the Ohio. Game time temperature was -11 with the wind chill. Whether it was the cold (Houston always struggled outdoors) or the pressure, the Bengals rocketed out of the locker room to a 21-0 first quarter lead. Boomer Esiason connected twice with wide receiver Eddie Brown for first quarter scores.
By halftime the Bengal lead ballooned to 31-0 and the rout was on. Surely the second half would consist of the Bengals merely milking the clock toward an inevitable victory. Not for Sam Wyche. Sam kept his offense in full gear, throwing the entire second half. Even backup quarterback Erik Wilhelm got in on the act hitting Ira Hillary from 10 yards out in the fourth quarter. With the capacity crowd mockingly chanting "Jerry, Jerry" Wyche opted to send Jim Breech out to kick a field goal up 58-7 with under two minutes remaining, making the final score 61-7, still a Bengal single game scoring record.
For the game, the Bengals passed for 402 yards, ran for 192 yards, and racked up 35 first downs. Jerry Glanville would leave Riverfront for the last time as Oilers coach, replaced the following season by Jack Pardee. The Bengals lost their final game in Minnesota on Monday night and failed to make the playoffs. The Oilers would play one post season game, losing to the Steelers in the AFC Wild Card round.
The rivalry between Sam Wyche and Jerry Glanville during that period was the most heated in Cincinnati sports history. The Bengals performance on that frigid December day remains one of the franchise's finest.
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