Sid Gillman

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Sid Gillman
Sid Gillman 1959.jpg
Gillman as coach of the Rams in 1959
Personal information
Born:(1911-10-26)October 26, 1911
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Died:January 3, 2003(2003-01-03) (aged 91)
Carlsbad, California, U.S.
Career information
High school: Minneapolis North (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
College: Ohio State
Position: End
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
Head coaching record
Regular season:AFL/NFL: 122–99–7 (.550)
Postseason:AFL/NFL: 1–5 (.167)
Career:AFL/NFL: 123–104–7 (.541)
NCAA: 81–19–2 (.804)
Coaching stats at PFR

Sidney Gillman (October 26, 1911 – January 3, 2003) was an American football player, coach and executive. 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 second 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 ranks of professional football, where he headed the NFL's Los Angeles Rams (1955–1959), the American Football League's Los Angeles and San Diego Chargers (1960–1969), and the NFL's 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.

Early life, family and education

Sidney Gillman was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to a Jewish family. [1]

He played college football at Ohio State University under coach Sam Willaman, forming the basis of his offense. [2] He was a team captain and All-Big Ten Conference end in 1933. While attending Ohio State, Gillman was a brother of the Nu chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.


Always deeply interested in the game, while working as a movie theater usher, he removed football segments from newsreels 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 made Gillman the first coach to study game footage, something that all coaches do today. [3]

Gillman debated between pursuing a pro football career and entering coaching upon leaving college, with the Boston Redskins offering him a contract while Willaman wished to hire him as end coach at Western Reserve University. [4] His participation in the inaugural Chicago College All-Star Game caused him to arrive late for Redskins training camp, and he would fail to make the team. [5] [6] He played one year in the American Football League (1936) for the Cleveland Rams. He became an assistant coach at Denison University, [1] Ohio State University, [1] and was an assistant coach to Earl Blaik of Army, then head coach at Miami University and the University of Cincinnati. He spent 21 years as a college coach or head coach, and his total record for these years was 79–18–2. [1]

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 (AFL, 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 AFL'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 AFL 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 AFL 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 AFL 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 franchise 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, "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 being fellow Hall of Fame coach 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, [1] but his idea was not implemented until the Super Bowl (originally titled the AFL-NFL World Championship 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 the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears in 1977 and as a consultant for Dick Vermeil's Philadelphia Eagles in 1980. [7]

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 (USFL) expansion team the Oklahoma Outlaws. [8] 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.

Gilmman then served as a consultant for the USFL's Los Angeles Express in 1984.


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

Sid Gillman
George Allen Al Davis Chuck Knox Don Coryell Dick Vermeil (1) Chuck Noll (4)
John Madden (1) Tom Flores (2) Art Shell Bill Walsh (3) Joe Gibbs (3) Tony Dungy (1)
Jim Fassel Paul Hackett Mike Holmgren (1) Sam Wyche George Seifert (2) Dennis Green
John Fox Mike McCarthy (1) Bruce Coslet Mike Mularkey Brian Billick (1) Mike Tice
Scott Linehan
Jon Gruden (1) Mike Sherman Ray Rhodes Steve Mariucci Andy Reid (1) Mike Shanahan (2) Jeff Fisher
Bill Callahan Marty Mornhinweg Gary Kubiak (1) Jack Del Rio Mike Smith Vic Fangio
Brad Childress John Harbaugh (1) Ron Rivera Doug Pederson (1) Sean McDermott Pat Shurmur Jim Caldwell Mike Tomlin (1) Lovie Smith Rod Marinelli
Bruce Arians (1)

Numbers in parenthesis indicate Super Bowls won by Gillman's "descendants" as head coach, a total of 28.

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, Tom Bass, and Russ A. Molzahn. A larger and more extended version of Sid Gillman's coaching tree, which in some ways could be called a forest, can be found here. [10]

Honors and awards

Gillman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983, and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1990 he was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. [11]

Personal life and Death

Gillman and his wife Esther had four children and were married for 67 years (until his death). [12] They resided in Carlsbad, California before moving in 2001 to Century City in Los Angeles. [13]

On January 3, 2003, Gillman died in his sleep at age 91. [12] He was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Head coaching record


Miami Redskins (Independent)(1944–1947)
1944 Miami 8–1
1945 Miami 7–2
1946 Miami 7–3
1947 Miami 9–0–1W Sun
Cincinnati Bearcats (Mid-American Conference)(1949–1952)
1949 Cincinnati 7–44–01st
1950 Cincinnati 8–43–12ndL Sun
1951 Cincinnati 10–13–01st
1952 Cincinnati 8–1–13–01st
Cincinnati Bearcats (Independent)(1953–1954)
1953 Cincinnati 9–1
1954 Cincinnati 8–2
      National championship        Conference title        Conference division title or championship game berth


TeamYearRegular SeasonPost Season
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
LA 1955 831.7271st in NFL Western Conference01.000Lost to Cleveland Browns in NFL Championship
LA 1956 480.333T-5th in NFL Western Conference---
LA 1957 660.5004th in NFL Western Conference---
LA 1958 840.667T-2nd in NFL Western Conference---
LA 1959 2100.2006th in NFL Western Conference---
LA Rams Total28311.47501.000
LA Chargers 1960 1040.7141st in AFL West Division01.000Lost to Houston Oilers in AFL championship game
SD 1961 1220.8571st in AFL West Division01.000Lost to Houston Oilers in AFL championship game
SD 1962 4100.2864th in AFL West Division---
SD 1963 1130.7861st in AFL West Division101.000Beat Boston Patriots in AFL championship game
SD 1964 851.6151st in AFL West Division01.000Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFL championship game
SD 1965 923.8181st in AFL West Division01.000Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFL championship game
SD 1966 761.5383rd in AFL West Division---
SD 1967 851.6153rd in AFL West Division---
SD 1968 950.6433rd in AFL West Division---
SD 1969 450.4443rd in AFL West Division---
SD 1971 460.4403rd in AFL West Division---
LA-SD Chargers AFL Total86536.61914.200
Hou 1973 180.1114th in AFC Central---
Hou 1974 770.5002nd in AFC Central---
Houston Oilers8150.348---
Professional Total122997.55215.167

See also

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  2. Peterson, Bill (August 16, 2006). "Cincinnati's Connection to Football's "West Coast Offense"". City Beat. Archived from the original on January 28, 2007. Retrieved September 7, 2006.
  3. Bach, John (January 2001). "Sid Gillman used film to change football while at the University of Cincinnati". University of Cincinnati Magazine. Retrieved September 7, 2006.
  4. "Sid Gillman has coaching, pro offers for 1934 season". Minneapolis Star . February 19, 1934. Retrieved May 27, 2021 via
  5. Dalton, Ernest (August 25, 1934). "Seven Redskins missing from opening practice". The Boston Globe . Retrieved May 27, 2021 via
  6. "Redskin recruits arrive at Wayland camp today". The Boston Globe . September 3, 1934. Retrieved May 27, 2021 via
  7. Pierson, Don (January 4, 2003). "Sid Gillman 1911-2003". Chicago Tribune .
  8. "Oklahoma Outlaws to Join USFL". Chicago Herald . July 8, 1983. p. 22.
  9. Oates, Bob (January 4, 2003). "Gillman Had Other Love in Life". Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  10. "Sid Gillman Coaching Tree" . Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  11. "Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Home".
  12. 1 2 Martin, Susan (January 4, 2003). "Legendary Gillman dies at 91". Buffalo News. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  13. "Gillman Helped Engineer West Coast Offense". January 7, 2003. Retrieved April 11, 2020.