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Sidney "Sid" Gillman (October 26, 1911 - January 3, 2003) was an American football coach 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, made football into the modern game that it is today.


Born in Minneapolis, Minnesotamarker, Gillman played college football at the Ohio State Universitymarker under legendary coach Francis "Shut the Gates of Mercy" Schmidt, forming the basis of his offense. He was a Team Captain and All-Big Ten 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.

Gillman played one year in the American Football League for the Cleveland Rams, then became an assistant coach at Denison University, Ohio State Universitymarker, and was an assistant coach to Earl Blaik of Armymarker, then head coach at Miami Universitymarker and at the University of Cincinnatimarker. 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 personality that matched his own. He was mercurial.

He had much to do with the American Football League being able to establish itself. Gillman was a thorough professional. 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 Stadiummarker. 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 Famermarker). 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 1973-1974, 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.

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:

Gillman's Professional Football Coaching Tree

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

Don Coryell, the coach at San Diego State Universitymarker 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.

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. 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 Tulsamarker, Oklahoma based franchise, he was fired by Tatham six months later in a dispute over finances.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Famemarker in 1983 and into the College Football Hall of Famemarker in 1989.

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

    • Offensive Line Coach, Joe Madro, commented after the game that “All the Patriots had to do before the game to know what was in store for them was to read the Balboa Stadium Scoreboard Sign displayed in large bright letters: 'San Diego – City in Motion' ”.

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