October 26, 1911|
|Died:||January 3, 2003
|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, 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 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 Chargers (1971), and 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. He is the sole coach in the history of American football to have earned both honors.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gillman played college football at Ohio State University under legendary coach Sam Willaman, forming the basis of his offense. 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 made Gillman the first coach to study game footage, something that all coaches do today.
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 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 (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 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 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, but his idea was not implemented until the Super Bowl 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.
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. 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. He 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:
- Al LoCasale, an Oakland Raiders executive
- Al Davis, former owner of the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
- Chuck Noll, coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles
- Ara Parseghian, former coach at the University of Notre Dame who led the Fighting Irish to two national titles
- Bo Schembechler, former coach at the University of Michigan
- Bill Walsh, who coached the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles
- Chuck Knox, former head coach of Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks
- Dick Vermeil, coached the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title and the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl
- George Allen, coach of the Rams and Washington Redskins
- Bum Phillips coached for Gillman at San Diego, and was Gillman's selected successor at Houston after Gillman stepped down from the daunting task of rebuilding a two time 1-13 team.
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. 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.
Honors and death
Head coaching record
|Miami Redskins (Independent) (1944–1947)|
|Cincinnati Bearcats (Mid-American Conference) (1949–1952)|
|Cincinnati Bearcats (NCAA University Division independent) (1953–1954)|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title or championship game berth|
|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|
|Hou||1973||1||8||0||11.1||4th in NFL AFC Central||-||-||-|
|Hou||1974||7||7||0||50.0||2nd in NFL AFC Central||-||-||-|
|Professional Total||123||103||7||54.3||1||5||16.7||1 AFL title, 5 AFL division championships, 1 NFL conference championship|
- Peterson, Bill (2006-08-16). "Cincinnati's Connection to Football's "West Coast Offense"". City Beat. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- Bach, John (January 2001). "Sid Gillman used film to change football while at the University of Cincinnati". University of Cincinnati Magazine. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- Pierson, Don (4 January 2003). "Sid Gillman 1911-2003". Chicago Tribune.
- Oklahoma Outlaws to Join USFL;Chicago Herald;July 8, 1983; Page 22.
- "Sid Gillman Coaching Tree". Retrieved December 18, 2014.