Born on October 26, 1911 in Minneapolis, MN Sid Gillman was a college football star for Ohio State, playing in the inaugural College Football All-Star Game. However, after Bronko Nagurski flattened him in the 1934, game Sid Gillman strarted thinking he might have a better future in coaching.
After playing a few seasons in the NFL with Cleveland Rams, Gilman became an assistant coach. His first head-coaching job would come with University of Miami, Ohio in 1944, where he complied a solid 31-6-1 record in 4 seasons. After serving as an assistant at Army for a season, Gilman again was the headman this time at the University of Cincinnati where he compiled a 31-6-1 record in 6 seasons, before the school was hit with probation for recruiting violations in 1955.
In an era that taught that running the ball was the surest way to victory. It was a philosophy with which he disagreed. "The big play comes with the pass," he would tell anyone who would take time to listen. "God bless those runners because they get you the first down, give you ball control and keep your defense off the field. But if you want to ring the cash register, you have to pass."
Gillman brought his philosophy to the NFL in 1955 landing his first pro head Coaching job with Los Angeles Rams, leading the Rams to a Western Division Championship in his first season. However, the Rams would struggle over much of the next 4 seasons, culminating with a 2-10 season in 1959, leading to his dismissal.
It would not take Sid Gillman long to land another Head Coaching job in the pros, as the American Football League made its debut in 1960. The AFL was a league where Gilman's halophyte of passing first fit right in as the upstart league revolutionized the way offensive football was played. Gillman's team Los Angeles Chargers would have success right away in the new league right away as they won the Western Division.
The Chargers would move to San Diego, but they would continue to be at the forefront of the new league's struggle for creditability playing in 5 of the first 6 AFL Championship Games. However, the high scoring Chargers only won once in 1963 when the thrashed the Boston Patriots 51-10.
Gillman would lead the Chargers until 1969 when he stepped down after a 4-5 start. In a decade with Chargers he posted an 82-47-6 record as the AFL earned legitimacy along the way. He would return to sidelines in San Diego in 1971 posting a 4-6 record before stepping down just 10 games into the season.
Sid Gillman would return to the NFL in 1973 when he landed a job as General Manager of the fledgling Houston Oilers. The Oilers were the laughing stock of the league at the time as they were coming off a 1-13 season. Gillman himself would take over the reigns after a 0-5 start but the Oilers would only win once in 9 games finishing 1-13 again. In 1974 would Gillman coaching the entire season leading the Oilers to a surprising 7-7 season. However, despite the turn around Gillman had decided he had enough and retired from Coaching with a 123-104-7 professional record.
In 1983 Sid Gillman would be recognized as an innovative coach, dynamic administrator, and a leading authority on passing theories, and tactics, as he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After retiring to Southern California he remained a student of the game often reliving his career through old reel-to-reel films. In fact during his coaching career he was one of the first coaches to study game films before and after every game. Often he would others from the coaching fraternity like Dick Vermeil review current games with him. Years after he retired Gilman is still regarded as the grandfather of the West Coast Offense that is used widely across the league.
Sid Gillman who lived with his wife of 67 years Esther died in his sleep on January 3rd in his office which just had a bed placed in so he could be surrounded by all the plaques, footballs and other mementos from all his years on the gridiron.
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