Sid Gillman
Sid Gillman.jpg
Date of birth (1911-10-26)October 26, 1911
Place of birth Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date of death January 3, 2003(2003-01-03) (aged 91)
Place of death Carlsbad, California
No. N/A
Career highlights
Coaching Record / Statistics
Coaching stats Pro Football Reference
Coaching stats DatabaseFootball
Career player statistics (if any)
Team(s) as a player (if any)
Team(s) as a coach/administrator (if any)
NFL Los Angeles Rams
AFL Los Angeles Chargers
AFL San Diego Chargers
NFL San Diego Chargers
NFL Houston Oilers
College Football Hall of Fame
Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1983

Sidney "Sid" Gillman (October 26, 1911 – January 3, 2003) was an American football player, coach, executive, and innovator. Gillman's insistence on stretching the football field by throwing deep downfield passes, instead of short passes to running backs or wide receivers at the sides of the line of scrimmage, was instrumental in making football into the modern game that it is today.

Gillman played football as an end at Ohio State University from 1931 to 1933. He played professionally for one season in 1936 with the Cleveland Rams of the American Football League. After serving as an assistant coach at Ohio State from 1938 to 1940, Gillman was the head football coach at Miami University from 1944 to 1947 and at the University of Cincinnati from 1949 to 1954, compiling a career college football record of 81–19–2. He then moved to the professional ranks of coaching where he helmed the Los Angeles Rams (1955–1959), the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers (1960–1969, 1971), and the Houston Oilers (1973–1974), amassing a career record of 123–104–7 in the National Football League and the American Football League. Gillman's 1963 San Diego Chargers won the AFL Championship. Gillman was inducted as a coach into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gillman played college football at Ohio State University under legendary coach Francis Schmidt, forming the basis of his offense.[1] He was a team captain and All-Big Ten Conference end in 1933.

Always deeply interested in the game, while working as a movie theater usher, he removed football segments from newsreels that the theater would show, so that he could take them home and study them on a projector he had bought. This dedication to filmed football plays that made Gillman the first coach to study game footage, something that all coaches do today.[2]

Gillman played one year in the American Football League (1936) for the Cleveland Rams, then became an assistant coach at Denison University, Ohio State University, and was an assistant coach to Earl Blaik of Army, then head coach at Miami University and at the University of Cincinnati. His record over 10 years as a college head coach were 81–19–2.

He returned to professional football as a head coach with the Los Angeles Rams, leading the team to the NFL's championship game, and then moved to the American Football League (1960–1969), where he coached the Los Angeles and San Diego Chargers to five Western Division titles and one league championship in the first six years of the league's existence.

His greatest coaching success came after he was persuaded by Barron Hilton, then the Chargers' majority owner, to become the head coach of the American Football League franchise he planned to operate in Los Angeles. When the team's general manager, Frank Leahy, became ill during the Chargers' founding season, Gillman took on additional responsibilities as general manager.

As the first coach of the Chargers, Gillman gave the team a mercurial personality that matched his own.

He had much to do with the American Football League being able to establish itself. Gillman was a thorough professional, and in order to compete with him, his peers had to learn pro ways. They learned, and the American Football League became the genesis of modern professional football.

"Sid Gillman brought class to the AFL," Oakland Raiders managing general partner Al Davis once said of the man he served under on that first Chargers team. "Being part of Sid's organization was like going to a laboratory for the highly developed science of professional football."

Through Gillman's tenure as head coach, the Chargers went 87–57–6 and won five AFL Western Division titles. In 1963 they captured the only league championship the club ever won by outscoring the Boston Patriots, 51–10, in the American Football League championship game in Balboa Stadium. That game was a measure of Gillman's genius.

He crafted a game plan he entitled "Feast or Famine" that used motion, then seldom seen, to negate the Patriots' blitzes. His plan freed running back Keith Lincoln to rush for 206 yards. In addition to Lincoln, on Gillman's teams through the '60s were these notable players: wide receiver Lance Alworth; offensive tackle Ron Mix; running back Paul Lowe; quarterback John Hadl; and defensive linemen Ernie Ladd and Earl Faison (Alworth and Mix are Hall of Famers). Gillman was one of only two head coaches to hold that position for the entire 10-year existence of the American Football League (the other was Hank Stram, who coached the Dallas Texans and Kansas City Chiefs from 1960 through 1974).

Gillman approached then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle in 1963 with the idea of having the champions of the AFL and the NFL play a single final game, but his idea was not implemented until the Super Bowl game was played in 1967.

Following his tenure with San Diego, he coached the Houston Oilers for two years from 1973 to 1974, helping bring the club out of the funk it had been in for many seasons prior, and closer to playoff contention. He later served as a consultant for both Dick Vermeil's Philadelphia Eagles and the United States Football League's Los Angeles Express.

In July 1983, at age 71, Gillman came out of retirement after an offer from Bill Tatham, Sr. and Bill Tatham, Jr., owners of the United States Football League expansion team the Oklahoma Outlaws.[3] Gillman agreed to serve as Director of Operations and signed quarterback Doug Williams, who later led the Washington Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XXII. Although Gillman signed a roster of players to play for the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based franchise, he was fired by Tatham six months later in a dispute over finances.

Influence[edit | edit source]

Gillman's influence on the modern game can be seen by listing the current and former coaches and executives who either played with him or coached for him:

Coaching tree[edit | edit source]

Numbers indicate Super Bowls won by Gillman's "descendants", a total of twenty.

File:Gillman Coaching Tree.gif

The tree above incorrectly lists Jon Gruden as a 'descendent' of Paul Hackett. Gruden was hired into the NFL by Holmgren and he took Gruden with him when becoming the head coach at Green Bay. The tree also is missing Mike McCarthy's Super Bowl win, making the total 21.

Don Coryell, the coach at San Diego State University when Gillman was coaching the San Diego Chargers, would bring his team to Chargers' practices to watch how Gillman ran his practices. Coryell went on to coach in the NFL, and some of his assistants, influenced by the Gillman style, included coaches Joe Gibbs, Ernie Zampese and Russ A. Molzahn.

Besides the downfield pass, film footage, and the idea of the Super Bowl, Gillman also came up with the idea of putting players' names on the backs of their uniforms.

Honors and death[edit | edit source]

Gillman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

Upon his death in 2003, Gillman was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Head coaching record[edit | edit source]

College[edit | edit source]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Miami Redskins (Independent) (1944–1947)
1944 Miami 8–1
1945 Miami 7–2
1946 Miami 7–3
1947 Miami 9–0–1
Miami: 31–6–1
Cincinnati Bearcats (Mid-American Conference) (1949–1952)
1949 Cincinnati 7–4 4–0 1st
1950 Cincinnati 8–4 3–1 2nd L Sun
1951 Cincinnati 10–1 3–0 1st
1952 Cincinnati 8–1–1 3–0 1st
Cincinnati Bearcats (Independent) (1953–1954)
1953 Cincinnati 9–1
1954 Cincinnati 8–2
Cincinnati: 50–13–1 13–1
Total: 81–19–2
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title

AFL/NFL[edit | edit source]

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
LA 1955 8 3 1 72.7 1st in NFL Western Conference 0 1 0.00 Lost to Cleveland Browns in NFL Championship game
LA 1956 4 8 0 33.3 5th-T in NFL Western Conference - - -
LA 1957 6 6 0 50.0 4th in NFL Western Conference - - -
LA 1958 8 4 0 66.7 2nd-T in NFL Western Conference - - -
LA 1959 2 10 0 20.0 6th in NFL Western Conference - - -
LA Rams Total 28 31 1 47.5 0 1 00.0 1 NFL conference championship
LA Chargers 1960 10 4 0 71.4 1st in AFL West Division 0 1 00.0 Lost to Houston Oilers in AFL championship game
SD 1961 12 2 0 85.7 1st in AFL West Division 0 1 00.0 Lost to Houston Oilers in AFL championship game
SD 1962 4 10 0 28.6 4th in AFL West Division - - -
SD 1963 11 3 0 78.6 1st in AFL West Division 1 0 100.0 Beat Boston Patriots in AFL championship game
SD 1964 8 5 1 61.5 1st in AFL West Division 0 1 0.00 Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFL championship game
SD 1965 9 2 3 81.8 1st in AFL West Division 0 1 0.00 Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFL championship game
SD 1966 7 6 1 53.8 3rd in AFL West Division - - -
SD 1967 8 5 1 61.5 3rd in AFL West Division - - -
SD 1968 9 5 0 64.3 3rd in AFL West Division - - -
SD 1969 8 6 0 57.1 3rd in AFL West Division - - -
LA-SD Chargers AFL Total 86 48 6 63.6 1 4 20.0 1 AFL title, 5 AFL division championships
SD 1971 1 9 0 10.0 4th in NFL AFC West - - -
LA-SD Chargers Total 87 57 6 60.0 1 4 20.0 1 AFL title, 5 AFL division championships
Hou 1973 1 8 0 11.1 4th in NFL AFC Central - - -
Hou 1974 7 7 0 50.0 2nd in NFL AFC Central - - -
Houston Oilers 8 15 0 34.8 - - -
Professional Total 123 103 7 54.3 1 5 16.7 1 AFL title, 5 AFL division championships, 1 NFL conference championship

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Peterson, Bill. "Cincinnati's Connection to Football's "West Coast Offense"", City Beat, 2006-08-16. Retrieved on 2006-09-07. 
  2. Bach, John. "Sid Gillman used film to change football while at the University of Cincinnati", University of Cincinnati Magazine, January 2001. Retrieved on 2006-09-07. 
  3. Oklahoma Outlaws to Join USFL;Chicago Herald;July 8, 1983; Page 22.

External links[edit | edit source]

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